Guangdong sets healthy hongbao example
The Spring Festival hongbao, or red envelope, a child receives as a festival gift can contain as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,560) or as little as 100 yuan, although the amount is generally several hundred yuan. Also, the average sum varies from province to province.
A recent survey by Wacai.com shows on average a hongbao in Fujian province contains 3,500 yuan－the highest in the country－while those in Zhejiang province and Beijing contain 3,100 yuan and 2,900 yuan, respectively. The average for Shanghai is 1,600 yuan and that for Tianjin and Jiangsu province is 1,000 yuan. Incidentally, all of these places are in the eastern coastal region, the most developed region in China.
The average amount in a hongbao in other provinces and regions is 300-800 yuan. But remarkably, even though it is one of China's richest provinces, the lowest amount is in Guangdong province－on average a Spring Festival hongbao in Guangdong contains only 50 yuan.
Increasingly greater burden on young adults
The difference in the amount notwithstanding, one thing is common－the hongbao has been growing larger with each passing year and it is becoming a heavy burden on many people, especially young wage earners.
People love hongbao because they believe they bring good luck and build bonds between friends and family members. But a red envelope also instills fear even hate among many, as they have become such a cumulative burden that almost every hongbao duty-bound benefactor cries out: "I can't afford it anymore." Even for people in provinces where the average hongbao amount is not at all high, the cumulative burden is still relatively high.
For instance, 300 yuan may not be a big amount. But when you visit, or host, relatives and friends during the seven-day Spring Festival holiday, you are bound to meet toddlers, school boys and girls, nephews and nieces, younger siblings, cousins and friends. Imagine how many 100-yuan bills you will need to hand out to so many people.
Han Lei, a young man who works in Shandong province, told a journalist covering the Spring Festival travel rush that he wished he had not succeeded in obtaining the precious train ticket to his hometown in Heilongjiang province, "because it gives me a headache to even think that it (hongbao) won't be counted as settled until I've forked out 20,000-30,000 yuan."
A few days ago, some media outlets in Shaanxi province reported a tear-jerking story about an aged couple who began collecting recyclables from pavements two months before Spring Festival so they could sell them and have enough money to prepare four red envelopes of 500 yuan each for their four grandchildren.