What is the Chinese Double Ninth Festival?

The year is winding down and we’re entering a quiet period leading up to Chinese New Year. But there’s one more festival to go – Double Ninth, also known as the Chongyang Festival. What’s this festival all about?

Read on to find out more!

What does the name ‘Double Ninth’ mean?

Viewing chrysanthemums is a common activity on the festival

The Double Ninth Festival (重九节 Chóng jiǔ jié) falls on October 25th 2020 in the Gregorian calendar, but the reason for the name is that it falls on the ninth day of the ninth month in the lunar calendar. “Nine nine” is pronounced “jiǔjiǔ”, the same as 久久 , which means ‘long life’ or ‘longevity’. Homophones carry great importance in Chinese culture, and items that have names that sound similar to auspicious concepts become lucky in themselves (fish, for example, which sounds like ‘prosperity’). As a result of the link to longevity, the festival has also become a day to celebrate seniors. 

Another name for the festival is Chongyang (重阳节 Chóngyáng jié ), again linked to the number nine. Nine is considered ‘yang’ (as opposed to yin), so the festival has double yang. This is the more common name for the festival in Chinese, whereas Double Ninth Festival seems to be more common in English. 

What are the origins of the Double Ninth Festival?

Climbing mountains is another popular activity at this time of year

The exact origins of the festival are unknown, but it seems to be a blend of several customs and a legend all wrapped up in a festival that has come to be all about avoiding bad luck.

One famous legend is of a young man named Huan Jing. A terrible plague was ravaging the area where he lived, and killed many people, including his parents. Huan Jing set out to find an immortal to help him get rid of the plague. After a long journey on which he faced many hardships, he eventually found an immortal living on a mountain. The immortal was impressed by Huan Jing’s tenacity, and agreed to teach him the skills he needed to defeat the demon that was causing the plague. He gave him a demon-defeating sword, asiatic dogwood leaves and chrysanthemum wine. Using these tools, Huan Jing successfully defeated the demon and the plague disappeared. 

Much more likely is that the festival originated from a blend of ancestor worship, harvest festivals, other festivals held at the changing of the seasons, a Han Dynasty custom (of uncertain origin) of climbing mountains, and common customs at this time of year (such as enjoying autumn-blooming  chrysanthemums). 

How is the Double Ninth Festival celebrated nowadays?

Chrysanthemum wine
  • Appreciating chrysanthemums (and drinking chrysanthemum wine if you’re a real stickler for tradition!)
  • Climbing mountains, a custom from the Han Dynasty, and also connected with the idea of ascending to avoid disaster
  • Eating Chongyang Cake, a nine-layered cake made in many different ways in different regions of the country and topped with dried fruits
  • Flying kites (seen as a symbol of bad luck flying away)
  • Spending time with elderly relatives
Chongyang Cake

Will you be celebrating the Double Ninth Festival this year? What do you have planned? Let us know in the comments below. We always love hearing your thoughts and insights! 

Photo Credits
– Cultural Keys, Mmmono.com, JD.com

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