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Chinese Burdened with Gift Custom

Xinhua, 21 October 2001

JINAN, October 21 (Xinhua) -- While blessing a newly married couple, a smiling Huo Huansheng cannot help being secretly annoyed. The 40 yuan (4.8 U.S. dollars) monetary gift he has given is almost 10 percent of his monthly earnings.

In addition to wedding banquets for the children of his colleagues and friends which have already cost him 1,500 yuan (180 U.S. dollars) in recent months, the middle-aged local government clerk in the economically backward Xiajin County of eastern Shandong Province has two more invitations on his desk.

Huo is not alone in being disturbed by the gift custom. His working mate Fang Yiling has to borrow money to attend banquets for weddings, going to college, moving house and new born babies. The man in his thirties told Xinhua he is afraid of various holidays when he is swamped by invitations.

In his county the standard cost for these gifts is 40 yuan (4. 8 U.S. dollars) for ordinary friends and 100 (12 U.S. dollars) for closer relationships. It seems a small amount of money, but what if you have had five or more similar invitations over the National Day holiday? Huo complains.

The average yearly income for a peasant in Xiajin is only 2,000 yuan (240 U.S. dollars) and that for government staff is 5,000 yuan (602 U.S. dollars).

Although burdened with the gift custom, there is no way to change the tradition as Chinese value relationships and appearances, Huo says.

He would like friendships in China not to be judged on monetary values and the custom of gift giving to change.