10 Things to be Avoided as Chinese New Year Gifts

Whether a gift is good or not may differ in the eyes of givers and recipients. In choosing a Chinese New Year gift, one should know basic Chinese social norms on taboo gifts and some local customs; otherwise a thoughtful gift in your eyes might embarrass the receiver and harm your relationship. Here list the most commonly seen 10 things that should not be chosen as Chinese New Year gifts, and some highly possible gift giving mistakes as reminders.

10 Gifts to be Avoided in China
Gift Taboos


Sharp Stuff – cut off relationship

Sharp objects like knifes, swords, and scissors 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.


Clock – end & death

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 Chinese New Year gift is a taboo. The recipients will get irritated.


Umbrella – split, separate

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 gift, especially for boyfriend or girlfriend.


Mirror – fragile, easy to incur misfortune

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 Chinese 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 come.


Pear – separation

Fruits are common Chinese New Year gifts, but some of them are not welcomed. For example, pears, just like umbrella, insinuate families’ or 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.


Chrysanthemum – death & funeral

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.


Shoes – evil

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 a pair of shoes from you.


Wallet – send your fortune away

Wallet or purse stands for one’s wealth, so choosing 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.


Belt, Tie and Underwear – too intimate

Some personal items like belts, ties, underwear or necklaces are improper to give to ordinary friends as Chinese 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.


Hat – white: death; green: disloyalty

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.

 Further Reading on Taboo Gifts in China:

Anything in Number 4 – death

In Chinese, ‘four’ (四 sì) has the similar pronunciation with ‘death’ (死 sǐ), so things related to number 4 are evaded by Chinese people as much as possible. Some buildings even do not have the 4th floor.

Anything in Black or White - funeral

Black and white are major colors used in a Chinese funeral. When choosing Chinese New Year gifts, you are supposed to give up on these two taboo colors.

- Last updated on Dec. 02, 2022 -
Questions & Answers on 10 Things to be Avoided as Chinese New Year Gifts
Asked by Lucy Geck from UNITED STATES | Feb. 07, 2020 07:44Reply
Need Gift Suggestion for Chinese New Year
I have a married female Chinese friend who is appx 40yo and she has a 12yo son. They own and run a wonderful local restaurant (in the US) and we exchanged gifts at Christmas. Could you please give recommend some appropriate gifts they might like for Chinese New Year? They are lovely, generous people and I would like the gifts to reflect that. Thank you in advance for any advice you may have.
Answers (1)
Answered by Julie from FINLAND | Feb. 09, 2020 16:55

Generally speaking, the appropriate are the following:
Red Envelope, Cigarettes, Alcohol, Tea, Fruits, Health Food
You can take this as an reference.
Asked by Vel from PHILIPPINES | Feb. 12, 2018 18:04Reply
I have a chinese client, and i want to give them present on chinese new year. so what is the best?
Answers (1)
Answered by Alexandra from FRANCE | Feb. 12, 2018 21:03

During the Chinese New Year, there are five categories of things that will never be out of fashion:
Alcohol, Cigarettes, Tea, Healthcare Products and Red Envelope.
Hope helpful!
Asked by Sam from INDIA | Feb. 11, 2017 13:47Reply
Hi, i have read on many website that taking mirror as a gift is bad.
Recently someone gifted me a small mirror and now i dont know what to do. Please suggest me should i give it back, throw it, break it or what should i do to protect myself.
Answers (1)
Answered by Kina from MALAYSIA | Feb. 15, 2017 03:05

Nowadays the mirrors have many meanings. For example: your friend want you to use the mirror for self-reflection every day to better improve yourself. Since it is a gift and just a small mirror, it is ok to keep it. But if you really mind, throw it.
Asked by Magdalene from UNITED KINGDOM | Feb. 04, 2016 14:04Reply
Birthday present for a single lady who is 36 in 2016.
Our friend is a professional young lady of 36 with high education and very accomplished. Extremely friendly and helpful. She offers us gifts quite frequently (more or less every time there is a festival in China, and there are quite a few of them!). She also offers to pay the restaurant. Ills etc but we have managed to be quicker than her! It would appropriate we think to bring her something from England when we go back. With so many taboo gifts though, I'm at a loss what I should buy her from the UK for her birthday. Any suggestions of something fine that can be carried in a suitcase?
Answers (2)
Answered by Nancy from CANADA | Feb. 14, 2016 20:58

Oh, an exquisite shawl can be a good idea. I believe your friend will like it.
Answered by Albert Allera from PHILIPPINES | Aug. 16, 2016 18:45

Hi there , the best gift you can provide to your friend is anything that comes from the heart.
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