Last updated at 16:43 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010

Clean money for New Year

Summary

15 February 2010

Chinese people around the world are celebrating their most important holiday, Chinese New Year. But for one man in Taiwan, it's all about business as he washes dirty banknotes for gifts.

Reporter:
Kate McGeown

Market scene in Taiwan leading up to Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year market scene, Taiwan

Listen

Click to hear the report:

Report

According to Chinese tradition, parents give their children clean, fresh banknotes at the start of the new year. But such notes are in high demand in the run-up to the holiday period, and Yao Guan Cheng noticed a gap in the market.

Yao Guan Cheng (translated):
"When we first started this business, it was for family members who liked to collect antique banknotes. But later on, it struck me that this service would come in handy for the Chinese New Year. It is one of our customs to put banknotes inside little red envelopes in order to bring our children good luck.

"To do that, people change old notes for new ones at the banks. But here in Taiwan, there are all sorts of restrictions as to how much you can change, what days you can do that and which banks you can go to. That's inconvenient. So I thought: why not give people an alternative?"

He doesn't just soak the notes in water, he uses special chemicals that are a closely guarded secret. His services don't come cheap, he charges about $10 for washing twenty banknotes. But in the run-up to the new year holiday, he's been in demand, cleaning people's banknotes and in the process, giving a new, cleaner, image to the term 'money laundering'.

Kate McGeown, BBC News

Listen

Click to hear the vocabulary:

Vocabulary

are in high demand

are wanted in large numbers by many people

in the run-up to

during the time just before an event or specific date

a gap in the market

a business opportunity, a chance to make money by providing something or a service that was not available

antique

something that is very old, usually more than a hundred years old

it struck me

it suddenly occured to me, I suddenly realised that

handy

useful and easy to use

inconvenient

difficult, causes problems

soak the notes in water

leave the money in water for quite a long time

a closely guarded secret

information that is only known to a few selected people

money laundering

an illegal process by which criminals attempt to hide money from government officials because it has been earned illegally or taxes should be paid on it