British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 102.000 mm
Width: 69.000 mm
Gift of Qiu Jinxian
Coins and Medals
Printed money envelope
Used in London, Chinese New Year AD 2005
Happy New Year
The inscription on the diamonds at the top of this brightly coloured envelope says 'Happy New Year'. The character on the red decorative hanging is fu, 'good fortune'. It is presented upside down, to encourage the good fortune to pour out. This is similar to the English custom of placing a horseshoe with the open side facing down, in order that the good luck may spill out.
Two children beat out loud music surrounded by firecrackers and shining stars. When Chinese celebrations are going well, people talk about renao, the noisiness and excitement created by people getting together. Re means 'hot'; nao means 'hustle and bustle'. The Chinese character for nao is the character for 'market-place' inside a 'doorway'.
The sound of firecrackers exploding can be deafening at Chinese New Year. However, for safety reasons, they have been banned in big cities in China, such as Beijing, except at organised displays.