Etiquette and Taboos in Yunnan

What are the etiquette and taboos in Yunnan? Yunnan Exploration will tell you the main etiquette and the taboos, which make you know how to eat in Yunnan, how to drink in Yunnan and do and don’t in Yunnan. In any place you may visit, there are certain forms of etiquette that should be followed according to the customs and religious beliefs of the local people. Yunnan has a very unique culture, and the people are friendly and easy to get along with. Yunnan culture has many different aspects from any other culture in China, and visitors should always respect their religion and customs, and always be polite.

How to Say Hello with Others

Many western countries accept hugs and kisses as a popular form of greeting, while in Yunnan, a handshake or a simple and kind talking is a common form of greeting. In Yunnan, various forms of greetings are used according to circumstances. The talking is most widely used to call others by their family name or full name by putting the Mr. or Ms. in front. And for a sign of respect to those in a more senior position or the eldest, address them first.

Table Manners

Yunnan table manners are almost same as that of China, which is a part of Chinese catering culture, which include a series of rules, such as the chopstick etiquette, seating arrangements, etc. Generally the important guest or the elder will be arranged at the best seat on the left, east and facing the gate. 

  •  Be graceful and polite when taking food with chopsticks.
  • Don’t make much noise when eating or drinking soup.
  • Don’t talk when there is food on the mouth.
  • Don’t point someone with chopsticks or play with chopsticks.
  • Pick the teeth with toothpick.
  • Don’t use your own chopsticks to pick food from the dishes.

More about Yunnan Dining Etiquette

Drinking Custom

In Yunnan, nearly all important occasions are celebrated with alcohol. There are many things to remember when drinking for example, at a feast, if one wants to show his or her respect to elders or superiors, he or she should toast. Before drinking the wine, they will touch their cups to express their affection. The cups of the younger or the person who toasts should be lower. Generally speaking, the one who toasts would empty the cup to show his or her sincerity. Chinese people usually drink in a happy atmosphere involving talking and joking. Sometimes, in order to increase liveliness, people set rules for drinking, almost like a game. The person who loses may be “punished” by drinking wine if he or she loses the game. 

Tea Serving Etiquette

Tea Serving Etiquette is one of the traditional Chinese etiquette which has a history of more than 3000 years. It is a way to show respect to guest and friends. When inviting guests to drink, it’s necessary to use two hands to hold the tea to the guests to show respect. The tea cup should put at the right hand of the guest. Fill the water in time, when the water is nearly drank out. Guest should appreciate the tea, and try to avoid drinking a big mouthful of tea. The water should not be too hot and the tea should not be serving too full on a cup. 

Giving and Receiving Gifts

In Yunnan, if one receives a gift, invitation or hospitality treatment from someone, usually he/she will offer back to the one when it is suitable. This is called “Li Shang Wang Lai” in Chinese. The customary reciprocity is also considered a traditional way to build and maintain friendships. 

  • Bring gifts to the host when you are invited is quite common in Yunnan.
  • The gift should be wrapped well.
  • Don’t wrap gifts using black or white wrapping paper.
  • Do present and receive things with both hands.
  • Small items like books, perfumes and candies from your home country are welcomed as a gift in Yunnan.
  • Don’t gift clocks or other items related to the number four which are associated with death in Yunnan.

Family Visiting

People in Yunnan are hospitable. If you are invited by a Chinese family, bring some gifts as a polite gesture. It’s important to be punctual for the appointment. Tea, drinks, cigarettes, fruit, sweets, socks and snacks are usually served. Just express your thanks and then you can help yourself. 

As for the gift you bring to the family, it should be appropriate for the condition or occasion. If you visit a Chinese family, good gifts to the hostess are flowers, toiletries or scarves. toys, candy and books are good for children if they are available. If you attend a wedding party, the art deco, bouquet or something practical is the best choice. During traditional festivals, you can bring wine, cigarettes, tea, candy, fruit or some local products.

