Gifts for Chinese Parents

Written by justin schamotta
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Gifts for Chinese Parents
Red wine is becoming a popular gift. (K-King Photography Media Co. Ltd/Lifesize/Getty Images)

The Chinese give gifts to express gratitude, love or hospitality. Although ideas are changing regarding the appropriateness of certain gifts, some Chinese parents may hold traditional views. To avoid the possibility of causing offence, err on the side of caution when buying gifts.


Traditionalist parents will refuse a gift several times before accepting it. This follows a cultural dictate that recipients should not appear to be greedy. Similarly, don't expect the present to be opened immediately. Make an effort to wrap the gift well. If using ribbon, stick with red, as it is symbolic of general happy occasions. If the gift is for prospective parents-in-law, consider buying something relatively valuable to indicate the esteem that they are held in.


Symbolism plays an important part in Chinese culture. Gifts such as fruit should be given in pairs or even numbers. Gifts in single or strange numbers can imply loneliness or separation. "Four" is symbolic of death, "73" of a funeral and "84" of accidents. On the other hand, "8" is symbolic of prosperity. Chinese parents will appreciate nine of an object as this is symbolic of longevity.

Foreign-Made Gifts

Choose a present that the parents are not able to get in their country of residence. Local handmade goods such as clothing, objets d'art and souvenirs can be shown in the home and strengthen family ties. If they live in China, high quality chocolates from the West are popular because Chinese-made chocolate is relatively waxy and flavourless. Red wine is also becoming a popular luxury item in China.

Gifts to Avoid

Similar sounding words can have very different meanings and some gifts will be unpopular if they sound like a word which has negative connotations. An example would be the gift of a book to someone who enjoys gambling. "Book" in Chinese is similar to "loss." Similarly, "clock" sounds like "death" in Chinese. Sharp objects such as scissors, knives and letter openers imply the severance of a relationship, as foes writing in red ink. Avoid wrapping gifts in blue, white or black paper as this is associated with funerals, as are handkerchiefs.

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