Must-Know Chinese Gift-Giving Taboos

by | May 23, 2022 | Life in China

Have you been in an awkward gift-giving situation? We’ve all been there. Choosing gifts has never been easy. Giving gifts to your multicultural friends sounds like a nightmare.

Before you start panicking about gift shopping for Chinese New Year, take a look at a few Chinese gift-giving taboos, the gifts you should avoid giving to your Chinese friends.

送礼的禁忌 | Sòng lǐ de jìnjì


A clock (or a watch) is considered to be one of the taboo gifts in Chinese culture. You might need to pay close attention to the pronunciation of some words. (As we already mentioned in our previous post, the Chinese language is abundant in words with multiple meanings.)

Clock | Must-Know Chinese Gift-Giving Taboos

(sòng nàozhōng)
to give an alarm clock (as a gift)

(sòng zhōng)
to pay one’s last respects

As Yang lǎoshī explains:

Zhōngguórén bù huì sòng nàozhōng.
Chinese people cannot give an alarm clock as a gift.

因为闹钟的“钟”和送终的“终”读音一样, 所以送闹钟听起来像送终。
Yīnwèi nàozhōng de “zhōng” hé sòngzhōng de “zhōng” dúyīn yīyàng, suǒyǐ sòng nàozhōng tīng qǐlai xiàng sòngzhōng.
Because the pronunciation of “zhōng” in the words “nàozhōng” (alarm clock) and “sòngzhōng” (to pay one’s last respects) is the same, so “give an alarm clock” sounds like “to pay one’s last respects”.


Even if you like to give practical gifts, giving somebody an umbrella is not the best idea either. You don’t want people to think you want them to be separated from their family and loved ones.

Umbrella | Must-Know Chinese Gift-Giving Taboos


to scatter

As Yang lǎoshī explains:

Zhōngguórén yě bùhuì sòng sǎn.
Chinese people cannot give an umbrella as a gift either.

Yīnwèi “sǎn” hé sànkāi de “sàn” dúyīn yě chàbuduō.
Because the two “sǎn” in the words “umbrella” and “scatter” sound similar, too.


Looking for a nice gift for your friends on Chinese New Year? Those fruit baskets will always do — just make sure there are no pears inside.

Pear | Must-Know Chinese Gift-Giving Taboos


to separate

As Yang lǎoshī explains:

Rúguǒ xiǎng sòng shuǐguǒ, Zhōngguórén bùhuì sòng lí.
If Chinese people want to give fruit as a gift, they never give pears.

Yīnwèi “lí” he “fēnlí” de “lí” dúyīn yīyàng.
Because the pronunciation of the two “lí” in the words “pear” and “separate” is the same.

Zhè yìwèizhe wǒ yào líkāi nǐ.
It means “I’m leaving you”.

We hope that this article will be useful and help you learn about Chinese culture and Chinese gift-giving taboos. To learn more useful Chinese vocabulary and phrases, check out one of our blog posts Describe a Day in the Lockdown in Chinese

View this post on all our social media accounts – and see how other learners have replied to it! 👉

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