The Story Behind the Double Ninth Festival in China

Aug 26th 2020

The Double Ninth Festival (also known as Chongyang Festival) falls on the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. “Chong” in Chinese characters means “double”, that's why it's called the Chongyang Festival. People believed that the double ninth day in the lunar calendar is a fortunate day to be celebrated, and here’s why:

The Origin of Double Ninth Festival

Like many other Chinese festivals, the Double Ninth Festival also has its own story. There was a young man named Huan Jing, living in an area near the Ru River (located in today’s Chinese central province of Henan). Huan’s village suffers from bouts of plague brought by a demon that lives in the water. Having lost his parents and survived the plague himself, Huan Jing went through extraordinary lengths to find an immortal sage to teach him swordsmanship so he can expel the devil.

One day, the immortal told Huan Jing that the devil would come to his village on the double ninth day. It was time to help the villagers to get rid of the devil. Taking a bag of dogwood and some chrysanthemum wine, Huan Jing returned to his hometown. In the morning of the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, Huan Jing led all the villagers who were each holding a piece of dogwood leaf and a cup of Chrysanthemum to the nearest mountain. When the devil came out from the Nu River, the devil suddenly stopped because of the fragrance emitted from the dogwood and the chrysanthemum wine. At that moment Huan Jing used the sword to battle the devil for a few rounds and won. Since then, the custom of drinking chrysanthemum wine on the mountain and holding onto dogwood on the ninth day of the ninth month became popular.

How to Celebrate the Double Ninth Festival

Chinese families have several common customs that reinforce key elements of the legend during the celebrations:

Mountain Climbing

People believed that by climbing to high places on the Double Ninth Festival, diseases could be prevented as in its legend, so that it is also known as the Height Ascending Festival. Today, it is a golden time to share happiness and enjoy the beautiful scenery with friends and relatives.

Eating Chongyang Cakes

The Chongyang cake is a nine-layer cake shaped like a tower. In Chinese characters, the pronunciation of cake is “gao”, which is similar to the word for “high”. That is a little play on words, which makes people feel that eating cake is a good substitute for climbing a mountain. Hmm.

Drinking Chrysanthemum Wine

Chrysanthemum became popular during the Song Dynasty because of its antioxidant properties, many people also believe that it can drive evil away. People often think that by drinking chrysanthemum wine, all kinds of diseases and disasters can be cured.

The New Meaning of Double Ninth Festival

As nine is pronounced “Jiu”, meaning long in Chinese, people endow the word jiu with the meaning of longevity within a person's life. In the year of 1989, the Double Ninth Festival was designated as the Senior’s Festival for young people to show their respects to the elderly. It's a great opportunity to visit the elderly relatives and

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