China Gift Etiquette
  • The Chinese people will decline a gift few times before accepting it. That doesn’t mean that they do not appreciate it, It is a way to express modesty and good manners. Do not give up on the first try, you will have to continue to insist.
  • Make sure, when giving a gift, to use both hands. The same goes for receiving a gift. Using just one hand is considered to be impolite. Gifts are generally not open upon receiving unless the giver insists.
  • It is better to wrap your gifts in red paper, which is considered a lucky colour. In Chinese culture, colours are given lucky and unlucky meanings. Gold, silver and pink are also acceptable colours for gift wrap. Also, do check the variations about colours from region to region.
  • There is a Chinese tradition to give one another gifts of red envelopes filled with money. Only new and shiny bills should be given and the amount of cash should not begin with number 4, since number 4 rhymes with the word meaning ´death’ in Chinese language, while number 8 is considered a lucky number.
  • If you are a guest in a Chinese house during Chinese New Year, you should present the hosts with two mandarins upon arrival. When you leave, you will be given two mandarins as well since it is believed that they bring good luck and wealth. Giving fruits as gifts on Chinese New Year is also very common but you should avoid pears since the word ‘pear’ is similar to the word meaning ´separation’. 
  • Examples of inappropriate gifts include knives, letter openers, scissors or other sharp objects, which may be interpreted as the severance of a Clocks, (they symbolize the running of time, though there are exception when the clock comes from a very luxury brand), shoes (sounds like ‘evil’ in Chinese language),  handkerchiefs (a symbol of saying goodbye forever), four of any items ( unless it is a set of two pairs) and gifts or wrapping paper in white, black, or blue should be avoided as well.
  • Usually, a flower arrangement is an acceptable gift but chrysanthemums and white flowers represent death. While white is associated with weddings in most countries, but in China, it’s actually the funeral color.
  • Do not give candles as presents because candles are also associated with rituals for the dead, for memorizing the dead.

Going back thousands of years

The giving and receiving of gifts is one of life’s pleasures. Almost every culture has traditions and etiquette related to receiving and giving gifts. Giving a gift is one way of expressing love, gratitude, appreciation and recognizing special occasions.

Gift-giving tradition goes back thousands and thousands of years since the beginning of a mankind when a caveman offered simple gifts to prove that he could provide for a family. The more generously a man gave, the more easily he would attract a female.
China Gift Etiquette
Copyright: Julia Wimmerlin
China Gift Etiquette
Copyright: Julia Wimmerlin

Photography Credits

Julia Wimmerlin

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