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Don't give these five gifts to Chinese people

Updated: May 18, 2020

大家好!我是 Everyday Easy Chinese的林老师。

Giving presents to someone can be a difficult task but it can be even more difficult when cultural factors come in to place. Did you know that you may be unknowingly offending your Chinese friends and colleagues by gifting them death?

Here are 5 things that you shouldn’t give to Chinese people as a present.

Shoes have another meaning to them....

1. Shoes

Shoes are pronounced as 鞋子 (Xié) in Chinese and this is a homophone of the word 'evil' which is also pronounced as Xié . Giving someone shoes therefore means that you are sending evil spirits to them. There is a belief among the Chinese that the feet is the place where the soul of the body enters and exits. Hence, shoes are something that you shouldn’t give to someone. Unless you want to send them 'evil spirits' to possess them.

Thinking of giving a Chinese person a clock?

2. Clocks

Clocks are pronounced as 钟 zhōng in Chinese and this is a homophone to the word 'end' which is also pronounced as zhōng . In traditional customs, clocks therefore have the meaning of 'end'. Gifting a clock to someone (送钟) symbolizes sending them off to their end. It can also mean to say final farewells to someone at the last stage of their life. In other words, gifting someone a clock would basically mean to wish someone death. Therefore, clocks are something that you definitely shouldn't give.

Thinking about giving scented candles as a gift?

3. Candles

Many people like to gift scented candles to their friends but in traditional Chinese custom, candles are generally used for worshiping gods and mourning the dead. It’s therefore a gift that you shouldn’t give.

Umbrella sounds the same as the verb 'to separate'

4. Umbrella

Umbrella sounds like “break apart” in Chinese ( Sàn ). Therefore, if you give someone an umbrella, it means that you want to severe a relationship that they have. Or that you are wishing them to break up with someone. Umbrellas can obviously be lent to someone when it is raining but you should never give it as a gift.

What do these scary dolls do?

5. Dolls

Dolls are considered as something inferior and evil. In traditional Chinese custom, planting a doll in someone’s house is thought to attract evil spirits in the home after a while and cause dis-harmony in a family.

So remember the above the next time you are deciding on a present for your Chinese friend, colleague or boss!

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