With the Year of the Dragon fast approaching, Kunal Sinha gives reader’s his top ten list for New Year’s gifts.


The Year of the Dragon is almost upon us. The Great Migration has already begun, as hundreds of millions of Chinese workers return home. As is the custom, the trip home must be preceded by the Great Shopping and Gift-Buying Spree: there are grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, wives and girlfriends all waiting with open arms. But shoppers are dazzled. There is far too much choice, many new and untried things. What to buy?

Based on the trends I have been observing in the last few months, I have created a list of the ten most valued gifts. Put your tongue firmly in your cheek, and start looking for these real and imaginary gotta-haves.


TOP TEN GIFTS FOR CHINESE NEW YEARThe Golden Bull – Everyone wants one. It is a symbol of optimism, vigor and good fortune. Choose the size of the bull based on the recipient’s ego. Like the residents of Huaxi Village who installed a giant bull in the skyscraper they had built to commemorate their village being declared China’s richest. The bull could stand proud on the mantelpiece, on a bar’s dashboard, in the courtyard of your family home, or hang as a pendant from your partner’s neck.

A Swarovski-encrusted Mask – The recent smog that enveloped northern China has made the mask an essential wardrobe accessory. Impress your mom or wife by giving them one that is embellished with Swarovski crystal. Everyone will be so envious! Or, if you’re a woman who wants to impress her man, choose the version that has authentic Italian leather piping. It’s available at Tods.

Apple iPad 2.5 – The knock-off guys haven’t produced it yet. It’s the original thing you can pick up at the Apple store. Only, by the time you’ve picked up all the accessories to get the damn thing working, paid up RMB 150 to have it jailbroken, your wallet already feels lighter. So go the extra mile and pick up the iPad 2.5 decal and stick it below the logo before presenting it, then watch the recipient’s friends go berserk online trying to figure out when it was launched.

The Pet-i-gree Luxe Kit – Why should the pooch in the household feel left out of the festivities? A ban by some municipalities on the number of canines and felines families can keep has resulted in the one-cat or one-dog in the household entering the same ranks of pampering as the household’s one-child. Go ahead and splash out on the ultimate spa treatment and nail file kit for pooches. Added reason to buy: the little red leather booties are free!

A Flying Pigeon Bike – Show your elders you really care about their health. Give that big box of health supplements a pass, they will feed it to the dogs anyway since they know what is good for them to eat. Instead, buy them something they can really roam the countryside on. If you’re feeling generous, buy them two. If you’re a cheapskate, buy one and tell them it’s more romantic to cuddle up on a bike. But if your old man or old woman really understands the meaning of retro-cool, buy them a Forever C.

A Neodymium Ring – Or one made from Scandium, Lanthanum or any of those rare earths that go into making nuclear warheads, mobile phone batteries and lasers. Far more precious than gold or diamonds, their prices have gone through the sky. Truly exclusive, truly rare. How do you get them? Even more precious – only a handful of the very top level people in China know how. Even I don’t.

The Poison Probe – Extremely useful and necessary. Your family will be eternally grateful. Stick the probe into any suspect food item and the red light will flash if any of a wide range of carcinogenic, poisonous, slow and fast acting chemicals, or excessive pesticides is present. On second thought, don’t bother buying one. Start a Weibo movement asking the authorities to provide every family one as a CNY gift.

Versace Shoes / Bags from H&M – Gifting this depends entirely on how stable your relationship is. While on the one hand you may risk your girlfriend or your mother thinking you’re a cheapskate, on the other she might just appreciate the fact that you queued up in the morning and fought off hundreds of other shoppers to get them a prized piece.

A bottle of Jia Bei Lan 2009, Cabernet Blend, from the He Lan Qing Xue winery in Ningxia Province – Then proceed to educate the person who you’re giving the bottle to about the suppleness, grace and four-square tannins in the wine. That’s what the judges at the Decanter World Wine awards 2011 said when awarding it their Medal of Honor. Ask the Frenchman in the Carrefour wine section for the wine and enjoy the look on his face!

A Blank Check – For all those relatives who you never got along with. Don’t even bother to sign it. They would think it was something valuable, but not know what to do with it.

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

— This article was adapted from That’s Beijing Magazine.

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