In China, the number 9 is regarded as a yang number, as opposed to 6, which is a yin number. So, on the ninth day of the ninth month every year since ancient times, the Chongyang (or “double-nine”) festival has been celebrated.
The Chongyang festival is joyous celebration for the Chinese people so everyone looks forward to September the 9th with anticipation. However, since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, senior members of society perhaps look forward to it the most since the Chongyang festival has been designated as Senior People’s Day; a day when the older members of society can have some fun.
All Chinese festivals have traditional activities, and Chongyang is no different. Chongyang is principally an outdoor festival and among the activities practiced in it’s celebration are walking and hill climbing, eating chongyang cakes, appreciating chrysanthemum blooms and drinking chrysanthemum wine, wearing cornels, and more.
Here are some details on a few of the customs of the Chongyang festival.
People started to climb hills in honour of the Chonyang festival in ancient times and the practice continues strongly today. There are no rules on how high people should climb; just reaching some altitude is enough. For example, many people climb hills or high pagodas on this special day.
Eating Chongyang cakes
Another custom that has been preserved since ancient times is the eating of Chongyang cakes, which are also known as flower cakes, chrysanthemum cakes, five-color cakes and some other names. Nowadays, all of the soft cakes eaten in honour of the Chongyang Festival are all called as Chongyang cakes.
Appreciating chrysanthemums and drinking chrysanthemum wine
Since the Chongyang Festival is in the middle of autumn, chrysanthemums are in full bloom, so appreciating chrysanthemums and drinking chrysanthemum wine are naturally popular activities this time.
Popular wisdom also says that Tao Yuanming, a very famous poet in the Jin Dynasty loved looking at chrysanthemums and drinking chrysanthemum wine very much, was responsible for popularising this practice. Poets and high-level officers who were influenced by Tao Yuanming’s beautiful poetry accompanied Chongyang feasts by appreciating chrysanthemums and drinking chrysanthemum wine because they felt it brought them closer to the great man. This lead to the popularisation of the tradition and so it as has been passed down the generations ever since.
Wearing cornels and chrysanthemum
The custom of wearing cornels and chrysanthemums on the arm, head or in the pocket, became very popular during the Tang Dynasty. People believed that by wearing these plants, they would exorcise and ward off evil spirits.