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 is the time to go hiking in the mountains. That day is Chong Yang Jie (重阳节), the Double Nine Festival. This year, that day is Oct 14, 2021.
The name of this festival is related to the concept of yin (阴) and yang (阳). 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 and can change into each other.
Traditionally, the number nine is regarded as yang. The ninth day of the ninth month is a double yang day. Chong (重) means “again, once more”. This is the reason that this day is named Chong Yang (重阳).
Chong Yang Festival began as early as the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BCE). For thousands of years, Chinese people have been celebrating this festival and have had many activities.
Go hiking in the mountains is the major activity, and it is also a family activity. It’s a time for family members and friends to get together, going to high places, enjoying the beautiful nature, and appreciating one another’s company. It is also a time to commemorate family ancestors.
Celebrations need food and drink. Special cakes are made for this occasion. The special drink is chrysanthemum wine (菊花酒). The Double Nine Festival is the right time for people to eat cakes, drink chrysanthemum wine, and admire chrysanthemum flowers.
Chrysanthemum is the seasonal flower for the autumn. I remember a few chrysanthemum flower shows I went around the Chong Yang Jie. Each show displayed twenty to thirty types of different chrysanthemum flowers. They were all beautiful and the work went into growing these flowers were awe-inspiring.
Another custom during the Double Ninth Festival is to wearing cornel (茱萸, zhuyu) to ward off evil spirit and avoid disasters. A famous poem “遥知兄弟登高处, 遍插茱萸少一人” is precisely about this custom. However, I personally have never worn any cornel. This year, I’ll try to search it in the market. Perhaps it’s useful for ward off the COVID virus.
Over the years, the Double Ninth Festival has acquired some new meanings. This festival is literally written as “99”, and the pronunciation of “99” is the same as 久久 (long time). The extend meaning is old age. Therefore it is also known as the “old people festival”.
Chong Yang Jie is just around the corner. It’s time for Chinese learners to take a break from their regular study and enjoy some seasonal festivities.
Wishing everyone a good Chong Yang Jie!
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