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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Yinru here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Chinese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are the taboos I need to be careful of in Chinese culture?
The biggest taboo in Chinese culture would be to mention the word “death” 死 (sǐ) or anything related to it, especially on happy occasions, such as “New Year’s” 新年 (xīnnián), “weddings” 婚礼 (hūnlǐ), or “birthdays” 生日 (shēngrì).
In China, people hate the word 死 so much that they even hate the number “four” 四 sì, which sounds the same as 死, but has a different tone. Hospitals sometimes don’t even have a “fourth floor” 四楼 (sì lóu). Apparently nobody wants to go to that floor. When choosing their “lucky date” 良辰吉日 (liáng chén jí rì) to get married, couples will avoid dates with number 4, such as the 4th day in “lunar calendar”or 农历初四 (nónglì chū sì). On the other hand, the numbers “six” 六 (liù), “eight”八 (bā), “nine” 九 (jiǔ) are considered lucky numbers in Chinese culture.
There are other taboos, which are relatively minor. For example, you don’t want to wear a green hat, because it means that your wife or partner is cheating on you.
You don’t want to stand your chopsticks up in a bowl, because bowls with chopsticks stuck in them are for the deceased.
You don’t want to share a “pear” 梨 (lí), because “to share a pear” is 分梨 fēnlí, which has the same pronunciation as 分离 fēnlí, “to separate” or “to part ways.” When giving gifts, try to avoid giving umbrellas, 伞 sǎn (“umbrella”), and 钟 zhōng (“clock”), because the pronunciation of 伞 is close to 散 sàn, which also means “to split,” or “to part ways.” The pronunciation of 钟 zhōng is the same as 终 zhōng, and 送终 sòng zhōng means “to see a deceased person for the last time before they get buried.”
So to review, let’s make a list of all the Do’s and Don’ts we just talked about:
不要说“死”. (Búyào shuō "sǐ". “Don’t say ‘death’.”).
不要带绿帽子. (Búyào dài lǜ màozi . “Don’t wear a green hat.”)
不要把筷子插进碗里. (Búyào bǎ kuàizi chājìn wǎn lǐ. “Don’t stand chopsticks up in a bowl.”)
不要分“梨”. (Búyào fēn "lí". “Don’t share a pear.”)
不要送伞,不要送钟. (Búyào sòng sǎn, búyào sòng zhōng. “Don’t give umbrellas and clocks as gifts.”)


Ok. How was this lesson? Are there any similar taboos in your culture? Let us know in the comments!
See you next time!
我们下次再见!Wǒmen xiàcì zàijiàn!