Double Ninth Festival
Double Ninth Festival, also named Chong Yang Festival, falls on the ninth
day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, hence it gets name of
Double Ninth Festival.
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 which are closely related. As recorded in a 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 practicing 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 every one. 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 became the
traditional activities of the Double Ninth Festival, to avoid evil spirits and
On Double Ninth
Festival, people would like to drink chrysanthemum wine and have chrysanthemum
The chrysanthemum is a
plant often used as a Chinese herbal medicine. People in ancient times believed
that, in addition to detoxifcation, chrysanthemum could drive away evil spirits
and prevent one from getting a chill in late
autumn. So, making and drinking chrysanthemum could be traced back many
centuries, and it became the traditional food on 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, symbolizing 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, symbolizing 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
The dogwood is a plant
with a strong fragrance, often used as a Chinese herbal medicine. People in
ancient times believed it could drive away evil spirits and prevent one from
getting a chill in late autumn. But the custom of carrying a spray of dogwood on
the Double Ninth Festival is slowly dying out and many people, especially young
people in the cities, do not even know what dogwood looks like.
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.
A Day for 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 color
before she puts on her dull winter cloak. Some will carry a spray of
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