Gifts in China are given for many occasions. There are a few rules of etiquette in Chinese gifting. For example, the receiver will refuse the gift several times before accepting it. Good manners dictate that when staying in somebody's home, a gift is given to the host. Avoid giving clocks, knives and other sharp objects or anything in multiples of four. These are considered taboo gifts in China. The Chinese people appreciate any gift, but there are gifts that are more popular than any others.
In China, giving one gift to an entire business is appropriate, but individual gifts are also welcome. If giving gifts to individuals, each gift should be of the same value. If a gift is of a higher value it should be given to the person alone in private. Popular business gifts include fine liqueurs, solar calculators or ink pens. Never give ink pens that have red ink because this is a sign that ties will be severed.
Family is very important in Chinese society, especially newborns and the elderly as they represent the continence of the family. One-month-old babies are given traditional gifts of eggs that have been dyed red. Red represents happiness and the egg represents life. Other popular gifts include various foods but the most popular gift for the baby is money wrapped in red paper. In fact, these red packets filled with money are popular gifts on other occasions as well. Adults generally do not celebrate birthdays until they reach age 60. This age is recognized by the Chinese as a very important year in the circle of life. The family has a huge party and gives gifts of eggs, long noodles, red money packets and buns made in the shape of a peach.
Popular wedding gifts may seem complicated to the Western world. Generally, the favorite gifts at weddings are the "grand gifts." These are gifts presented to the bride's family from the groom's family. Grand gifts on the wanted list includes fat cai, a type of underground moss that is eaten. Every wedding couple enjoys this gift because it is supposed to bring good fortune. Other popular grand gifts are sea foods, flowers, dragon phoenix cakes and dragon phoenix jewelry. The list is bigger than these few items, and the gifts have certain rules that have to be observed in giving them. For more information on grand gifts, please see Resources. The money packets are welcome as well; as a wedding gift they are called Li Shi money and must be given in combinations of nines.
Popular Non-Traditional Gifts
Western gifts on any occasion are enjoyed by the Chinese as long as it is something they cannot get in China. For example, chocolate in china is a waxier chocolate. Therefore, high-quality chocolates from the West are happily accepted because it cannot be found in China. Other items such as Western clothing, foods, things from a guest's hometown, vases, etc., are good choices for Chinese gift giving.
Gift Giving Tips
Gifts and gift giving are steeped in cultural traditions, and as such, some gifts common in the West are taboo in China. Any white-colored gift or white wrapping paper is a big taboo. White is a funeral color in China and represents death. The same goes for flower gifts. Chrysanthemums are only for funerals, and no flower gift should be white flowers of any kind. Fruit gifts are popular, but offering a cut pear is taboo as it symbolizes severing a friendship.
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Connie Whiting has been a professional writer since 1999. She is published in Red Rock Press Anthologies and "Legacy" magazine. She is also an experienced food column writer. Past positions include certified dental assistant and virtual assistant for “Your Invisible Assistant” a service focused on travel arrangements and media writing. Currently, Connie writes for Demand Studios while pursuing an Associate of Arts.