In Chinese culture, there is a ancient tradition of gift-giving that accompanies the engagement of a young couple. In the old days, a potential groom would send three letters: a betrothal letter, gift letter and wedding letter. The gift letter would list the gifts that the groom and his family would give to the bride-to-be. Over hundreds of years, the Grand Gift List was created. It outlines the types of engagement gifts that a groom may send to a bride prior to the wedding.
Engagement Gift Giving
Traditionally the groom and his parents present a series of engagement gifts to the bride's family as a sign of respect. The gifts are an acknowledgment of the efforts of the bride's parents in raising an honorable daughter. The acceptance of the gifts by the bride's parents is a sign of their acceptance of the wedding proposal. The tradition of gift giving has evolved to suit modern times. Now, presents are given as a token of the engagement. When giving a gift to an engaged Chinese couple, it is best to give the gift in a set of two, as it represents the power of husband and wife.
Li Shi Money
Another name for Li Shi money is lucky money. Li Shi money should be given in an amount that contains the number 9 for good fortune. For instance, the gift may be in the amount of $9, $99 or $999.
Tea is an essential engagement gift. These gifts are known as cha-li or tea presents. These can be an assortment of teas or tea cups and pots. Tea seeds are also a good choice and represent future abundance. It is important that the gift be given in a even number, such as two cans of tea or two tea cups. The number four should be avoided as it is bad luck in Chinese culture.
Jewelry is given to the bride by the groom during the engagement period. Typically the jewelry is in a design to bring good luck. Gold bangles in the shape of a dragon-phoenix are popular.
Fruit and Seeds
Fruit and seeds should be sent in decorative containers, ensuring that these are presented in even numbers. Some traditional fruit and seeds include lychee, chestnuts, peanuts, dragons eyes, lotus seeds, sesame red beans and dates. Fat choy must be included as it brings prosperity.
Seafood and Poultry
Engagement gifts also include seafood and poultry. Seafood will include various types of fish as well as shrimp, clams, squid, shark fin and other delicacies. It must be presented in items of six or eight at a time as these numbers bring good luck. Poultry should be presented as two female or two male.
Dragon and Phoenix Cakes
The tradition of bridal cakes still exists today. Dragon cake, representing the male, and phoenix cakes, representing the female, are given to the bride who then gives these gifts to family and friends.
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Kate Muir began her career in 2000 and has written corporate communications, largely in the field of arts and cultural policy. Her articles have been published in the "Toronto Star." Muir has a Bachelor of Arts, Honors, in political science and cultural policy.