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This article will explain everything about the monetary gift called “red envelopes” or “lucky money” in China also known as hóngbāo or 红包 in Chinese and why Chinese people give them to their friends, parents, children or employees. According to Wikipedia, the Chinese mobile app “WeChat” has popularized the distribution of red money via mobile payments.

The Monster “Sui” And “The 8 Guards”

Red envelopes are traditionally called 压岁钱 yāsuìqián and means something like “ghost sui dispersing money”. The history of this custom lies in the Qing Dynasty, when people would thread coins with a red string and call it “warding off evil spirits money”. The Word “Sui” means age in modern Chinese, however some Chinese words are also used as names. According to the legend, the evil monster called “Sui” came to villages to harm children, leaving them in a terrified state. After the villagers prayers were received, the gods granted them the eight guards that were disguised as coins to protect the children. People would thread eight coins along red strings and put it underneath the children’s pillows to protect them. The number eight in Chinese is 八 bā, these two strokes left and right are two red strings, on each string  there are four coins attached, together they make 8, this is how the character for the number 8 came to life. The string with the coins itself also represents the 8 guards send from the gods.


Occassions And Rules for Red Envelopes 

Red envelopes are monetary gift presents for events such as weddings, the birth of a child, or the Chinese New Year. As mentioned earlier Chinese people have a lot of superstitious beliefs about colors and numbers. The red color is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity, this is why it is used for presents and monetary gifts like “red envelopes”. The amount of money in the envelope is usually an even digit with an exception of number four because it sounds same like the word “death”. Just like with colors there are beliefs about numbers, odd numbers are associated with funerals.

How Much Money Should You Give ?

The amount of money is said to be less important than the red envelope itself, which is supposed to give off good energy and display the good will towards the receiver of the gift, however there is a general rule that the value of the gift or the amount of money inside depends on how close you are to the person that gets the gift. Next to weddings, children that start to earn money supposed to receive lucky money to have good luck in their future.

There are some general numbers among the internet about how much money the red envelope supposed to have inside dependent on the person who gets it. Children get 10-20 Yuan, employees 100-1000 Yuan, own children 100 Yuan and more (depends on your generosity as a parent), young people without income get 50-200 Yuan and elders get 500-2000 Yuan. As you can see, just like with presents, the value inside depends on the hierarchy and social status.
Dos and Don’ts

Out of courtesy and other conveniences the red packets are never opened in front of other people, because it is considered to be impolite. Don’ use any coins inside the envelope, also do not give dirty or wrinkled bills. As mentioned above avoid bad numbers since they bring bad luck. Just like with presents, use both hands when giving and taking to show your respect. Always be thankful after receiving.





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