13 Gifts You Should Never Give to a Chinese Person

Chinese, Gift, Donts, Pantang

Giving a gift is a token of appreciation and sincerity. The culture of giving varies differently according to different countries, different localities and different races. There are a lot of consideration we need to know in getting the right gift for the ones you love. Take Chinese for example, gift-giving is an important tool to build strong relationships, especially on every festivals. Chinese takes “Li Shang Wang Lai” seriously, whoever receives shall always remember to reciprocate. While gift-giving is a kind courtesy, there are certain gifts that can be (though not always in modern China) viewed as taboo and thus can potentially sour a budding friendship or business relationship.


  1. Shoes


The older generation believes that giving shoes is akin sending the receiver away. This is because shoe (鞋 xie) in chinese sounds similar to evil (邪). Giving shoes as a gift is akin to giving the evil spirit to him/her, thus it is believed that the giver and receiver will lose in touch or break their relationship after some time. However, this is not applicable to giving shoes as gift for your close family members.

Also, it is believed that giving shoes among dating couples is a hint of telling him/her to “get lost”. Eventually, either you will initiate the breakup or your partner will run away from you.


  1. Clock

Giving a Chinese friend a clock as a present should be avoided because it sounds like Song Zhong in Chinese, which means funeral ritual or being present at the bedside when a person is about to die. Do note that watches fall under the clock category as well, which is why we always see corrupt officials suffer bad consequences after putting on watches that they received as a bribe item.


  1. Wallet

Chinese believes that giving wallet is akin to giving away your “wealth chamber”. If you give someone wallet as a gift, it is likely that you bring bad luck to your wealth fortune, face leakage of financial, face difficulty in recovering debts, etc.. However, giving wallet between husband and wife or lovers is fine due to the closeness of relationship you both share.


  1. Umbrella

Giving your friend an umbrella means you want to end the relationship because umbrella (伞 san) sounds like separation (散) in Chinese, which means to separate. Hence, giving an umbrella as a gift should be avoided (except in the rain).


  1. Pear

The word pear (梨 Li) sound like leaving (离) in Chinese, which has the same meaning as separation. Giving pears mean you guys could be separated in future.


  1. God of Wealth

Although it seems logical to give the sculpture of God of Wealth as a gift for people who are in business, it is not a good idea of gift choices. You may be giving away your wealth luck causing bad fortune. Also, Chinese believes that the proper way of inviting god into the premise is by visiting the temple and inviting the god personally. Hence, none the receiver or the giver shall bring in the sculpture of god without proper procedure or it may bring bad luck to both parties.


  1. Fish tank

Fish tank, like “Fortune God” is not free to send or free to accept. Some people are not suited to keep their own fish. The appropriate shape, the size, the placement and the height of the fish tank; the appropriate number, the type and the colour of the fish suits differently according to different person. Hence, it is not recommended to give and receive fish tank.


  1. Knife

Knife and Scissors are used for cutting. They symbolize breaking a relationship. Giving knives and scissors will cause the receiver to feel threatened too.


  1. Candle

Although it is perceived as a romantic gesture to place candles during marriage proposal or any sort of celebration, to the Easterners, candles are mostly used during prayers’ time. Thus, giving candles as a gift is seen as inauspicious. With all the new and creative designs of candles, to alleviate the interior ambience, candles are still best kept for our own, not as a gift.


  1. Unknown gems or antiques

Old gems (or stones) and antiques are known to attract evil spirit. Even though some gems and antiques can be quite precious and valuable, we never know if there is any evil spirit living within. Hence, it is inauspicious in Chinese custom to give and receive old gems/antiques. 


  1. Pillow

Pillow is our daily necessity at night. There as a Chinese saying called “Gao Zhen Wu You”, i.e. to have free of worries when your pillows are high up. Giving pillow symbolize getting less of life without worries, hence bringing in troubles to your life. However, it is not a taboo to give pillows between lovers.


  1. Cloth Doll

Cloth Doll is seen as a vile characters (小人), some people believe that these dolls attract evil spirits and disturb the family harmony.


  1. Wind Chimes

In the olden days, chilly wind is often used to describe an eerie atmosphere. Since wind chimes attracts wind, it is believed that it could attract Yin energy (from the chilly wind) into the house.

Do take note of these when you are preparing a gift to your Chinese counterparts!

Translated from: 华人最忌讳的13种礼物!不想得罪人就千万不要送错!


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