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Assorted examples of contemporary red envelopes
|Literal meaning||red package|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Chinese||利是 or 利事|
|Literal meaning||good for business|
phong bao mừng tuổi
In Chinese and other Asian societies, a red envelope or red packet is a monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions such as weddings, the birth of a baby or graduation. In addition to China, similar customs exist in, particularly, Vietnam, Japan, Korea and many other countries where a sizeable ethnic Chinese population is present.
Red envelopes are gifts presented at social and family gatherings such as weddings or on holidays such as the Chinese New Year. The red 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 tao hongbao (Chinese: 討紅包; pinyin: tǎo hóngbāo) or yao lishi (Chinese: 要利是; pinyin: yào lì shì), and in the south of China, lai see (Chinese: 逗利是; pinyin: dòu lì shì; Cantonese Yale: dau6 lei6 si6). Red envelopes are usually given out by married couples to single people, especially to children or work colleagues.
The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even digit, in accordance with Chinese beliefs; odd-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. Still in some regions of China and in its diaspora community, odd-numbers are favored for weddings because they are difficult to divide. There is also a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount, such as in 40, 400 and 444, as the pronunciation of the word "four" resembles that of the word "death" and thus 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 signify goodwill to the newlyweds, with appropriate amounts of 288 RMB (pair + double joy) and 388 RMB (birth + double joy).
During the Chinese New Year, mainly in Southern China, red envelopes are typically given by the married to the unmarried, most of whom are children. The amount of money is usually notes 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 and also to avoid opening the envelopes in front of the relatives out of courtesy.
Red envelopes are also used to deliver payment for favorable service to lion dance performers, religious practitioners, teachers and doctors.
In China, during the Qin Dynasty, the elderly would thread coins with a red string. The money was referred to as "money warding off evil spirits" (Chinese: 壓祟錢; pinyin: yāsuì qián) and was believed to protect the person of younger generation from sickness and death. The yasui qian was replaced by red envelopes when printing presses became more common and is now found written using the homophone for suì that means "old age" instead of "evil spirits" thus, "money warding off old age" (Chinese: 壓歲錢; pinyin: yāsuì qián). Red envelopes continue to be referred to by such names today.
In Vietnam, red envelopes are lucky money and are typically given to children. They are generally given by the elders and adults, where a greeting offering health and longevity is exchanged by the young. Common greetings include "Sống lâu trăm tuổi", "An khang thịnh vượng" (安康興旺), "Vạn sự như ý" (萬事如意) and Sức khỏe dồi dào, which all relate back to the idea of wishing health and prosperity as everyone in Vietnam ages on the Lunar New Year. The typical name for lucky money is lì xì or, less commonly, mừng tuổi.
In Korea and Japan, a monetary gift called is given to children by their relatives during the new year period. In Japan, however, white envelopes are used instead or red, with the name of the receiver written on its obverse. A similar practice, Shūgi-bukuro, is observed for Japanese weddings, but the envelope is folded rather than sealed, and decorated with an elaborate bow.
In the Philippines, Chinese Filipinos exchange red envelopes (termed ang pao) during the Lunar New Year, of which it is an easily recognisable symbol. The red envelope has gained wider acceptance among non-Chinese Filipinos, who have appropriated the custom for other occasions such as birthdays, and in giving monetary aguinaldo during Christmas.
Red packets as a form of bribery in China's film industry were revealed in 2014's Sony hack. 
Malay Muslims in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Singapore have adapted the Chinese custom of handing out monetary gifts in envelopes as part of their Eid al-Fitr (Malay: Hari Raya Aidilfitri) celebrations, but instead of red packets, green envelopes are used. Customarily a family will have (usually small) amounts of money in green envelopes ready for visitors, and may send them to friends and family unable to visit. Green is used for its traditional association with Islam, and the adaptation of the red envelope is based on the Muslim custom of sadaqah, or voluntary charity. While present in the Qur'an, sadaqah is much less formally established than the sometimes similar practice of zakat, and in many cultures this takes a form closer to gift-giving and generosity among friends than charity in the strict sense, i.e. no attempt is made to give more to guests "in need", nor is it as a religious obligation as Islamic charity is often viewed.
- Shūgi-bukuro, the Japanese wedding equivalent
- Chinese marriage
- Chinese social relations
- Color in Chinese culture
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Red envelope.|
- How to Give Lai See in Hong Kong
- Red Packet: Sign of Prosperity
- Gallery: Chinese New Year Red Envelopes