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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!


Please to leave a comment.
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ChineseClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 06:30 PM
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What Chinese learning question do you have?

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Sunday at 09:58 AM
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你好 robert groulx,

谢谢 for posting and studying with us. If you have any questions, please let us know.😄

Kind regards,

雷文特 (Levente)

Team ChineseClass101.com

robert groulx
Sunday at 12:11 AM
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thank you for the lesson transcript

favorite phrase ishappy occasions, such as “New Year’s” 新年 (xīnnián), “weddings


Thursday at 07:47 PM
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Hello Tais,

Thank you for your comment. It's not a taboo to talk about tattoos now. Chinese people don't like tattoos because they're almost always associated with gangs. It has somehow become more acceptable as some celebrities started to get tattoos as a fashion trend, and some people have changed their perception of tattoos over time. That being said, getting tattoos may still hinder people from being employed by some companies.

As always, let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Thursday at 09:12 AM
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This video was nice! What about tattoos? I know that in Japan, for example, you can't enter any onsen unless specified that they accept tattooed people. They do have a few that accept, but the majority won't. I also noticed that Chinese television blurries tattoos on people or they are obligated to cover with clothes or makeup. Not sure if you guys can talk about this 😅 but asking anyway.

Thank you so much!

Wednesday at 03:57 PM
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Hello Daniel,

That's an interesting question. I can't say about all Chinese because it has something to do with religion or what a person chooses to believe in. Some people say there's a soul within a body, that the body is just a shell, and the soul/spirit would go to heaven after death.

Thank you for learning with us, let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Sunday at 10:54 AM
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What are the beliefs as far as the "soul"? Do Chinese believe they are a soul with a body or that they have a soul? What are the thoughts regarding what happens after death?