Gifts in China that you can’t make

The custom of giving gifts for certain dates is very old. Probably, it was the Phoenicians, about 3000 years ago, who started it or, at least, of whom we have the first signs. The truth is that today, and for centuries, it is a custom deeply rooted in popular cultures around the world. However, if you live or are visiting China, there are certain things you should not give away.

Gifts in China

Gifts in China must be chosen well

In Chinese culture, certain objects are offensive and you should not give them away if you do not want to lose your friendship with the person being honored. Likewise, if your purpose is to negotiate with the person, not giving a gift is considered a debt. In Chinese tradition, it is customary to exchange gifts at business meetings.

At the same time, before choosing the object to give as a gift, you must take into account those that you cannot make, to avoid bothering or offending the other person. What gifts can’t you give in China?

Wall clocks

If you give a watch, for Chinese culture it is like wishing for a member of your family to die. It is, perhaps, the most offensive gift you can give to a person of that nationality. In Chinese, “wall clock” sounds the same as “burying a family member” (sòngzhông). Also, keep in mind that if the person being honored is older, it is better that you do not give them any type of watch.

Umbrella and pears

If you are invited to a wedding or wedding anniversary of a Chinese couple, you cannot give umbrellas or pears. The reason is that the phonetics of the Chinese characters for pears (lí) or umbrellas (sân) sound the same as “separate.” Giving away these objects is a sign of desire for separation and is very offensive to them.

Candles or chrysanthemums

Candles in Chinese culture are present at funerals. Chrysanthemums grow on graves like wildflowers. For that reason it is an offense to give away those objects. If you have a Chinese friend who is convalescing, do not bring him chrysanthemums as a gift.


For ancient Chinese culture, giving shoes is a symbol that you want that person to stay away from your life. It is also due to the phonetics of the word shoe (xié), which resembles the Chinese character xie which means disaster or evil.

Towels or tissues

The action of giving handkerchiefs or towels is related to what happens at funerals to dry tears. Likewise, in a relationship or friendship, it is also better to avoid these objects.

Another detail to keep in mind is that you never give kits that contain 4 objects, such as a makeup or beauty kit. They can have less or more, but not just 4 objects. For Eastern culture, and this also includes Japan, the number 4 is not very well regarded. It is because of the characters with which 4 is written, whose pronunciation is very similar to the word death.

Knives or other sharp objects

Knives, razors or scissors are seen as feelings of insecurity or danger. The person who receives a sharp object as a gift will think that you want to cut off the relationship with them.


The Chinese believe that mirrors attract evil spirits, so you should avoid giving one as a gift.

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