Gifts in Chinese Culture
by: Wong Yee Lee
people have their own culture when it comes to
unique baby gifts or relatives gifts.
When it is
a new-born baby, usually jade or silver bracelet
or necklace would be good, particularly ones
which can make the clinging sound so it will
make some noise when the baby moves.
Alternatively, some children's clothes, shoes or
gloves would be good too. When it is an older
child, some toys or stationary would be good.
comes to some old people, something practical
should be considered. A walking-stick, some
valuable food such as bird's nests or Chinese
mushrooms would be highly welcome.
who go to visit their prospective
parents-in-law, something more valuable would be
an option, such as some good wine or something
If it is a
family, a vase, some dining sets or pictures
would be ideal.
It is not
easy to think of something special for every
occasion. So very often if it is not of any
special visits, some fruits such as apples or
oranges would be good enough.
important to know that giving someone gifts
should not be a one-way business. Courtesy
requires reciprocity. The person who receives
the gift should find a chance in the future to
return the same favor by returning a gift of
similar value the next time you meet. You can do
so simply by either paying a visit with a
similar value gift or by inviting the friend out
for a meal with you paying the meal. Don't do it
right on the next day because it may appear
also some taboos to avoid in Chinese culture.
Though modern Chinese don't seem to mind them so
much, it is still necessary to know what would
be suitable in an occasion.
would not be welcome in places like Hong Kong or
Macau because the pronunciation of 'book' in
Cantonese resembles the sound of 'loss'.
Especially for those people who are frequent
players in race course or Mark six, they would
definitely not welcome this idea.
would not be welcome in most places in China
because the pronunciation of 'umbrella'
resembles separation. Of course nobody would
like the idea of separation, particularly
concerning your loved ones.
would not be welcome, particularly on someone's
birthday because the pronunciation of 'clock'
resembles termination, which means death. No
wonder people don't like receiving clocks as
want to give your friends some fruits, remember
to buy an even number of them because odd
numbers would bring bad luck. So buy 10 apples
instead of 9.
may find it awkward when your friend says 'You
don't need to buy anything when you come here.',
or 'Keep it to yourself. I have a lot of these'.
He may not mean it. What you need to do is to
insist on him receiving the gift since Chinese
people do not tend to receive the gift
it if he doesn't open your present immediately
too. Chinese people would think opening the
present in front of you would be impolite and so
they would tend to put it aside and only open it
after you have left.
ideas can only be served as guidelines. Knowing
that you come from a foreign culture and being
more broad-minded to foreign ideas, Chinese
people are nowadays more tolerant to things
which are not in line with their culture. So,
don't worry too much when you visit a Chinese
friend or family. Maybe your exotic idea would
bring them a lot of surprises!!