(ECNS) -- The tradition of giving hongbao, or gifts of money in red envelopes, is increasingly going digital due to efforts by Internet giants and the popularity of mobile payments, data from China's Lunar New Year holiday shows.
Tencent began offering red envelopes through its wildly popular WeChat messenger app two years ago. Other Internet firms including Alibaba, Baidu and Sina Weibo have followed suit.
About eight billion hongbao were exchanged by 420 million users via WeChat on Feb. 7, Lunar New Year's eve, more than 500 times the number in 2014. Over 308 million users of Tencent's QQ messenger service also exchanged 2.2 billion hongbao.
Besides, more than 100 million users exchanged 800 million yuan ($122 million) in cash gifts via Alipay, the payment system run by Alibaba.
As of midnight Feb. 8, the service offered by Chinese search engine Baidu.com, Baidu wallet, was used 11.2 billion times, and included 300 million instances of cash gifts.
Analysts said Chinese New Year red envelopes was used in a war among top Internet companies to attract users to their products and services.
Further analysis offered more insights into the massive Chinese New Year celebration. According to QQ, a 20-year-old woman sent 595 hongbao in Beijing, becoming the most active in the digital carnival. Also, people surnamed Wang led the city in sending electronic hongbao.
But data from Ant Financial Services Group, the Internet finance arm of Alibaba, shows people in East China's Fujian Province, especially in the cities of Putian and Zhangzhou, were most generous in giving hongbao, averaging 1,172 yuan and 952 yuan respectively for each electronic gift.
WeChat data shows people in Central China's Hunan Province acted most quickly to grab hongbao when offered over the social networking app.
A research group said more people in medium and small-sized cities are using digital versions of hongbao, while younger or more elderly members of the population also joined as users.