Planet China

Seeing red

It’s time for red envelopes in China this week. These hong bao (known as lai see in Cantonese, and literally meaning ‘red packet’) are the traditional gift given during the Lunar New Year; with employers giving them to staff; adults to children and married folk to single people.

Of course, gift-giving is important year-round as a means to oil the wheels of business relationships. And as the Yangcheng Evening News reports, a former advertising executive named Yan his one of those trying to turn the practice into a business. Dismayed by a lack of originality in his wedding presents, he set up Gift Guru to teach executives how to give “unforgettable” gifts. His consultancy is now being engaged by companies to put a ‘gift planning’ programme in place. Yan is reluctant to give away too many of his secrets, but says that a good rule of thumb is to make sure gifts given to government officials (wherever possible) contain engravings of Mao Zedong’s poem ‘Snow’, as it is “domineering, in line with the atmosphere of officialdom”. Clearly, he’s no Martha Stewart.


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