I'd like to deliver some candles to a friend in China who hosted me at his place as a Christmas gift. (I know it is a bit late, but I guess for a non-Christian it doesn't really matter…) Candles came to my mind because someone from there was very fascinated about the candles in a picture which I sent to him.

Is this a good idea and if so, what do I have to consider so I don't break the Chinese-gift-law? (Or do I break the rules by sending candles?)

Can you give me an advice in how the candles and the wrapping should look like and how many candles should be in the package? I'd go for 6 unicolor red-ish candles wrapped in fancy Christmas wrapping paper. Is this ok?

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    Beware: That linked PDF absolutely slows down the embedded PDF viewer in Firefox (the file consists of a single, extremely tall page with many vector graphics). An external viewer such as Adobe Acrobat works well, though. Dec 30, 2014 at 14:22
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    @O.R.Mapper I exchanged the PDF with an image with the equal content. Dec 30, 2014 at 14:57
  • Try and tell us :)
    – nicael
    Dec 31, 2014 at 12:21
  • @nicael i'll do that of course :) But shipment need almost a month from here.. Jan 1, 2015 at 12:18

1 Answer 1


Being Chinese, I thought this was a rather interesting question. I personally have not heard of such a taboo, but since there are regional variants on bad Chinese gifts, this might vary with area, and is certainly not authoritative.

Due to this, unless some academic publishes a research paper on the topic of Chinese taboos with properly cited information, it would be nearly impossible to obtain non-subjective sources.

A Baidu search on the term "送蜡烛 忌讳" (gifting a candle taboo) shows a number of differing interpretations, slightly tending towards negative, with no clear consensus on whether it is or is not a good idea. Many of the questions seem to be dealing with candles being given as gifts between lovers or as birthday presents, so it seems that a taboo, if it exists, is not especially widespread.

On the positive connotations side:

Candles are used for newly-wed couples, as evidenced by the Chinese term "洞房花烛". This could be the reasoning behind why so many people were asking about it in the context of lover relationships.

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On the negative connotations side:

Candles are used as offerings for the dead during Hungry Ghost Festival. Both red and white candles are used, where white candles are used during the initial funeral, while red candles are used on subsequent years.

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This was used as one of the reasons against giving a gift of candles in this link.


Candles are for use at funerals and death rituals, and are unsuitable as gifts.

The same source also quotes that dolls are an unsuitable gift (giving a rationale which seems very close to voodoo)

The term "吹灯拔蜡" also has negative connotations, in the sense similar to the "umbrella" example that you linked in your original post.


Of course, since I did not know about any of these taboos prior to this, combined with the fact that you are not Chinese, it would almost certainly be accepted without poor connotations. This would be further enhanced as a gift since Christmas candles are a thing in your home country.

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    Thank you alot for you very extensive answer. It is pretty difficult for me to understand those taboos at all. It just doesn't matter what you will give away here. I think I'll give it a try.. :) He lives in 眉山, 四川 (Meishan, Sichuan) btw. Is the number 2 (4 isn't AFAIK) and red ok? Dec 30, 2014 at 12:30
  • @MarcTrittibach as long as it's a clock, I think you are good. Red should be considered lucky, so shouldn't be a problem.
    – Mou某
    Dec 30, 2014 at 12:39
  • @MarcTrittibach Yes, 2 is also considered an auspicious number. 2 red candles should be fine IMO.
    – March Ho
    Dec 30, 2014 at 12:42
  • @user3306356 what do you mean by a clock? Do you mean a candle? Dec 30, 2014 at 12:44
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    @MarcTrittibach I think he meant "not a clock". It doesn't make sense otherwise.
    – March Ho
    Dec 30, 2014 at 12:47

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