Toll Free - U.S.& Canada:  1-800-791-9386   Hong Kong:  800-930-623   Australia:  1-800-779-835   Singapore:  800-101-3070  
United Kingdom:  0-800-086-8969   Switzerland:  0-800-563-178   Russia:  810-800-2189-4011   Israel:  1-801-227-213  
Free online Chinese learning support
Germany:  0-800-180-0341   Italy:  800-596-375   Spain:  900-838-906   China:  400-990-0892  
United Arab Emirates:  800-035-703-840   South Africa:  0-800-981-886   France:  0-805-080-689   New Zealand:  0-800-002-128  

Why a clock makes a lousy gift?(Beginner)

Sep. 11, 2012

When you’ve been invited to a social event in China, it’s courtesy to bring a special gift for the host. For this the options are nearly limitless: food, clothes, books etc. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, in China, a clock "钟(zhōng)" should never be given as a present.

In ancient China, "钟(zhōng)" clocks and bells were the symbols of happiness and luck. The ringing of a bell was the sound of luck, which brought happiness, safety and harmony. This incidentally, was the same sound initially used to mark time, but why did the Chinese come to regard sending clocks as taboo?

In Chinese, clock "钟(zhōng)" has the same pronunciation as death "终(zhōng)".To elaborate on their similarities, "送钟(sòng zhōng)" means to give a clock as a present and "送终(sòng zhōng)" means to attend a funeral. It’s easy to see how the two homophonic phrases are naturally connected in the minds of the people and their culture and as such, "送钟(sòng zhōng)" became taboo. At first, people only refrained from sending clocks to the elderly, but later this became a standard practice among all Chinese. At this point, you should be able to imagine the faux pas you’d be committing by sending a clock as a gift. Whether it’s your friend’s birthday, an official’s promotion, a token for newlywed couples, or a housewarming gift, by giving a clock as a gift you would be in effect cursing them.

Keep this tip in mind and avoid making this cultural blunder. You can send just about any gift you’d like, just don’t give a clock "钟(zhōng)" as a present to your Chinese friends.

For examples:

Leo de nǎinɑi qùshì, tā huíqù sòngzhōng le.
Leo 的   奶奶   去世,他  回去      送终     了。


Leo went home to attend his grandma’s funeral.

Péngyou guò shēngrì, Zhōngguórén bú huì sòng zhōng.
    朋友     过      生日,     中国人      不   会     送       钟。


To celebrate a friend’s birthday, Chinese will never give a clock as a gift.

Got questions? Take a Free 1-on-1 live online lesson with our professional teachers from China.


Our updates Recent articles:

In China, there is an old saying “不知者不罪 (bù zhī zhě bú zuì)” which means Ignorance can be forgiven. You can explain your good will for giving a clock, they will forgive you.

Hi! What if you’ve given a clock because you don’t know the culture? What can you do to make amends?

Thank you.

Write a comment

Your Name: 
Your Email:  Your email address will not be published.
Verification Code:  Verification Code Unclear? Try another one

Blog Search
Blog search
Sign up for a free trial now!
Get more information about our Chinese lessons through live chat
Get a FREE live 1-on-1 lesson and a FREE e-book. Complete the form below:
Subscribe This Blog
Follow Us
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to eChineseLearning Chinese Resources
Sign Up for Our Newsletter
Sign Up for eChineseLearning Newsletter
Sample Newsletter