Ten Gifts to be Avoided in China

During the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) or other festive occasions, everyone is delighted to receive gifts from families or friends, but they may feel annoyed when getting the wrong presents. Due to different cultural backgrounds, people from western countries can easily make mistakes in choosing New Year gifts to Chinese friends. Here list some inappropriate or taboo things to be avoided, which may give you some enlightenment.

1. Sharp Stuff

Sharp objects like knifes, swords, scissors and should be avoided, for they suggest a relationship to be cut off. If you give these stuff to others, it means that you are going to break off with the receivers.

2. Clocks

The Chinese pronunciation of ‘clock’ (钟 zhōng) is the same with that of ‘end’ (终 zhōng). The latter one usually suggests a person’s death, so presenting a clock as a New Year gift is a taboo. The recipients will get irritated.

3. Umbrellas

As many superstitions are associated with the homophones in China, the word for ‘umbrella’ (伞 sǎn) sounds the same with the word ‘split’ (散 sàn). Therefore, it is a thing foreboding separation with friends, which is also a thankless present, especially for boyfriend or girlfriend.

4. Mirrors

During Chinese New Year or other festivals, people seldom give mirrors as gift out of two reasons. One is that mirrors are fragile, and breaking a mirror is usually an omen of relationship breakdown. The other reason is related with the old Feng Shui culture. Mirror is an important tool to change a house’s Feng Shui layout, so if a mirror is placed in a wrong direction, the misfortune will be incurred.

5. Pears

Fruits are common gifts, but some of them are not welcomed. For example, pears, just like umbrella, they also insinuate families’ and friends’ permanent separation, which doesn’t fit the joyful atmosphere during festivals. Therefore, when choosing gifts for your lover or parents, pears should be avoided.

6. Chrysanthemums

Sending flowers is favorable, but it is restricted in different occasions. In China, chrysanthemums, especially yellow and white ones, are mostly associated with occasions like funerals or mourning ceremonies for the deceased. If you visit a friend with chrysanthemums during the Chinese New Year, you will be surely kicked out of his/her house.

7. Shoes

The Chinese character for ‘shoes’ (鞋 xié) has a homophone, ‘evil’ (邪 xié). People link these two words together, so shoes get an ominous meaning. Giving somebody a pair of shoes equals sending evil to others. Be careful, your friends might be out of contact on account of getting such present.

8. Belts, Ties and Underwear

Some personal items like belts, ties, underwear or necklaces are improper to give to ordinary friends as New Year gifts. Such a present usually leaves a hint that you want to develop a more intimate relationship with others, like boyfriend and girlfriend relationship.

9. Hats

People will wear white hats in China when their elder family members pass away. Besides, a green hat usually satirizes a man who has a disloyal wife, which would be a deadly insult to the receivers. Hence, hats are usually out of people’s gift list.

10. Wallets or Purses

Wallet or purse stands for one’s wealth, so taking them as gifts is an omen of sending your fortune away. However, giving a wallet to your husband or wife is fine; anyway you share the same household wealth with each other.

Taboo on Colors - Avoid Black and White

In traditional Chinese culture, red is regarded as lucky and auspicious, but white and black are considered as ominous, which most apply to occasions like funerals. When choosing New Year gifts, you are supposed to give up on these two colors.

Taboo on Number 4

Four is the most unwelcome number in China. People will try to avoid the number 4 in phone numbers or car numbers, even living on the fourth floor is considered unlucky. The reason is simple: the pronunciation of ‘four’ (四 sì) is the similar with the word ‘death’ (死 sǐ), which is the ultimate taboo for Chinese people. It is just like the number 13 in western countries. So gifts related to number 4 should be abandoned, while presents related to 6, 8 or 9 are viewed auspicious.

 Further Reading:
Chinese New Year Gift Ideas
Chinese New Year Taboos
Chinese Red Envelope

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