The Double Ninth Festival, also called 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 wine can be traced back many centuries, and it became the traditional food during the Double Ninth Festival to dispel evil spirits and misfortunes. Another special food for this festival is chrysanthemum cakes. The Chinese word for cake is gao, a homonym of the Chinese word for “high.”
Since “nine” is the highest odd digit, people place 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 the 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.
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 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 dispel evil spirits and misfortunes.
Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!