Chinese Red Envelopes (红包 hóng bāo Lucky Money)

Chinese Red Envelopes (红包 hóng bāo Lucky Money)

Lucky money originated from the ancient “copper cash" (round coins with a square hole which were made mostly of copper) which some people in those days used for creating and preaching sorcery. Over many years of development, lucky money has become money wrapped in the red envelopes. But its symbol of love and blessing has never changed.

Why do the Chinese Give Red Envelopes?


The custom of Chinese red envelopes, called Yasuiqian in Chinese, are reputed to help avoid evil and ghosts, as well as promise good health. It is considered that young people will have good luck in the New Year, if they receive lucky money from the older generation. In the age of medical shortage, children tended to die young; therefore, elders gave children one hundred pieces of copper cash after the children greeted them, hoping that it could protect them against demons. The lucky money would keep them safe and blessed.

How much to give

Lucky money, for the elder, is looking forward to the children’s sound health; for the young, it implies an expression of blessing. The amount in the red envelope varies from tens to thousands of Yuan. The more intimate the relationship is, the more valuable the red envelope is likely to be. Naturally it depends on their personal economic situation, and the main idea is simply to add joy to the festival.

Eechat Hongbao

Alipay and WeChat Red Envelope

Moving on from the traditional red envelope, there is a new way which is far more appealing for smart phone users, and that is using apps such as Alipay, WeChat and the Weibo Red Envelope. Digital red envelopes especially offer excitement and value on the Eve of Lunar New Year, as users can win red envelopes by shaking their smart phones during the time that the Gala is being televised.

Tips about lucky money:

1. Please don’t open red envelopes on the spot, because it is impolite.

2. Pick a lucky number as the amount for the red envelope. In Chinese culture, good things come in pairs, so an even number is very favorable. The numbers two, six and eight are popular, but the number four is an exception, because its pronunciation is similar to the word for “death” in the Chinese language.

3. The amount of lucky money is usually an integer; people like to exchange the notes of consecutive numbers which means that they are wishing for people to get promotion at every step.

4. If you want to give a large amount in a red packet, you may as well change some new 100 Yuan notes.

5. Say “Best wishes for the New Year!” when you give lucky money.

By Shirley Li
Web Editor