Lucky red envelope containing a Hong Kong 1 cent note

From Hong Kong
20th century AD

Good luck in all you wish for

The inscription on this note is presented in a frame, reminiscent of an impression from a seal, thus adding an air of tradition and authority. Below it is a branch bearing two oranges, alongside representations of traditional forms of money - spade money, a round 'cash' coin with a square hole in the centre - and a ruyi sceptre.

Oranges are associated with good fortune on account of their golden colour. The character ji is also found within the character ju meaning orange, which adds another layer of implied good luck. Oranges are often given as gifts, usually in pairs or even numbers, and given and received with both hands.

The inscriptions on the traditional forms of money express a wish for good luck. The round 'cash' coin wishes specifically for a Happy New Year. Coins are depicted on the New Year envelopes not merely because they convey a wish for money and prosperity, but also because there is a long tradition of making coin-shaped charms. Certain types of coins were regarded as lucky, usually because of the historical facts associated with the inscription on those coins. Also, as Chinese coins usually have an inscription comprising four characters, and many Chinese sayings and proverbs are also four-character phrases, the good luck wishes fit beautifully into the design of the traditional 'cash' coin.

The Hong Kong 1 cent banknote became so firmly associated with lucky red envelopes that the notes continued to be made for this purpose, even when they were no longer valid as currency.

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Height: 119.000 mm (envelope)
Width: 80.000 mm (envelope)
Height: 119.000 mm (envelope)
Width: 80.000 mm (envelope)

Museum number

CM 1996-9-9-1 (envelope);CM 1979-11-24-2 (note)


Note: Gift of S. Cribb


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