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Red Envelopes Go Digital


  Text by Liu Haile

  With the arrival of the 2014Chinese New Year, Tencent’ssocial networkingplatform WeChat founda way to turn the traditional practice ofsending hongbao, red envelopes filled withmoney, digital with its “New Year Hongbao”app, which took China by storm.

  Tradition Turns Digital

  As Lunar New Year’s Day approached,Zhang Lei, who works with an internetmusic company in Beijing, noticed thelatest version of WeChat had a new featureenabling her to give or receive virtualhongbao to or from her friends. “Duringthe seven-day Spring Festival holiday, Idistributed ‘red envelopes’ totaling morethan 200 yuan via the app, and got backhalf of the amount I gave,” she reveals.“Although the smallest hongbao containedonly 0.01 yuan, my friends and I still hadgreat fun exchanging the envelopes.”

  Launched on January 26, 2014, just afew days before Chinese New Year, the appallows a user with a linked bank accountto use his or her phone to send virtual redenvelopes with a limit of 200 yuan each tocertain friends. Users can also let the apprandomly divide money among a group offriends. To cash out the envelopes they receive,users are required to link up their ownbank accounts. In a few days, the featurespread like a virus among smartphone users.

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