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Double Ninth Festival

 

 

 

 

 

Chrysanthemum

The 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.

 Origin

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.

 Legend

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 misfortunes.


 Special Food

Chrysanthemum cakes

On Double Ninth Festival, people would 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 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 imagination.

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

 

Dogwood

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 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.