Toll Free - U.S.& Canada:  1-800-791-9386   Hong Kong:  800-902-058   Australia:  1-800-779-835
Free online Chinese learning support
  • Follow us on Facebook!
  • Watch Our YouTube Videos!
  • Follow us on Twitter!
  • Follow us on WeChat!
    Follow Us in WeChat by Scanning!
    Follow Us in "WeChat"
    by Scanning
  • Follow us on LinkedIn
  • Explore Our Instagram Videos & Photos!
United Kingdom:  0-800-086-8969   Germany:  0-800-180-0341   Singapore:  800-130-1652
France:  0-805-080-689   Spain:  900-838-906    

Six Tokens of Love in Ancient China

Sep. 29, 2021

In ancient China, men and women were not as free as they are now, where they could send gifts to whoever, whenever they wanted to express their feelings. Most marriages were arranged, and often people could only see their spouses once they were married! It was rare for people to meet someone they loved, and even rarer to be allowed to marry that person. Expressing feelings for someone else was not done quick so straightforwardly as today — the ancients seldom dared to express love enthusiastically and boldly like modern people, often conveyed their emotions by “attaching their hearts” to objects that they would present as and give them to the other half as “tokens of love.”

HSK 3 quiz

1. (Spice) Sachets (xiāng náng 香囊) – tokens of affection

Sachets, also known as spice bags or flower sacs, are wrapped with silk thread and contain a variety of Chinese herbal medicines. In the pre-Qin period, young people would see their parents and elders wearing woven sachets to show respect, and so they in turn began to gift these to each other as a sign of affection that can be worn. In “Dream of the Red Chamber”, Daiyu gives Baoyu a sachet, and later thinks that he gave it away to someone else (when in reality he was already keeping it close to him), and in her anger destroys another one that she is making. This shows how something that nowadays might be seen as trivial held great emotional significance to people of the time.

HSK 3 quiz

例句 (lì jù):

赠送 (zèng sòng): v. to give as a gift

mǎi shǒu jī zèng sòng huà fèi.
Get phone bill credit when you buy a cell phone.

mǎi shǒu jī zèng sòng huà fèi.
买     手   机  赠    送    话   费。
Get phone bill credit when you buy a cell phone.

2. Rings (jiè zhi 戒指) – tokens of commitment

The concept of rings symbolizing commitment is not just a Western tradition, and has actually also been a custom in our country for a long time. As far back as the Southern Dynasty (420-589 BCE) Liu Jingshu “Yiyuan” records an exchange of rings between a recently married couple, and in the late Tang Dynasty, the tradition changed to rings being given only by men to women. Because rings were seen as token of commitment, unmarried women in ancient times did not wear them casually.

HSK 3 quiz

例句 (lì jù):

戒指(jiè zhi): n. ring

qǐng shōu xià zhè gè jiè zhi zuò wéi xìn wù.
请      收    下  这  个  戒  指  作  为   信  物。
Please accept this ring as a token.

3. Hairpin (fà zān 发簪) – tokens of the role of the wife

Hairpins, also known as head scratchers, were commonly used to express love by ancient women. In fact, there are numerous stories about women removing their hairpins to emphasize the importance of what they were saying, or burning their hairpins to show their resolve in letting someone they loved go. While hairpins might be said to have served a practical function as they do today, in ancient times they were much more significant and went beyond simple “accessorizing”.

HSK 3 quiz

例句 (lì jù):

首饰 (shǒu shì): n. jewelry

tā pèi dài de shǒu shì áng guì jí le .
她  佩  戴  的   首   饰   昂  贵 极了。
The jewelry she’s wearing is extremely expensive.

4. Bracelets (shǒu zhuó 手镯) – oaths of trust

Bracelets were called by many names in ancient times, and often appeared literary works as gifts presented among deities. The bracelets signified commitments to each other, and recognition of each other as being worthy of remembering. Nowadays, jade bracelets are quite significant possessions to own in China.

HSK 3 quiz

例句 (lì jù):

手镯(shǒu zhuó): n. bracelet

tā bǎ zhè gè shǒu zhuó zuò wéi lǐ wù sòng gěi wǒ.
他 把  这  个   手     镯     作   为 礼 物   送   给  我。
He gave me this bracelet as a gift.

5. Jade Pendants (yù pèi 玉佩) – representations of a gentleman

“The beauty of jade is like the virtue of a gentleman.” Jade was a symbol of the gentleman in ancient China. Someone who exemplified the gentleman paid attention to respect and peace, as well as gentle and distant love. Therefore, the elegant and calm gentlemen of ancient times liked to use jade as a symbol of love, thus appearing restrained and polite, neither eager nor alienated.

HSK 3 quiz

例句 (lì jù):

象征 (xiàng zhēng): n. symbol, token; emblem & v. to symbolize; to signify

āi jí jīn zì tǎ shì gǔ āi jí de xiàng zhēng.
埃及金字塔 是  古埃及的    象      征。
The Egyptian pyramids are a symbol of ancient Egypt.

6. Combs (shū zi 梳子) – symbols of lifelong love

Just as combs set hair in order, so did they symbolize a couple growing old together. Giving someone a comb meant that you wanted to grow old with that person, to be “entangled” for a lifetime. As a kind of tool that does more than just stay with the person, a comb was an intimate gift, one closely tied to the idea of feminine beauty in ancient China, as the ideal hair was seen as being both straight and smooth. In some ways, the focus on hair gave it an outsized importance to men in ancient times.

HSK 3 quiz

例句 (lì jù):

梳子(shū zi ): n. comb

tā de tóu fà ràng shū zi guà zhù le .
她 的  头 发   让    梳 子  挂   住 了。
The comb got caught in her hair.

You May Want to Learn More :

“Two Wonderfully Mythical Places from Chinese Folklore”

“Three Classic Mid-Autumn Festival Legends You Must Know”

”Three Chinese Dances Go Viral”

HSK 1 quiz

Chinese Culture

HSK Test

General Chinese (Beginner Level) 

General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

Got questions? Take a free 1-to-1 lesson with one of our professional teachers by signing up below:

search no result

By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Your email address and phone number

Write a comment

Your Name: 
Your Email:  Your email address will not be published.
Verification Code:  Verification Code Unclear? Try another one
By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Email This Article
Recipients' email addresses:
(separate recipients with comma)
Your name:
Your e-mail address (optional):
Your message (optional):
Verification Code:
By clicking Send, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Get 11 FREE Mandarin E-books
Sign up for a free trial now!
Get more information about our Chinese lessons through live chat
Get a FREE live 1-to-1 lesson and FREE e-books. Complete the form below:

search no result

By clicking Submit, you agree to our
Terms of Service
and Privacy Policy.
Your email address and phone number