One of my favorite aspects of living and studying in China is that I get to learn about and take part in holidays that are completely new and very exciting for me. While some Chinese holidays such as New Year, the Moon Festival and the Dragon Boat festival I had known before arriving in China, there are also some lesser-known holidays such as the one that I will introduce today, 重阳节 (Chóngyángjié) the Double Ninth holiday.
So, what exactly is 重阳节 (Chóngyángjié) the Double Ninth holiday and what is the story behind it? As you may have guessed, “double ninth” refers to the ninth day of the ninth lunar month of the year, or September 9th to be more exact. And what’s the story behind it? Well, the festival began between 500 and 200 B.C. during the Warring States period. According to classical Chinese philosophy, nine is a “yang” number and therefore 9/9 is a dangerous date that needs to be balanced out with certain activities. According to legend, there was a man named Huan Jing. He was a student of an immortal magician. Attempting to seek magical powers and immortality, the magician gave Huan Jing a list of activities which are still practiced today to overcome the “dangers” of the Double Ninth.
Four activities that I have been introduced to on the Double Ninth holiday include:
1. 登高 (Dēnggāo) Climbing mountains.
Zài zhōngguó, chóngyángjié rénmen yǒu dēnggāo de xísú.
在 中国， 重阳节 人们 有 登高 的 习俗.
In China, people used to climb mountains on the Double Ninth Festival.
According to legend, Huan Jing and the immortal magician were hiking up a mountain when the magician told him of what he must do to kill the devil when the devil would appear on Double Ninth. Since then, mountain climbing has been a tradition on the Double Ninth holiday.
2. 赏菊 (Shǎngjú) Enjoying chrysanthemum flowers; and,
3. 喝菊花茶 (hē júhuāchá) Drinking chrysanthemum tea.
Júhuā zài qiūtiān kāifàng.
菊花 在 秋天 开放。
Chrysanthemum flowers come out in autumn.
Chrysanthemum is a flower sacred to East Asia and China and is believed to have healing qualities. Chrysanthemum-infused drinks are used on other occasions to cure sicknesses. Drinking chrysanthemum-infused tea and liquor is said to have medicinal affects to combat the dangers of the Double Ninth.
4. 吃重阳糕 (Chī chóng yáng gāo) Eating Chongyang cakes.
Another use of chrysanthemum on the Double Ninth, these cakes are eaten for medicinal purposes. The shortened Chinese word for these cakes is Gao, a homonym of the Chinese word for high. Since climbing to escape the dangers of Double Ninth is part of the eating of Chongyang cakes may substitute for a hike!
So, on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month you now know what to do! Show your Chinese friends that you appreciate their culture and history by showing some interest in these events and this traditional holiday. If you don’t practice these protective traditions, who knows, you may unleash the “dangers” of Double Ninth – be careful!
1. All of the following are traditional ways Chinese people honor the Double Ninth festival, except:
A. 吃月饼 (Chī yuèbĭng) Eating mooncakes
B. 登高 (Dēnggāo) Climbing mountains
C. 喝菊花茶 (Hē júhuā chá) Drinking chrysanthemum tea
D. 吃重阳糕 (Chī chóngyáng gāo) Eating chongyang cakes
―Written by Philip Reed―
Philip Reed is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing. He has been studying for one year in China
and before that had an interest in Chinese at university in the U.S. He loves Chinese music and culture
and can sing a few Mandarin songs at the KTV when he has free time!