What Are the Rules for Red Envelopes in China?

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

In the colorful tapestry of Chinese traditions, few customs hold as much significance and charm as the exchange of red envelopes, known as "hong bao." These small, crimson envelopes symbolize good luck, prosperity, and happiness, and are an integral part of various celebrations and social interactions, particularly during the Chinese New Year. However, there are intricate rules and customs associated with giving and receiving red envelopes 信封 (xìn fēng) that may not be immediately apparent to outsiders. Let's delve into the fascinating world of hongbao etiquette in China.

信封 (xìn fēng), noun, envelope


  1. I put the letter in the envelope. 
    Wǒ bǎ xìn fàng jìn le xìnfēng.
  2. She sealed the envelope before sending it. 
    Tā bǎ xìnfēng fēng hǎo le zài jì chūqù.

The Occasions

While red envelopes are most commonly associated with Lunar New Year celebrations, they are also exchanged during other important occasions such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, and other festive gatherings. The envelopes are typically filled with money, which symbolizes good wishes and blessings for the recipient.

Who Gives and Receives

Traditionally, married couples or older family members give red envelopes to unmarried individuals or younger relatives as a symbol of their blessings and good wishes. However, the dynamics can vary depending on the situation 情况 (qíng kuàng). For instance, bosses may give red envelopes to employees, and married couples may exchange envelopes with each other.

情况 (qíng kuàng), noun, situation


  1. My teacher explained the situation to us.
    Wǒ de lǎoshī xiàng wǒmen jiěshì le qíngkuàng.
  2. The situation is getting better.
    Qíngkuàng zhèngzài hǎozhuǎn.

Amount of Money

The amount of money placed inside the red envelope carries significance. Odd numbers are preferred, as they are considered lucky in Chinese culture. Common amounts include 100, 200, or 500 yuan, though the exact sum may vary based on factors such as the giver's financial situation and the occasion. It's essential to avoid giving amounts that end in the number four, as it sounds similar to the word for "death" in Chinese and is therefore considered unlucky.

Cultural Significance

Beyond their material value, red envelopes hold deep cultural significance in China. They represent the transfer of blessings, good fortune, and positive energy from one person to another. The act of giving and receiving red envelopes strengthens social bonds and fosters a sense of community and goodwill.

Key Sentences:

  • Darling, here's a red envelope for you, wishing you a happy New Year!
    Bǎobèi, zhè shì gěi nǐ de hóngbāo, zhù nǐ xīnnián kuàilè!
  • Thank you, Mom!
    Xièxiè māmā!
  • You're welcome, enjoy it!
    Bùyòng kèqì, hǎohāo xiǎngshòu ba!

Related Articles

Sign up for a free trial now!

FAQ / Tips

As a first - time student, if you are not completely satisfied with our service, we offer a cancellation policy that allows you to cancel your subscription before the first month. In such cases, we only charge a one - month fee and refund the remaining balance to you as soon as possible.We strive to ensure that our customers are fully satisfied with our service and are committed to providing a hassle - free refund process.
We provide a wealth of Chinese teaching materials and learning resources, including but not limited to textbooks, workbooks, listening materials, reading materials, video courses, and online courses.Our teaching materials and resources are carefully selected and designed to meet the learning needs and goals of different learners. At the same time, our teachers will provide personalized teaching and guidance based on the learning characteristics and needs of students to ensure that students can learn and master Chinese language efficiently.
No, the tuition fees you have paid cover all costs.There are no additional fees or hidden charges. We strive to be transparent and upfront with our pricing, ensuring that our clients receive the best value for their investment.
We offer a 30-day money-back guarantee for all new students.If you are not satisfied with our services within the first month, you may cancel your lessons and receive a refund for any unused lessons.We will only charge you for the first month of lessons, and refund the remaining balance to you promptly.Our goal is to ensure your satisfaction with our services, and we strive to provide the highest quality of instruction and support to all of our students.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can send an email to: service @chineselearning.com.We have a team of professionals who will be happy to assist you with any issues as soon as possible.
Yes, our website offers courses in both traditional and simplified Chinese characters. You can choose the character set that you want to learn based on your personal preference or learning goals.Our courses are designed to accommodate learners of all levels and backgrounds, so whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, we have resources that can help you improve your Chinese language skills.