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City residents are pushing the envelope with e-hongbao
By Ding Yining

SHANGHAI residents gave more “e-hongbao” through online payment platform Alipay than any other city in China at the start of the Chinese New Year holiday, figures show.

Alipay, founded by e-commerce giant Alibaba, reported that across China more than 100 million people gave or received digital red envelopes between February 18 and 21.

A modern take on the traditional practice of giving red envelopes — hongbao — of cash to children at Chinese New Year, senders of Alipay digital hongbao transfer cash from their Alipay account to the recipient’s.

The peak was on Chinese New Year’s Eve — February 18 — when 240 million digital hongbao worth a total of 4 billion yuan (US$639.3 million) were sent, Alipay said yesterday.

And between February 18 and 21, Shanghai residents sent the most Alipay hongbao, the company said.

In second place was Hangzhou, in neighboring Zhejiang Province, followed by Beijing, said Alipay.

Fourth was Guangzhou, in southern China’s Guangdong Province, followed by Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province and Nanjing, in Shanghai’s neighboring Jiangsu Province.

Alipay did not release details of how many e-hongbao were sent from each city, nor the amounts involved.

China’s most generous red envelope givers were residents of Tianmen City in Hubei, whose Alipay hongbao contained on average 139 yuan.

In second place was Wenzhou in Zhejiang, with an average of 97 yuan.

The data showed that younger people are most enthusiastic about digital hongbao.

More than half of those sending and receiving Alipay’s were under 25, with another 40 percent aged between 25 and 35, its data showed.

Shanghai office worker Jerry said she received several hundred yuan worth of digital hongbao from friends and colleagues and gave away about 200 yuan.

“A virtual red envelope usually contains between 10 and 20 yuan,” she said.

“The amount doesn’t really matter, what’s important is that it signifies best wishes and good fortune for the Year of the Sheep,” she added.

Alipay said digital hongbao containing a sum of 88 yuan were among its most popular for Chinese people believe the number has auspicous meanings, with 3.2 million exchanged.

While Alibaba’s Alipay is well-established as an online payment platform, fellow online giant Tencent is trying to promote its WeChat online messaging app for small transactions as well as for chatting and posting pictures and links.

WeChat offered its own e-hongbao service, with 3.27 billion sent between February 18 and 23 — just over 1 billion on New Year’s Eve alone.

Attachments charged with payments from a linked credit or debit card were sent to a fellow WeChat user.

WeChat can also be used to buy virtual coupons, pay bills and has links to online shopping platform jd.com.

Residents of Guangdong and Zhejiang sent the most WeChat digital hongbao, followed by Beijing, Jiangsu Province and Shanghai in fifth place, Tencent said.

Several other Internet companies, including Sina and Baidu, also released red envelope features to grab a slice of the e-payment market for the holiday.

“Lucky money” payments worth 1 yuan were the most popular choice overall, with more than 19.5 million 1-yuan e-hongbao given during the holiday, reported the Xinhua news agency.


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