Over 32 Billion Hongbao Sent Through WeChat for CNY

By Lucas dos Santos, February 15, 2016

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Gong Xi Fa Cai! This Chinese New Year has been especially prosperous for Tencent, one of China’s foremost Internet companies. Record amounts of people used its leading app, WeChat, to send each other money for the New Year.

Traditionally in China, family and friends exchange red envelopes, or hongbao, containing cash, but in the digital age more and more choose to do it online, through Tencent and other Internet giants such as Alibaba, Baidu and Sina Weibo.

Tencent leads the hongbao market, however, and this year’s numbers are truly astounding: 31.2 billion were sent between February 7 (New Year’s Eve) and February 12, ten times more than last year, with 8.08 billion on New Year’s Eve alone (eight times last year’s figure). As WeChat reports420 million users participated in this phenomenon, sending some 409,000 hongbaos per second. As tradition dictates, the amounts of money sent often corresponds with auspicious numbers symbolizing wealth, with the likes of RMB8.88, 88.88, or 6.66 and 66.66 being among the most common.

The main route taken by these envelopes was between Guangdong and Hunan provinces, Guangdong being the most likely sender of hongbaos overall. As far as individual users, however, it’s a different story: the biggest receiver was a Sichuan man with 5,279 envelopes, the biggest sender a Shaanxi man, with a whopping 79,183.

But if that wasn’t enough, Tencent added some extra features for the occasion, such as the “Moments Lucky Money Photo,” by which users had to pay random sums to see their friends’ blurry pictures on WeChat. A test run was briefly made in late January, raising many eyebrows before being closed early. The feature returned in all its confusing glory for CNY, with WeChat claiming 192 million “interactions” over 29 million blurry photos. Slightly more than half were sent by women and, as WeChat put it, “women prefer to send, men prefer to look.”

Another peculiar feature designed for the holiday, introduced last year, was the “shake.” At specific times during the Spring Festival Gala on TV, users were prompted to shake their devices in order to receive red envelopes. WeChat reported 180 million shakers across 204 countries, with the biggest shaker managing to do it 13,000 times.

If that seems like a lot, watch how this user enhanced their shaking (VPN on):

(VPN off):

[Image via El Universal]

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