The Double Ninth Festival, also known as Chongyang Festival, is held on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. It is also known as the Senior Citizens’ Festival. According to records from the mysterious book Yi Jing, the number 6 belonged to the Yin character while the number 9 was thought to be of the Yang character. So, on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, both day and month are Yang characters. Therefore, the festival was named the Double Ninth Festival. In ancient times, people believed that the double ninth day was worth a celebration. Since folk people had the tradition of climbing a mountain on that day, the Chongyang Festival is also called the Height Ascending Festival. The Chongyang Festival also has other names, such as the Chrysanthemum Festival. As “double ninth” is pronounced the same as the word meaning “forever,” ancestors are also worshipped on that day.
The Double Ninth Festival can be traced back to the Warring States Period. During the Tang Dynasty, the Double Ninth Festival was on official lists of folk festivals. During the Chongyang Festival, people went outside and climbed mountains together, and engaged in many other activities, such as enjoying the chrysanthemum, inserting Zhuyu, eating Chongyang cakes, and drinking chrysanthemum wines, among others.
Like other traditional festivals, Chongyang Festival also has ancient legends.
During the East Han Dynasty, there was a devil of the plague in the Ruhe River. As long as it showed up, people got sick and even died. People living around the Ruhe River suffered a lot from the disease ravaged by demons.
There lived a man named Huan Jing. His parents died from the plague and he almost died. After he recovered, Huan Jing decided to learn the magicarts and killed the devil of the plague. Huan Jing heard that there an immortal lived in the eastern area. He took a long journey and finally found the immortal. The immortal was moved by his behavior and taught Huan Jing how to kill the devil of the plague.
One day, the immortal told Huan Jing that the devil of the plague would show up again on the ninth day of the ninth month, and he asked Huan Jing to go back to kill it. When Huan Jing went back, he asked the whole family to go to a mountain and sent everyone a Zhuyu leaf and a glass of chrysanthemum wine. When the devil of the plague emerged from the water, it got dizzy from the scent of the Zhuyu and the chrysanthemum. At that time, Huan Jing took the sword and killed the devil of the plague. Since then, climbing mountains has become a custom on the Double Ninth Festival.
On the Double Ninth Festival, people hold many activities in celebration, such as enjoying the chrysanthemum, inserting Zhuyu, eating Chongyang cakes, and drinking chrysanthemum wine, among others.
In ancient China, as people ascended to high places on the Double Ninth Festival, the Chongyang Festival is also known as the Height Ascending Festival. This custom was supposedly started during the East Han Dynasty when people usually climbed mountains or towers.
According to historical records, Chongyang cake was also called the Flower Cake, the Chrysanthemum Cake, and the Five-Color Cake. The Chongyang cake is a nine-layer cake shaped like a tower. On its top should be two sheep made from flour. Some people place a small red flag on the top of cake and light candles.
The Double Ninth Festival is a golden time of the year. The first person who purportedly enjoyed chrysanthemum and drank chrysanthemum wine on the Chongyang Festival was the poet Tao Yuanming, who lived during the Jin Dynasty. Tao Yuanming, famous for his poems, enjoyed chrysanthemum. Many people followed his suit, drinking chrysanthemum wine and enjoying chrysanthemum, which became a custom. During the Song Dynasty, enjoying chrysanthemum became popular and was an important activity on this festival day. After the Qing Dynasty, people went crazy for chrysanthemum, not only during the Chongyang Festival, but also at other times by going outside and enjoying the plant.
During the Tang Dynasty, inserting Zhuyu on the Chongyang Festival became popular. Ancient people believed that inserting Zhuyu helped avoid disasters. And women stuck chrysanthemum in their hair or hung branches on windows and doors to ward off evil.