Four Taboo Chinese Wedding Gift Ideas (Intermediate)

Love is in the air, and if you’re like many people, that means you’ve got one or two wedding invitations headed straight for your mailbox. As if deciding what to gift newlyweds isn’t hard enough, in China there are some culture-specific taboos. You’ll want to be aware of before you get shopping.

Two is Always Better than One

gifts in pairs

The Chinese say: “好事成双(hǎoshì chéngshuāng)”. That means good things always come in pairs. You might’ve heard something similar said in your own native language. The phrase means exactly what you think: Don’t give one blender, give two. Well, maybe not blenders. Who needs two blenders? Pillows. Give two pillows or something else in pairs.


Wǒ jīntiān yòu shēngzhí yòu zhòng cǎipiào, zhēn shì hǎoshì chéngshuāng a.
我   今天    又   升职        又    中      彩票,  真    是   好事     成双            啊。
Today I got promoted and won the lottery, good things really do happen in pairs.

No Black and White

No Black and White

Black and white, it’s a classic combination. But in China, do leave the black and white gift wrap at home. Together, black and white represent “悲伤 (bēishāng) sadness” and “贫穷 (pínqióng) poverty.” Grim, right? Not the kind of fun stuff weddings are made of. Of course, younger Chinese have embraced Western-style weddings with open arms, white gowns in all. The world is full of contradictions. Just make sure neither white nor black feature prominently on your gifts. Instead, choose gifts that are red. Red represents “幸运 (xìngyùn) luck” and “幸福 (xìngfú) happiness” in China, and you’ll see it everywhere during celebrations of all kinds. You can’t go wrong with red.

Hold the Napkins, Hold the Tears

wipe away tears

Alright, so maybe you just want to keep things practical. You don’t want to buy them a gift they’ll never use. Blenders are a no, but how about a nice set of towels? Leave them on the shelf. In China, 毛巾 (máojīn), or towels, and 手帕 (shǒupà), or handkerchiefs, are strongly associated with funerals, or 葬礼 (zànglǐ). During funerals family members hand out handkerchiefs for visitors to wipe away their tears. So if you bring towels, things might get messy.


Qǐng nǐ bǎ nàgè máojīn dì gěi wǒ.
请     你 把 那个 毛巾    递 给  我。
Please pass that towel to me.

Zhègè shǒupà hěn piàoliang.
这个    手帕      很    漂亮。
This handkerchief is so beautiful.


Cutting deep

breaking up

I know what you’re thinking: Knives! Every kitchen needs knives. But in China, giving knives as wedding gifts isn’t just unimaginative, it’s out of the question. Receiving a knife brings to mind the phrase “一刀两断 (yìdāo liǎngduàn),” which means “breaking up.” Not the message you want to send to two people who just tied the knot. Give a couple a knife and they might think you’re stabbing them in the back.


Cóngcǐ yǐhòu, wǒ gēn nǐ yìdāoliǎngduàn.
从此     以后,我  跟  你  一刀两断。
From now onwards, I make to make clean break from you.

Nǐ zuìhǎo gēn tā yìdāoliǎngduàn, búyào zài liánxì le.
你  最好    跟  他  一刀两断,       不要   再 联系 了。
You’d better make a clean break and don’t have nay more contact with him.

We’ve started you on the path to a wedding gift win. Now it’s up to you to go out and make the right choice, and don’t be lazy—nobody wants a gift card.

HSK 3 quiz

1. Which is a good present for a bride?
A.  A white or black dress
B.  A beautiful handkerchief
C.  A pair of adorable dolls
D.  A sharp knife
2. What color features prominently in traditional Chinese weddings?
A.  黄色(huángsè) Yellow
B.  红色(hóngsè) Red
C.  黑色(hēisè) Black
D.  白色(báisè) White

Further Reading:

Top 7 Taboos in China (Beginner)
20 Chinese Taboos You Should Never Try
Beware of Certain Taboos! You Can’t Give These Gifts to Chinese
Chinese Culture

8 thoughts on “Four Taboo Chinese Wedding Gift Ideas (Intermediate)”

  1. Fluent in Mandarin, I made my first trip working in China in 1982: visited recently; summer 2015. I want to work for you!
    欧 美 珍

    1. jennifer.zhu

      Wow, great! Your answers are all right. We will keep updating the posts, please feel free to check.

  2. Lucky Laosher

    Great Lesson on Wedding Gifts, fitting vs NOT!
    Can these lessons all be bought in a book or on a CD or DVD? Pls send me where to buy them in printed format!

    1. jennifer.zhu

      Hi Loucky, I’m glad you are interested in the articles we posted. Actually it’s hard to learn these lessons in a book or on a CD, because we aim to pick some interesting points to help you learn Chinese, which are not included in a book. We will keep updating the posts, and stay tuned if you are interested. In addition, I can also arrange a free live Chinese lesson for you, and our professional teachers can offer you some advice in learning Chinese and introduce you some materials according to your Chinese level. Let me know if you are interested.

    1. jennifer.zhu

      Hi Custus, I’m glad that you like the article we posted. We will keep updating more interesting posts, please feel free to check.

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