PSA's red packet with 'salted fish' design draws flak online


Karen Lui | February 11, 2021, 12:10 PM

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This year's red packets have truly been grabbing a lot of attention for their innovation.

We've seen the now-unavailable S$1000 red packet by local design studio wheniwasfour and Waggyu marbling red packet by local gourmet grocer Zairyo.

Port operator PSA found themselves in a bit of hot water with their red packet design.

Dead fishes

On Feb. 10, All Singapore Stuff shared the images of the controversial red packet on Facebook.

Due to its shared pronunciation (yú) with the Chinese word for 'abundance', fresh fish is a staple festive food item during Chinese New Year.

Vibrant live fish often appears as a common motif in festive decorations and merchandise during the season.

However, some noted that the design of fish hung up with ropes by their tails resemble the way salted fish are preserved by hanging out to air-dry in the sun.

Furthermore, salted fish is a metaphor for a corpse in Cantonese due to its similarity to the drying of the dead body as part of the preservation process before the funeral.

The image also shows a small matching bag that can be used to carry oranges during visitings.

Photo by All Singapore Stuff.

One Debra Tan replied to the post with an image showing the other side of the red packet.

Adhering to the preserved fish theme, it features a sketch of fishes in an opened tin can.

Photo by Debra Tan via Facebook.

Netizens' reactions

Many people pointed out that the inauspicious meaning of the design while others tried to find humorous interpretations for the design.

"The designer wants the younger employees to know that prior to European settlements, Singapore was a site of a Malay fishing village. With the sacrifices of our pioneer generation, the village was transformed into today the Second business Port in the World. The fishes are the rewards we get through our hard work."

"This one looks like drying out dead fish to make into "salted"(kiam) fish"

"It’s actually auspicious because '咸鱼翻身'"*

"Wonder how this can get approved in the first place!"

*Literally translating to "the flipping over of a salted fish", this Chinese idiom is commonly used to describe someone's complete reversal of fortune, especially a positive one.

Top images by All Singapore Stuff and Debra Tan.