Double Ninth, an Auspicious Day

 

Unlike other traditional Chinese festivals, from its name you can scarcely figure out what the Double Ninth Day is celebrated for. Originally based on the Yin and Yang dichotomy, a philosophy which has been applied to explain almost all natural phenomenons ever since the beginning of Chinese civilization, Double Ninth Festival is a the day when China honors its elderly, and in contemporary times an occasion to appreciate chrysanthemums and climb mountains.  

As the name says it, Double Ninth Day is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, a day when the two Yang numbers meet. (The ancients believed that numbers are related to the Yin Yang theory: even numbers belong to Yin and odd numbers to Yang.) Therefore it is also called Chongyang Festival (literally meaning double Yang in Chinese.) Also, as double ninth was pronounced the same as “Jiu Jiu”, a word signifies "forever" and “longevity”, the Chinese ancestors considered it an auspicious day to pay respects to the elderly (wish the elderly a longer life).

Double Ninth Festival is also called “Height Ascending Festival” because of the custom of ascending a height to get rid of evil spirits. The height people will reach is usually a mountain or a tower. Ancient literary figures have left many poems depicting the activity. The custom evolved into its present form, when people go climbing to get some exercise as well as enjoy the autumn scenery. Some will carry a spray of dogwood, a plant with a strong fragrance, and is often used as a Chinese herbal medicine. People in ancient times believed it could drive away evil spirits and prevent one from getting a chill in autumn.

The Double Ninth Festival is also a time when chrysanthemum blooms. So appreciating the flourishing chrysanthemum also becomes a key activity on this festival. Usually people will eat chrysanthemum cake (Double Ninth Gao) and drink chrysanthemum wine on that day. “Gao (literally meaning cake)” is a homonym of the Chinese word for high; people do so just to hope progress in everything they are engaged in.