This is China Series

Etiquette Of Giving. The good Chinese gift-giving guide, from dragons to coffins

Over the centuries, the Chinese have turned gift-giving into a fine art. An infinite variety of decorative techniques, used to make exquisite objects from jade statuettes to red carved lacquer boxes or cloisonné-inlaid enamel vases, have developed in order to satisfy Chinese society’s quest for the perfect gift.

The choice of gifts for foreign dignitaries is particularly fraught. Unique artifacts are specially commissioned and designed for each occasion. Symbolism is particularly important in Chinese culture, and so the choice of décor is a diplomatic message in its own right.

RTD goes behind the scenes to discover what goes into making the ultimate Chinese gift. During a visit to the Chinese Arts and Applied Crafts Corporation in Beijing, its designers explain how they handle the task of choosing a personalized design for an anonymous recipient, while its craftspeople painstakingly make their clients’ most ambitious dreams come to life in record time.

It’s also an opportunity to find out why a full-size dragon may be too forward as a friendly overture, while a tour of the corporation’s museum yields the backstory to some historic gifts to American Presidents. Meanwhile, as entrepreneurs Chzhi Min and Chzhan Huey stroll through their mind-blowing contemporary art collection, they provide an object lesson into picking the appropriate gift for a business partner, or… your mother-in-law.