On special occasions (New Year, weddings, birthdays, funerals), Chinese the world over give Red Envelopes (Hong Bao 红包) stuffed with cash. It's very practical, helping newlyweds to avoid getting 5 thermoses, 8 blankets, 4 electric fans (well--that was 28 years ago; today wedding gifts are cars, apartments and wall-to-wall flatscreen TVs). And from day, one we've been astonished at how generous they are.
During our first year at Xiamen University (1988), a retired university leader gave each of our sons a Hong Bao with 100 Yuan—half of our monthly salary! Money, of course, was not used much back then. We used ration tickets, not cash, for everything from meat, rice and veggies to cooking oil. But no one ever had enough rations. For 200 Yuan, our friend could have bought one months’ ration tickets on the black market!
Even the poorest Chinese give freely of time and money. The bike repairman who lived in the loft of his roadside tin shack repeatedly refused money. “It was nothing. Wait until a big problem...” It was humbling.
Christian Hongbaos Chinese Christians have their own versions of Hongbaos with angels, doves or hearts, often with Bible verses or “Jesus Loves You.” One seller on Taobao (China’s eBay) sends a free Bible to customers!
Chinese Magi? Over 1700 years ago, legends claimed the Wise Men who visited Christ were from the land of silk at the farthest Eastern country, which bordered the “Great Ocean.” That would have been appropriate because Chinese have certainly mastered the art of gift-giving.
So who knows? Maybe even the wise men’s gifts were Made in China!
Academic Director, XMU OneMBA
Xiamen University School of Management
Amazon eBook "Discover Xiamen"
Bill Brown Xiamen University www.amoymagic.com