Chinese Red Envelope

Chinese Red Envelope

Red envelopes, also called as “red packets”, “Hung bao”, “Ang pao” or “Lai si (in Cantonese)” are used to enhance luck, happiness and prosperity. They are also utilized as protection against inauspicious qi (or chi) and to prevent negative events from occuring. These red packets are considered very auspicious when received as a gift, and of course it should contain money inside.

They are commonly used during Chinese New Year, birthdays, weddings or any other important event as a monetary gift. In Chinese New Year, the red packet or ang pao is typically given by the seniors and grown-ups (usually the married) to the visitting juniors and children. It is bestowed on the days of the Chinese New Year, where the recipients say something auspicious on taking the red packet.

How Much to Put in Red Envelope

The amount of money inside the packet is usually some lucky numbers such as a number containing many eights. This is because the number eight is pronounced similarly as the Chinese word for ‘prosperity’. Some people also prefer nine as it sounds like longevity. The amount contained has to be in even numbers. The Chinese considered even numbers as auspicious because the numbers are ‘coupled’ whereas the odd numbers are perceived as denoting loneliness. The number four is avoided because it sounds like death in Chinese.

When giving money on festive or auspicious occasions, dont put the money in a white envelope. Money wrapped in white envelope is usually given when the occasion is sad such as during the funerals although in Western countries it would be unlikely to offend.

It is also traditional and customary to give ang pao or red packets to parents when their baby celebrates her/his first month. In return, the parents also distribute to well wishers gifts like bean cakes (ang ku), yellow rice with curry chicken and red dyed eggs (ang nui). Usually money is given as birthday gifts for celebrants of all ages.

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Feng Shui Red Envelope Tradition

Red envelopes are also used as a means of protecting and respecting the transmission of the ancient feng shui knowledge. Red, being the strong color that “burns” or prevents harmful chi from happening is thus used widely for many purposes including this transmission. The envelope is red because this color is also considered yang energy. Its been a tradition that in order to thank for your feng shui consultant, you should give him or her red envelope which contains money inside.

Because of the high energy of the color red and also the blessings associated with the tradition, it is believed that the consultant (receiver) as well as the client (presenter) are both graced with auspicious chi. The payment to the feng shui consultant is normally in denominations of 9. Nine in feng shui is a very significant and special number, whenever you multiply any number with 9, and you add together the digit of the multiplying result and it will also become nine. Example: 9X9=81 (8+1=9), another example 32X9=288 (2+8+8=18, 1+8=9), another example 23X9=207 (2+0+7=9).

Feng shui devotees believe that ang pao containing gold coins especially i-ching coins tied with a red ribbon (feng shui coins) can attract good luck and protect your wealth. Red envelope with Chinese gold coins inside (or you can place $3 in American currency) and placed in your abundance corner, above the frame of your entrance door or in your wallet can attract more money. Placed at the entrance is said to protect your household.

History of Red Packets

The story of the ang pao or the red envelope dates back to the Sung Dynasty in China. At that time, a village called Chang-Chieu was terrorised by a ferocious demon. There was no one who is capable of defeating it, not even their greatest statesmen or warriors. However, a young orphan, armed with a powerful magical sabre inherited from his ancestors, fought the demon and eventually killed it. All the villagers were very happy and the elders presented this brave young man with an ang pao filled with money inside. Since then, the ang pao has become a part of traditional Chinese customes.



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