Classical plain Red paper Ang Pow
In the early days, people can make their own Ang Pow by cutting red paper and form a classical red envelope. Although the envelope is plain, the meaning of blessing is still equivalent to more complex designs. Occasional words of blessing is written on the red paper envelope by using a calligraphy pen.
Plain Red paper Ang Pow are not routinely seen nowadays, but occasionally can still be found used in temples. Another similiar variant is the plain Pink paper Ang Pow.
Ang Pow with Chinese calligraphic writings
When printing press improve in quality and multi color printing , Ang Pow starts to become more complex, the most common ones are Ang Pow with calligraphic wording of blessing and poems readily print on them, readily usable with self adhesives.
Common words appears on ang pow such as:
- 福 (pinyin: Fú), meaning fortune, good luck, blessing or happiness in Chinese
- 福 (pinyin: Fú) can be displayed upside-down on diagonal red squares, as in chinese wordplay the words for “upside-down” (倒; Pinyin: dào) is similar to “to arrive” (到; pinyin: dào), hence “福到” may means arriving of happiness and good fortune
- 祝贺(pinyin: zhù hè) or 贺 (pinyin: hè) means “congratulations”
- 春(pinyin: chūn) means “spring” in Chinese, it also means the end of winter and beginning of spring, the beginning of new hope.
- 如意(pinyin: rú yì) literally means “as you wished” or “according to one’s wishes” , it also means may your wishes comes true.
- 恭禧發財(Traditional Chinese) or 恭禧发财(Simplified Chinese) (pinyin: gōng xǐ fā cái) – gōng xǐ (恭禧) is congratulations or wishing one joy, fā cái (發財) is to become rich or prosperous, hence means wishing you prosperous year ahead.
- 新年快乐(pinyin: Xīn Nián Kuài Lè) means happy new year.
- 生意兴荣(pinyin: shēng yì xīng róng ) means a prosper business, usually this type of Ang Pow is given to a person involved in business field, as a wish for a prosperous business ahead.
- 喜(pinyin: xǐ) means happy or joy, usually will written as 囍(pinyin: shuāng xǐ) on Ang Pow, which represent double happiness. This type of Ang Pow is usually given to the wedded couples on wedding day.
Ang Pow with Graphic motifs and symbolic drawings
Chinese culture have a very strong hold on symbolism. Some Ang Pow have various graphic motifs and symbolic drawings drawn to represent different type of blessings and wishes. The most common ones are as below :
- Fishes, mainly Koi. It means 年年有余(pinyin: nián nián yǒu yú), literal translate as “May every year ends with ample surplus” where fish (鱼) In Chinese language shares the same pronunciation as surplus (余)
- Flower blossom, usually Peony, a pink flower mainly found in asia. It means 花开富贵(pinyin: huā kāi fù guì), literal means “may your richness blooms like flower in the spring”
- Dragon or a horse. It means 龙马精神(pinyin: lóng mǎ jīng shén), literal means”may you have Vigour, Spirit and Energy of a dragon and a horse”. Although no one seen a dragon before, but it was believed to be full of energy and vitality.
- Gold coins and treasures. It means 财源广进(pinyin: cái yuán guǎng jìn) or 财源滚滚(pinyin: cái yuán gǔn gǔn), equivalent to blessing you with wealth and prosperity.
Orange, usually Mandarin Orange. It means 大吉大利(pinyin: dà jí dà lì). 吉 means luck. 大吉 means big luck, 大利 means big benefit. Hence literally means blessing you with luck in years ahead. 桔子(Pinyin: jú zi) is mandarin orange, which shares the similar pronunciation as 吉(pinyin: jí) In Chinese language.
- Pineapples. known as 凤梨(pinyin: fènglí) where 凤(pinyin: fèng) means phoenix, a legendary mystical bird creature which suposed to bring good luck. another word for pineapples is 黃梨(pinyin: huáng lí), where 黃(pinyin:huáng) had a similar pronunciation as 旺(pinyin: wàng), symbolize wealth, luck, prosperous, flourishing.
- Bamboo, or 竹(pinyin: Zhú) in mandarin. Bamboo’s long life makes it a Chinese symbol of uprightness. Although not so common in Ang Pow.
Ang Pow with Chinese Zodiac animal signs
Another genre of Ang Pow is Ang Pow based on current Chinese Zodiac(生肖; pinyin: shēng xiào) year. The Chinese Zodiac is based on a repeating twelve-year cycle, where each year is related to an animal sign, namely in order:
- Year of Rat – 鼠(pinyin: shǔ) or 子(pinyin: zǐ)
representing year 1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
- Year of Ox – 牛(pinyin: niú) or 丑(pinyin: chǒu)
representing year 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
- Year of Tiger – 虎(pinyin: hǔ) or 寅(pinyin: yín)
representing year 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
- Year of Rabbit – 兔(pinyin: tù) or 卯(pinyin: mǎo)
representing year 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
- Year of Dragon – 龍/龙(pinyin: lóng) or 辰(pinyin: chén)
representing year 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
- Year of Snake – 蛇(pinyin: shé) or 巳(pinyin: sì)
representing year 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
- Year of Horse – 馬/马(pinyin: mǎ) or 午(pinyin: wǔ)
representing year 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
- Year of Goat – 羊(pinyin: Yáng) or 未(pinyin: wèi)
representing year 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
- Year of Monkey – 猴(pinyin: hóu) or 申(pinyin: shēn)
representing year 1908, 1920, 1932 , 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
- Year of Rooster – 雞/鸡(pinyin: jī) or 酉(pinyin: yǒu)
representing year 1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
- Year of Dog – 狗(pinyin: gǒu) or 戌(pinyin: xū)
representing year 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
- Year of Pig – 豬/猪(pinyin: zhū) or 亥(pinyin: hài)
representing year 1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031
For example, in year of monkey, the Ang Pow will portray a figure of monkey. These Ang Pow can be recirculates every 12 years as every 12 years it complete the cycle and back to the same animal sign. These Zodiac specific Ang Pow can be a great collection as it represent a specific year. Some collector collects Ang Pow that represent animal sign of his/her birth year.
The Chinese zodiac animal signs year cycle is practiced in most East Asian countries including China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan.
Modern Ang Pow
As newer generations of Ang Pow emerge from the market, sometimes also includes creative designs like characters from famous cartoons, anime, animations, movie and manga. This non standard Ang Pows attracts children of all ages and fastly become collectibles. Image of Hello Kitty, Doremon, Disney characters etc. are commonly found incorporated in Ang Pow designs.
As Ang Pow become more commercialize, Banks and Companies release their version of Ang Pow with their company logo, and release them as free gifts upon purchases or over the counter. As this Ang Pow circulates among the populations, it brought effect of advertising of company and products. Occasionally voucher or QR codes are printed at the back of an Ang Pow and can be treat as discount vouchers after Ang Pow is used.
The more recent ones being e-AngPow or digital Ang Pow (Ang Pow without envelopes) offered by certain banking services or mobile apps, where convenient of internet banking allow monetary gift to transfer across nations and hence distance is no longer a barrier.