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.
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New Year Gifts in the Right Colours – Red, Yellow and Gold
When giving a gift at Chinese New Year pay close attention to the color of the gift as well as the wrapping paper or bag in which it is delivered.
The rules are simple; avoid white, as it is associated with funerals; and black or blue, as their are both synonymous with death.
The best choices are red, yellow, and gold as they all symbolize wealth and prosperity.
If you are buying money packets for Chinese New Year don't be mistaken into buying white envelopes as they are used to give money at funerals.
New Year Gifts in the Right Numbers – EVEN Numbers
Another thing to consider when planning gifts in Chinese superstition surrounding specific numbers. Never give a monetary amount that includes a four as the pronunciation of 四 (four) is very close to 死 (death).
Besides four, most other even numbers are a safe choice. The luckiest number in China is eight, so a number like 88 is an ideal amount to give.
In addition to money, this rule can also be followed when it comes to giving goods. A set of four gifts should be avoided; whereas a set of eight is considered to bring luck
Here are a couple of rules to follow through when gift-giving:
When giving, or receiving a gift always use two hands. It is an important part of gift-giving etiquette across the country as it shows respect and appreciation towards the act and the giver.
When giving money ensure it is crisp and new. People across China will spend weeks preceding the Chinese New Year withdrawing crisp notes from the bank. It is considered a sign of disrespect to give old or torn notes.
Always start by presenting a gift to the oldest (or most senior) member if giving money to a large group or whole family.
It is considered bad form to receive a gift and open it immediately in front of the giver. The person receiving the gift will likely express their thanks before putting the gift aside to open in private later.
8 Things should you definitely avoid as a Chinese New Year Gift:
- Sharp Objects – Cut Off Relationships
- The Number 4 – Sounds like Death in mandarin
- Shoes – word for 'shoes' (鞋 xié /syeah/) sounds exactly like a word for bad luck or 'evil'(邪 xié)
- Handkerchiefs – Saying goodbye forever
- Clocks – Bad luck as it sounds exactly like the Chinese words for (送终 sòng zhōng) “attending funeral ritual”
- Pears – While giving fruit is a good thing, pears are taboo. The Chinese word for 'pears' (梨 lí /lee/) sounds the same as the word for leaving or 'parting' (离 lí).
- Umbrellas – The Chinese word for 'umbrella' (伞 sǎn /san/) sound like the word for 'breaking up'(散 sàn).
- Mirrors – Generally a bad idea for gifts throughout much of Asia, as they are believed to attract malicious ghosts.