2011 Chongyang Festival falls on October 5 The Double Ninth Festival, also named the Chong Yang Festival, falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar; hence, it has been given the name Double Ninth Festival. On this day, people like to drink chrysanthemum wine and have chrysanthemum cakes. The [...]
2011 Chongyang Festival falls on October 5
The Double Ninth Festival, also named the Chong Yang Festival, falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar; hence, it has been given the name Double Ninth Festival. On this day, people like to drink chrysanthemum wine and have chrysanthemum cakes.
The chrysanthemum is a plant often used as a Chinese herbal medicine. People in ancient times believed that, in addition to detoxification, chrysanthemum could drive away evil spirits and prevent one from getting a chill in late autumn. So making and drinking chrysanthemum can be traced back many centuries and it became the traditional food during the Double Ninth Festival to avoid evil spirits and misfortunes. Besides, the Chinese word for wine is Jiu, a homonym of the Chinese word for “long”, symbolising longevity.
Another special food for this festival is chrysanthemum cakes. The Chinese word for cake is Gao, a homonym of the Chinese word for “high”, symbolising progress and promotion at work and in daily life, and improvement in life year by year. In addition, mountains are high, so eating cakes can take the place of going for a climb – by a stretch of the imagination.
Since “nine” is the highest odd digit, people take two of them together to signify longevity. Therefore, the ninth day of the ninth month has become a special day for people to pay their respects to the elderly and a day for the elderly to enjoy themselves. It has also been declared China’s Day for the Elderly.
The festival is based on the theory of Yin and Yang, the two opposing principles in nature. Yin is feminine, negative principle, while Yang is masculine and positive. In ancient times, people believed that all natural phenomena could be explained by this theory. Numbers were also related to this theory. Even numbers belonged to Yin and odd numbers to Yang. The ninth day of the ninth lunar month is a day when the two Yang numbers meet. So it is called Chong Yang. Chong means double in Chinese. Chong Yang has been an important festival since ancient times.
It is hard to say when these customs were created. But there are many stories that are closely related. As recorded in an historical book of the sixth century, in ancient times, there lived a man named Huan Jing. He was learning the magic arts from Fei Changfang, who had become an immortal after many years of practising Taoism. One day, the two were climbing a mountain. Fei Changfang suddenly stopped and looked very upset. He told Huan Jing: “On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, disaster will come to your hometown. You must go home immediately. Remember to make a red bag for each one of your family members and put a spray of dogwood on everyone. Then, you must all tie your bags to your arms, leave home quickly and climb to the top of a mountain. Most importantly, you must all drink some chrysanthemum wine. Only by doing so can your family members avoid this disaster.”
On hearing this, Huan Jing rushed home and asked his family to do exactly as his teacher said. The whole family climbed a nearby mountain and did not return until the evening. When they got back home, they found all their animals dead, including chickens, sheep, dogs and even the ox. Later, Huan Jing told Fei Changfang about this. Fei said the poultry and livestock died in place of Huan Jing’s family, who escaped disaster by following his instructions.
Since then, climbing a mountain, carrying a spray of dogwood and drinking chrysanthemum wine have become the traditional activities of the Double Ninth Festival to avoid evil spirits and misfortunes.
A Day for an Outing
The festival is held in the golden season of autumn, at harvest time. The bright, clear weather and the joy of bringing in the harvest make for a festive, happy atmosphere. The Double Ninth Festival is usually perfect for outdoor activities. Many people go hiking and climbing in the countryside, enjoying Mother Nature’s final burst of colour before she puts on her dull winter cloak. Some will carry a spray of dogwood.
Therefore, it is now considered as the last outing of the year before the onset of winter for people to go climbing to get some exercise, as well as enjoy the autumn scenery.
By Kan Zhong Guo Staff