British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 118.000 mm
Width: 71.500 mm
Gift of Helen Wang
Coins and Medals
Printed money envelope
Purchased in London, AD 1999
May wealth and honour blossom, in abundance year after year
As the name xiao hongbao, literally translated as 'little red envelopes', implies, red is the usual colour for Chinese money envelopes. After all, red is the colour associated with celebration in China.
In the 1990s, a new style of money envelope appeared. Although it still had a red back, the front was printed in many colours and overstamped in gold. The designs on the front were still very traditional. On this envelope there are lush peony flowers in full bloom. They are symbolic of spring, as well as feminine beauty, love and affection. In Chinese, the peony is known as mudanhua or fuguihua. The characters fu ('wealth') and gui ('honour') appear frequently in good luck wishes, and pictures of peony flowers add strength to the wish.
The inscription on this envelope reads 'May wealth and honour blossom, in abundance year after year'. The arrangement of the peonies and the inscription is reminiscent of traditional Chinese flower painting.