Chinese Gift Giving Etiquette 🎁 Top 5 Must Follow Tips (& Taboos)

Chinese Gift Giving Etiquette 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 What To Do & What To Avoid

Chinese Gift Giving is a tricky thing to navigate when you are new to it…

These pointers are seriously important to follow in our opinion!

Chinese Gift Giving

As a country with a millenary history, China boasts an ancient culture largely based on respect, relationships, and rituals which maintain and promote harmony within society.

The art of gift giving in China, known as 送礼 (sòng lǐ), plays a key role as it allows people to demonstrate respect, show commitment, and maintain and strengthen relationships between family members, colleagues, and friends.

Gift Giving in China Tip #1 || Make Sure The Price Is Right

Gift Giving in China Tip #2 || Wrap Up Properly

Gift Giving in China Tip #3 || Pay Attention To Your Card

Gift Giving in China Tip #4 || Use Both Hands

Gift Giving in China Tip #5 || Wait

Gift Giving in China || DO NOT Do These

Gift Giving in China || FAQ’s

Chinese Gift Giving Etiquette || 5 Golden Rules

#1 Make Sure The Price is Right

Chinese Gift Giving

This is key!

The value of a gift, as one would expect, depends on the relationship with the recipient and on the situation.

Generally speaking, when visiting someone, alcohol, tea, tobacco, and fruit are considered nice gifts to say thank you to the host; health and wellness gifts, such as gloves and hats, ginseng etc, are the perfect gifts for seniors.

In business, gifts are used to strengthen relationships, and the value might vary according to the situation.

However, the most important rule to keep in mind is to give the most expensive gift to the most senior person in the company and to never give the same present to people of different ranks.

Finally, consider that, apart from a few occasions, over the top gifts might embarrass the recipient due to his impossibility of adequately reciprocate it, or, when given to people of influence, it may appear to be a bribe.

#2 Wrap Your Gift Properly

According to the Chinese gift-giving etiquette, gifts should be well-wrapped.

Wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows are fine, especially if they are red (which symbolizes good luck), gold (wealth and fortune) pink and yellow (happiness).

It is not appropriate to present a gift in market-like bags.

#3 Pay Attention To Your Card

Including a greeting card or a gift tag to your present is a good idea, unless you write in red ink, as it signifies bad luck and death.

More in general, never write a Chinese person’s name in red ink.

Want to discover your Chinese name? Check it out

#4 Use Both Hands

When giving a gift, offer it to the person with both hands, as this is seen as a sign of respect.

When receiving a gift, most Chinese recipients will first politely decline it and then accept it. If this doesn’t happen, then don’t push the issue.

#5 Wait

Gift Giving in China

That’s right, wait!

According to the Chinese etiquette, the recipient receives the gift with both hands, but he/she doesn’t open it immediately, as this will show he pays more attention to the gift than to the people who give it to him.

Therefore, generally, gift giving in China happens after a visit or a party and it is followed by a thank-you note or gift.

And now that you know what to do when you offer a present to your Chinese friends or colleagues, let’s learn what not to do:

Chinese Gift Giving Taboos || Avoid These

  • In China, is not a good idea giving clocks (送钟 sòng zhōng), umbrellas (, sǎn), pears ( lí) or shoes ( xié) as they all have “bad” homophones: 送终 sòng zhōng) “attending a funeral ritual” (送终 sòng zhōng), ( sàn) “to separate”, ( lí) “leaving or parting” and ( xié) evil.
  • It’s also a bad idea to give mirrors as are believed to attract ghosts and sharp object as it might seem that you want to cut off your relationship with the recipient.
  • Do not give gifts in sets or multiples of four as the number four ( sì) sounds similar to ( sǐ) which means death. 6 and 8 are good and lucky numbers in China as the first sounds like “smooth” (溜 liū) and the second one ( bā) sounds like “” (fā) “to prosper”. Furthermore, there is also a visual resemblance between 88 and (shuāng xǐ)literally: “double joy”.
  • Necklaces, ties, and belts are considered personal gifts, so they should only be exchanged between boyfriends and girlfriends.

Chinese Gift Giving || FAQ’s

Why should I not buy a Chinese person a green hat?

Never buy a Chinese person a green hat.

Wearing a green hat is a way of a Chinese woman confirming that she has cheated on her husband or boyfriend because the phrase sounds similar to the word for cuckold.

Therefore if you see a male with a green hat, he’s been cheated on!

What is a good amount of money to give a Chinese person?

Giving a Chinese person anything with the number 8 in is a great idea.

Perhaps 800CNY, or 88CNY, depending on the person and their status.

Including an 8 is always a good idea.

Avoid numerical values with 4 in them because the number 4 sounds like the word to die in Chinese!

Why is a mirror a bad gift?

A mirror is a bad gift in China because they are seen to attract ghosts, so avoid giving these as gifts!

Why are clocks, umbrellas, pears and shoes bad gifts in China?

Gifts that have homophones with bad connotations are a bad idea in China and these four gifts have unfortunate homophones.

In order those homophones are 送终 sòng zhōng “attending a funeral ritual” 送终 sòng zhōng, sàn “to separate”, lí “leaving or parting” and xié evil.

Want more from LTL?

Want to learn Chinese from the comfort of your own home? Then our 24/7 online Chinese lessons might be the thing for you.

We offer a 7 day free trial to all new online students where you can study Mandarin 24/7.

Come and check it out free of charge and see what you think!

If you wish to hear more from LTL Language School why not join our mailing list?



Leave a Reply

You will get a reply from us
Your email address will not be published. Name and Email are required.

  1. Clothes in Chinese 🩳 The Complete Guide to 101 Different Clothing Items

    […] to “ceremonial clothes”, you might recognise the character 礼 (lǐ) from the word for present which is 礼物 […]

  2. Wedding Customs in China - Everything You Need To Know

    […] arrival to the banquet, guests present 红包 (hóngbāo) as wedding gifts for the bride and groom. Guest’s name and amount given are registered in a contribution book. […]

  3. Chinese Inventions 🎆 | 12 Amazing Ones that Changed the World

    […] Umbrellas were definitely a very practical and also beautiful invention, but just be sure never to give an umbrella as a gift! […]

  4. Gemma

    Jeez what a minefield, think i’ll pass and just get alcohol!

    1. Max Hobbs


  5. Thank You In Chinese // 23 Alternate Ways To Express Your Gratitude

    […] 谢谢你的礼物 Xièxie nǐ de lǐwù – Thank you for the gift/present […]

  6. Can Shoes Be Given As Gift? – Bescord

    […] In China, is not a good idea giving clocks (送钟 sòng zhōng), umbrellas (伞, sǎn), pears (梨 lí) or shoes (鞋 xié) as they all have “bad” homophones: 送终 sòng zhōng) “attending a funeral ritual” (送终 sòng zhōng), (散 sàn) “to separate”, (离 lí) “leaving or parting” and (邪 xié) evil. via […]

  7. In Which Country Should You Not Give A Gift With Your Left Hand? – Bescord

    […] In China, is not a good idea giving clocks (送钟 sòng zhōng), umbrellas (伞, sǎn), pears (梨 lí) or shoes (鞋 xié) as they all have “bad” homophones: 送终 sòng zhōng) “attending a funeral ritual” (送终 sòng zhōng), (散 sàn) “to separate”, (离 lí) “leaving or parting” and (邪 xié) evil. via […]

  8. Matt T

    What is the perfect gift for a Chinese couple retiring after a lifetime of hard work?

    1. Andre

      A coffin perhaps?