Red envelope
In Chinese
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and other Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

n societies, a red envelope or red packet (known as hóngbāo in Mandarin, Ang Pao in Min Nan
Min Nan
The Southern Min languages, or Min Nan , are a family of Chinese languages spoken in southern Fujian, eastern Guangdong, Hainan, Taiwan, and southern Zhejiang provinces of China, and by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora....

, Lai See in Cantonese, Sae Bae Don (세뱃돈/歲拜돈) in Korean, and Lì Xì in Vietnamese) is a monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions.


Red envelopes are mainly presented at social and family gatherings such as weddings
Chinese marriage
Traditional Chinese marriage is a ceremonial ritual within Chinese societies that involve a marriage established by pre-arrangement between families. Within Chinese culture, romantic love was allowed, and monogamy was the norm for most ordinary citizens....

 or on holidays such as the Lunar New Year
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year – often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar – is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration...

. The red color
Color in Chinese culture
Color in Chinese culture refers to the various colors that are considered auspicious or inauspicious . The Chinese character for color is 顏色 . In ancient China, the character more accurately meant color in the face. During the Tang Dynasty, yánsè began to refer to all color...

 of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. The act of requesting for red packets is normally called (Mandarin): 討紅包, 要利是, (Cantonese):逗利是. A married person would not turn down such request as it would mean that he or she would be "out of luck" in the new year. In keeping with Chinese customs, newly wedded couples are also usually expected to be extremely generous with the amount offered in the red packets, so as to receive blessings for a blissful marriage.

The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even digit, in accordance with Chinese beliefs; for instance 88 and 168 are both lucky numbers, as odd-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. But there is a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount, such as 40, 400 and 444 as the pronunciation of the word "four" resembles that of the word "death", and it signifies bad luck for many Chinese (See Numbers in Chinese culture). At weddings, the amount offered is usually intended to cover the cost of the attendees as well as a goodwill to the newlyweds. It is considered extremely rude to give a low amount of money on such an occasion.

During the Lunar New Year, mainly in South China, red envelopes (in the North, just money without any cover) are typically given by the married to the unmarried, most of whom are children. The amount of money is usually a single note to avoid heavy coins, and to make it difficult to judge the amount inside before opening. It is traditional to put brand new notes inside red envelopes, as well as to avoid opening the envelopes in front of the relatives out of courtesy. In recent years, some Asian-based banks provide newer-looking notes to reduce the environmental impact of printing new banknotes.

In Vietnam, lì xì are typically given to those who are children (typically 5 years of age and younger).

Red envelopes are also used to deliver payment for favorable service to lion dance performers, religious practitioners, teachers and doctors.


There are no clear literary sources from which to trace the origin of the red envelope tradition. In China, during the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

, the elderly would thread coins with a red string. The money was called yāsuì qián , meaning "money warding off evil spirits", and was believed to protect the elderly from sickness and death. The yāsuì qián was replaced by red envelopes when printing presses became more common. Red envelopes are also referred to as yāsuì qián.

Other customs

Other similar traditions also exist in other countries in Asia. In Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, red envelopes are called lì xì (similar to the Cantonese pronunciation "li see") or, in some cases, phong bao mừng tuổi (happy new age envelope). In Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, they are known as ang pow (the pronunciation of the Chinese characters for "red envelope" in the Teochew dialect) or tae ea among the Chinese-Thai. In Myanmar
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

 (Burma), the Burmese Chinese
Burmese Chinese
The Burmese Chinese or Chinese Burmese are a group of overseas Chinese born or raised in Burma . Although the Chinese officially make up three percent of the population, the actual figure is believed to be much higher...

 refer to them as an-pao , and South Korea's envelopes, which are white, not red, are called "sae bae don".

In Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, a monetary gift called otoshidama is given to children by their relatives during the New Year
Japanese New Year
The is one of the most important annual festivals, with its own unique customs, and has been celebrated for centuries. Due to the importance of the holiday and the preparations required, the preceding days are quite busy, particularly the day before, known as Ōmisoka.The Japanese New Year has been...

 period. However, white envelopes are used instead, with the name of the receiver written on its obverse. A similar practice is observed for Japanese weddings, but the envelope
Goshugi bukuro
A is a special envelope in which money is given as a gift at weddings in Japan.It is very common in Japan to give a gift of money at weddings. The giver inserts the money into a shūgi-bukuro on which they have written their name. The shūgi-bukuro is handed to the receptionist of the reception party...

 is folded rather than sealed, and decorated with an elaborate bow.

In the Philippines, Chinese Filipino
Chinese Filipino
A Chinese Filipino derived from two words: "Tsino" and "Pinoy" ) is a Philippine national of Chinese ethnicity but born/raised in the Philippines....

s exchange ang pao (from the Hokkien pronunciation, as most Chinese in the Philippines are of Hokkien descent) during the Chinese New Year. For non-Chinese Filipinos
Filipino people
The Filipino people or Filipinos are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the islands of the Philippines. There are about 92 million Filipinos in the Philippines, and about 11 million living outside the Philippines ....

, ang pao is an easily recognizable symbol of the Lunar New Year holiday and in some places, the envelopes are also appropriated by non-Chinese in giving monetary gifts on other occasions such as Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 and birthdays.

Green envelope

The Malay Muslims in Malaysia, Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

, Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 have adapted the Chinese custom of handing out money gifts as part of their Eid al-Fitr ("Hari Raya Aidilfitri" in the Malay language) celebrations, by issuing token gifts of money in green packets. Customarily, during Eid a family will have (usually small) amounts of money in green envelopes ready to give to visitors
Hospitality is the relationship between guest and host, or the act or practice of being hospitable. Specifically, this includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, resorts, membership clubs, conventions, attractions, special events, and other services for travelers...

, and may send them to friends and family unable to visit. Green is used for its traditional association with Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, and the adaptation of the red envelope is based on the Muslim custom of sadaqah
or Saddka is an Islamic term that means "voluntary charity".This concept encompasses any act of giving out of compassion, love, friendship or generosity.-Hadith on Sadaqah/Saddka:...

, or voluntary charity. While present in the Quran, sadaqah is much less formally established than the sometimes similar practice of zakat
Zakāt , one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is the giving of a fixed portion of one's wealth to charity, generally to the poor and needy.-History:Zakat, a practice initiated by Muhammed himself, has played an important role throughout Islamic history...

, and in many cultures takes a form similar to the green envelope closer to gift-giving and generosity among friends than charity in the strict sense: no attempt is made to give more to guests 'in need', nor is it (as Islamic charity is conventionally seen as) a religious obligation.

See also

  • Chinese marriage
    Chinese marriage
    Traditional Chinese marriage is a ceremonial ritual within Chinese societies that involve a marriage established by pre-arrangement between families. Within Chinese culture, romantic love was allowed, and monogamy was the norm for most ordinary citizens....

  • Chinese social relations
    Chinese social relations
    Chinese social relations are social relations typified by a reciprocal social network. Often social obligations within the network are characterized in familial terms. The individual link within the social network is known by guanxi and the feeling within the link is known by the term ganqing...

  • Color in Chinese culture
    Color in Chinese culture
    Color in Chinese culture refers to the various colors that are considered auspicious or inauspicious . The Chinese character for color is 顏色 . In ancient China, the character more accurately meant color in the face. During the Tang Dynasty, yánsè began to refer to all color...

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.