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Festivals
Chong Yang
Lunar Date: 
ninth day of the ninth month

The Chong Yang Festival is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, so it is also known as the 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. The ancients believed that all natural phenomena could be explained by this theory. Numbers are related to this theory. Even numbers belong 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. Chongyang has been an important festival since ancient times.

The festival began as early as the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC). The ninth month heralds the approach of winter. It is a time when the living need warm clothing, and filial Chinese sons and daughters extended this to make the festival a time for providing winter clothes for their ancestors. The Double Ninth Festival, therefore, also became an occasion to visit the graves of dead family members. Clothes made of paper would then be burnt as offerings.

And 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. People often gather for a party, appreciate chrysanthemums, pin the leaves of Cornel on clothes. And the custom of climbing mountains and eating a special cake also features the day. The custom of climbing mountains can be dated back as early as West Han Dynasty. Some old travel notes have it that, people climbed to mountain peaks not only for beautiful scenes and poetic inspiration, but also the avoidance of evil spirits and disasters.

And It is hard to say when these customs were created. But there are many stories which are closely related. It is said long ago there appeared a devil of plague in the Ruhe River. People lay down and died wherever it came up. A man named Heng Jing swore to help his neighbors and fellow people to get rid of it. He visited many famous mountains to seek a powerful master. Finally an old Taoist took him in and taught him how to defeat the devil. Heng Jing put his whole heart into study and practice. One day, the Taoist called him up and said, 'Heng Jing, tomorrow is the 9th day of September and the devil will reappear. You must go home immediately. Remember to make a red bag for each one of your family members and put a spray of cornel in every one. Then you must all hang 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 avoid this disaster.' The master also gave him a pack of leaves of Cornel and a jar of liquor soaked with chrysanthemums. Riding a crane, Heng Jing went a great distance back home in a day.

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 powerful ox. Later Huan Jing told his teacher, 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.

And so it happened that climbing a mountain, carring a spray of cornel and drinking chrysanthemum wine became the traditional activities of the Chong yang Festival.

The cornel is a plant with a strong fragrance, and is 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. So its history as a medicine goes back many centuries. But the custom of carrying a spray of cornel during the Double Ninth Festival is slowly dying out and many people, especially young people in the cities, do not even know what a cornel spray looks like.

Even though the tradition of carrying a few sprays of cornel dies out, that of climbing mountains is reaching new heights. But what about those people who live in flat regions far from any mountain? The problem is solved by going for a picnic and eating cakes. The Chinese word for cake is Gao, a homonym of the Chinese word for high. Mountains are high, so eating cake can, by a stretch of the imagination, take the place of going for a climb. In the golden September, chrysanthemum blooms, reminding people of the folktale. And later a special cake with dates, chestnuts and meat was made to add more festivity to the special day. top