Chong Yang Jie - the Double Nine Festival activities
If you ask any Chinese people to name a day for them to customarily go hiking in the mountains, they will probably answer that it is the ninth day of the ninth month in the lunar calendar.
That day is Chong Yang Jie (重阳节), the Double Nine Festival. This year, it is Oct 23, 2023.
Let’s understand a little bit about this festival, its origin, its tradition and some traditional ideas and activities, for you to enjoy this festival as best as you can.
The name of this festival is related to the concept of yin (阴) and yang (阳). This yin-yang concept is perhaps one of the most well known Chinese cultural traditions. For example, the earth is yin, and the sky is yang. The Moon is yin, and the Sun is yang. Female is yin, and male is yang. Yin and yang are opposite of each other, and at the same time they are highly connected. Yin can become yang, and yang can become yin.
Traditionally, the number nine is regarded as yang. The ninth day of the ninth month is a double yang day. This is the reason that this day is named Chong Yang (重阳). Chong (重) means “again, once more”.
Chong Yang Jie began as early as the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BCE). At this time of the year, autumn brings fine and dry weather across the country, while the seasonal flower chrysanthemum is blooming. For thousands of years, Chinese people have had many meaningful activities on this day.
The most popular activity is probably hiking. It’s such a good family activity. Family members and friends get together, go to high places, enjoy beautiful nature, and appreciate one another’s company. In Hong Kong, some people also use this opportunity to commemorate family ancestors.
Another highly recommended activity is to visit a chrysanthemum flower show. I’ve been to a few myself. Each show displayed twenty to thirty types of different chrysanthemum flowers, with different sizes and colours. They were all beautiful and the work went into growing these flowers were awe-inspiring.
Another tradition during the Chong Yang Jie is to wear cornel (茱萸, zhuyu) to ward off evil spirit and to avoid disasters. A famous poem “遥知兄弟登高处, 遍插茱萸少一人” is precisely about this custom. As the Covid pandemic finally ended, I wonder, if the whole world had worn cornel during the Chong Yang Jie in 2019, could we have warded off the Covid virus and rewritten history?
Celebrations always need food and drink. Chong Yang Festival is no exception. I recommend try a glass of chrysanthemum wine (菊花酒). It’s a special drink for this occasion and arguably the best seasonal choice.
Therefore, to plan your day, it’s good to pick either one or some of these celebratory ideas: going to high places, going to a chrysanthemum flower show, wearing cornel, drinking chrysanthemum wine, enjoying your life with companionship and admiring beautiful nature.
One last note about this festival. Over the years, the Chong Yang Jie has acquired a new meaning. Because this festival is literally written as “99”, and the pronunciation of “99” is the same as 久久 (long time), which has an extend meaning of old age, this festival is considered an old people festival. This notion is very appropriate given the fact that the world population is ageing. There are a lot to think about and to take actions in an ageing society.
Finally, Chong Yang Jie is just around the corner. I hope all Chinese language learners can take a break from their regular study and enjoy some seasonal festivities.
Wishing everyone a wonderful Chong Yang Jie!