CNY Special: How the e-ang bao and digital gold are fuelling the rise of virtual gifting in Asia

This article was first published on Stories by Digix Writer on Medium
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CNY Special: How the e-ang bao and digital gold are fuelling the rise of virtual gifting in Asia.

The red packet goes digital this Chinese New year

In a tradition dating back centuries, Chinese elders make gifts of money to children and unmarried relatives during the Lunar New Year, wishing wealth and prosperity for them in the coming year.

This gift-giving began during the days of Imperial China, where children would wake up on the first day of the new year to find gold coins threaded with red string under their pillows.

Later on, with the advent of paper money, the practice morphed into the current convention of giving gold coins or notes slipped into red packets, known colloquially throughout Asia as hong bao, lai see, or ang bao.

Now, traditions rooted in the past are adapting to the times, and the practice of giving and receiving red packets is changing to fit the highly digitised lifestyles of modern society.

Electronic red packets have been rising steadily in popularity over the last few years in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau after being introduced by the Chinese internet company, Tencent, a few years back in 2014.

In 2019 alone, more than half of China’s population — around 823 million people — used Tencent’s messaging platform WeChat to send virtual hong bao to relatives and friends during Chinese New Year, and those same numbers or more are expected during the upcoming celebrations for the Year of the Rat.

The leap from physical to virtual gifting seems a logical step for consumers in Asia, as they hold some of the highest digital payment adoption rates in the world.

Combined with advanced infrastructure and encouraging support from governments and businesses, people in the Asia-Pacific region are leading the way in the cashless revolution, and as familiarity with mobile wallets and digital payments have increased over ...

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