Important Customs and Taboos


  • When some Tibetan people go up the mountain to pick up firewood, the family members must go to pick them up no matter how busy they are.
  • Outsiders are not allowed to touch the memorial tablet or place things on the table.
  • It is disrespectful take photos without their permission. Asking for permission before taking pictures of Tibetan people is a necessary procedure when in Yunnan.
  • Do not enter the temples or monasteries without permission.


  • Take off your shoes when you enter the house of the Blang village.
  • You can’t touch the heads of Buddha, monk and old man by hand.
  • It is forbidden to cut down the scared trees and the surrounding forests. It is not allowed to dig and remove stones in the scared forests, and it is not allowed to urinate in the scared forests area.
  • After the Blang women become pregnant, it is forbidden to go to talk to the Buddha and visit the Buddha. Pregnant women are not also allowed to attend other people’s weddings and funerals. In general, they can not participate in various ceremonies.


  • Most of the young Naxi people insist monogamous marriage. But for those living beside Lugu Lake in Lijiang, they still keep the “walking marriage”, which is the only remaining vestige of a matrilineal clan among all the ethnic groups of China.
  • In public places, it is forbidden to scream loudly and cross their legs.
  • When entering the Naxi house, you can’t hit the dog of the host family. Without a invitation, you can’t enter the bedrooms of old men, women.
  • It is forbidden to sing love song and whistle at home.
  • It is forbidden to knock the bowls by chopsticks when eating.
  • It is forbidden to pollute water sources, cut down forests for water resource conservation, or hunt small animals. 
  • A person must wash one’s feet in preparation for the Spring Festival Eve. It is forbidden to wash chopsticks or bowls after the feast of the Spring Festival Eve, because the left-overs in the dishes symbolize that there will always be an abundance of food in the family.


  • Don’t mess with things in the house, and avoid putting guns.
  • It is forbidden to spit in the fire pit, or cross from the fire pit.
  • It is forbidden to stay upstairs for women.
  • It is forbidden to go upstairs for women when men are in downstairs.


  • Manchu people are brave and athletic. They excel at riding and shooting, which women and children can do as well as men.
  • The Manchu people have good virtues of respecting  have the virtue of respecting the old, loving the young, hospitality and trustworthiness.
  • Manchu people keep dogs, but do not kill dogs, do not eat dog meat, or use dog skin products.
  • In the yards of the Manchu people’s houses, they all like to plant willow trees, and they are not allowed to lay horses and feed poultry under the willow trees.


  • Take off your shoes before entering the temples of Dai.
  • Never touch the head by hand when you encounter a monk in Xishuangbanna.
  • It is forbidden to enter to the bedroom of Dai people without a invitation.
  • It is forbidden to ride horses for outsiders entering the Dai villages.


  • It is forbidden to cross the men’s clothing for women, not to mention to cross the head of a man.
  • Without an invitation, a woman can’t go upstairs, and she can’t go to the roof.
  • Women should not touch the head of a man at will.
  • It is forbidden to scream loudly or whistle.


  • The Miao people are great observers of etiquette. They are also very hospitable and pay respect to their guests. When people visit their homes, families will often kill a chicken to provide poultry for their guests to eat. They also try their best to entertain guests.
  • If you accept the wine of the master, you will be referred to as a confidant by the host, so even if you cannot hold the drink, you should take a symbolic sip.
  • When killing chickens, the chicken liver will be given to the elderly or the most distinguished guests.
  • t is forbidden to use white cock as a gift.
  • It is forbidden to call Miao people “Miaozi”, which is regarded as the biggest insult for Miao people.
  • It is forbidden to touch the niche for Buddha at will.
  • On top of social bonding, Miao customs become particularly complex and significant during courtship. Nowadays Miao men and women are free to mingle and premarital sex is tolerated within the community. Men and women can select their own husbands and wives, although certain customs are still adhered to. 

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