How PRC digital/hongbao are changing Singapore traditions



China is exporting trends. Animation, QR codes: Digital red packets on the rise this Chinese New Year in Singapore


Every celebration has its own traditions, and that of delivering red packages- or hongbaos – containing money has been a well-established tradition in Chinese culture, especially during the Chinese New Year. But with the advance of technology, this tradition is changing in new forms and  and the red packages are even having success outside of China.

In Singapore, for example, the first to adopt the hongbaos tradition were financial institutions like Standard Chartered and Citibank, which started offering a cashless red packet function over PayNow this year, while DBS Bank has seen the use of its eAng Bao feature in its PayLah mobile app!.


The red envelopes are typically printed by banks and businesses and given to clients and customers to use


Furthermore, the local bank has created the first QR code package in the world that can be loaded. The system is simple: after users upload a cash value into unique QR codes on a physical “red package”, they can deliver it to a recipient who can then scan the same red QR package to automatically transfer the amount into their own mobile wallet.

Jeremy Soo, the head of DBS Bank’s consumer banking group (Singapore), said: “If you put it on a scale, the eAng Bao is (on one) extreme where it’s totally digital. You send everything on a digital format, a nice message, but it’s not accompanied by a face-to-face interaction. However on the other extreme, you see consumers say, ‘no, I must use red packet and new notes'”.


After users load a cash value into unique QR codes on a physical ‘red packet’


“With this QR angbao, we’re able to bridge this gap where we can marry traditional customs … with a QR angbao with value inserted in there So you preserve this whole greeting and exchange and the giving practices that’s been embraced by not only by the Chinese, but any Singaporean today who celebrates Chinese New Year.”

But at the Hotel Jen in Tanglin there is a technological innovation that is to be added to the technologies that are changing the tradition of  Chinese New Year’s Eve. After a collaboration with its charity organization The Little Arts Academy, the Hotel, in fact, has created digitally animated red packets.


This year, Caston has halved the production of red envelopes, due to increased competition from other market players


When scanned using a mobile app, the designs on the red packets digitally animate through the use of augmented reality technology, making the birds or other objects printed on the packets come to life.

Caston’s creative director Alvin Tan said: “Twenty, thirty years ago hongbaos are quite simple – just normal paper and gold stamping, gold and red only”. “Personally, I still believe that high technology, regardless of how advanced it is, this hongbao is still traditional for the new year. This is our Chinese culture – this is the only thing that celebrates our new year, it’s happiness and fun” said Tan.




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