Rad designs this CNY

The rat has shed its grimy image and put its best whiskers forward this Chinese New Year, as many hongbao designs feature cute and creative versions of the animal.

A trio of white rats can be spotted peeking out of an elaborate floral display on local furniture brand Scene Shang’s hongbao, while the flap on the back of jewellery brand Van Cleef & Arpels’ resembles a rat’s face when tucked into the snout.

Not satisfied with just one design, the National Heritage Board has come up with a series of hongbao featuring 37 different rats in front of various museums and galleries such as the Chinese Heritage Centre and Malay Heritage Centre.

For a more subtle take on the Year of the Rat, the Foreign Policy Design Group’s yellow sliced cheese hongbao sports the punny greeting: “Gouda have a rad year.”

Beyond eye-catching design, at least five companies here have opted for environmentally-friendly hongbao.

Singtel’s hongbao paper is made from sugarcane stalks, while United Overseas Bank (UOB), OCBC Bank, DBS Bank and MSIG Insurance have opted for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper.

FSC certified paper is paper that has been harvested in a responsible manner.

Instead of standard petroleum inks, DBS Bank uses the more sustainable soya ink.

Additionally, the bank has specially designed its hongbao with lines printed on the inside to encourage patrons to upcycle them into decorative lanterns.

Starting on Jan 28, members of the public are also invited to drop their used hongbao off for recycling at OCBC, DBS and POSB branches. Several UOB branches will start collecting as early as tomorrow.


When DBS Bank began its hongbao recycling effort last year, it collected more than five tonnes of hongbao.

UOB will be converting them into furniture with the help of an international upcycling firm.

Other organisations have added a digital dimension to their hongbao with QR codes that lead to online activities.

The Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s hongbao, for example, features illustrations of families and friends gathering to watch a lion dance performance, toss yusheng and exchange mandarin oranges.

Scanning the hongbao using Facebook brings the illustrations to life alongside fun facts about these Chinese New Year traditions.

The QR code on asset management company Schroders’ hongbao also launches an Instagram filter which gives its user rat’s whiskers and ears against a colourful floral background.

Question: How many rats can you spot on this page?