Where did the phrase 恭喜发财 (Kung Hei Fat Choy) come from? And why is it so popularly used during Chinese New Year?

I knew it was first popularised in Canton areas probably around 18~19th century. Just wondering if there are any resources documenting some of its first usage during Chinese New Year.

3 Answers 3


恭喜 (congratulations for joyous occasion) : "Bless you" is the standard opening for giving good wish to others, for example: 恭喜你大學畢業(congratulations on graduation from university), 恭喜你新居入伙 (congratulations on moving in to a new home). So "恭喜发财" (congratulations on getting rich) is just one of many things you can bless people with, no more common than "恭喜你新年快樂"

From https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/591040765.html

In 1826, an English man went to Guangzhou and worked in an American trade company. He wrote a book called 《洋人在广州》(Foreigners in Guangzhou). In that book he mentioned the Chinese who traded with the company would greet them with the Chinese phrase "恭喜发财" during the Chinese new year. (the common goal among merchants is making money after all). After the publication of the book, greeting people with "恭喜发财" in Chinese new year became more popular in Guangzhou. And presumably, this practice spread to the rest of the country too.

I suspect the reason "恭喜发财" is so popular is partly due to gambling was a national pastime in China at the time. Common folks could only openly gamble during the new year period. Wishing someone getting rich implied wishing him good luck in gambling, beside congratulate the other on making a lot of money from the previous year (you wouldn't find out how much you made until you'd done the year end accounting)

I also suspect the reason "恭喜发财" is particularly popular among Cantonese, is partly due to a jingle (順口溜): "恭喜发财,利士𢭃來" (congratulations on getting rich, give me red pocket money)



I think we normally say 祝你新年快樂, (wishing you a happy new year); 祝你生日快乐, (wishing you a happy birthday)

恭喜, is normally confined to congratulating someone; like getting married, graduating, job promotion, etc.

You would therefore "wish", (祝你), and not "congratulate", (恭喜), someone to have a happy new year.

Note:- 祝你 is used differently from 希望,though both, in different context, could mean "wish" But this, I believe, is for another question.


发财- basically translates to "recieve/send riches", this could come from the money that is traditionally given on the new year

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