Guest Author - Inci Yilmazli
The ninth day of the ninth lunar month is called the “Double Ninth Festival” in China. Generally this day falls in autumn. As we all know that in Chinese culture, everything has a story behind and this day has a story, too.
The story stems from the Yin Yang theory. According to the Yin-Yang theory, even numbers are accepted as ‘yin’ while the odd numbers are accepted as ‘yang’. Yin elements represent the darkness while the yang elements represent brightness and fortune. So, the number six is a yin number while number nine is a yang number. In Chinese, the double ninth festival is called “Chong yang Festival”. Chong means double and Chong yang can be translated as the meet of two yang numbers. In addition to that, nine means ‘jiu’ in Chinese and it also means ‘long’.
The hero of this story is Huan Jing who was learning magic of arts from Fei Changfang. Fei Changfang was an immortal who practiced Taoism for many years. One day, when they were climbing up a mountain, Fei Changfang told Huan Jing that a disaster was going to happen on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month and he and his family should be protected. Then, he told Huan Jing to go back home and do exactly as he was told: “Go home and make one red bag for each member of your family and everyone must wear dogwoods. Then, tie the red bags around your arms, leave the house and climb to the top of a mountain. And all of you must drink chrysanthemum wine.”
Huan Jing did everything Fei Changfang said. The next day when Haun Jong and his family returned home, they saw there were dead animals in the house. The disaster happened exactly the way Fei Changfang said and nothing happened to them. The animals died instead of his family. Fei Changfang saved their lives.
From that day on, every year the ninth day of the ninth month is celebrated. The traditional activities of this day are to drink chrysanthemum wine, to eat chrysanthemum cakes, to carry dogwoods and to climb on a mountain. Chrysanthemums blossom in the ninth lunar month and are used in herbal medicine. In ancient times, it was believed to protect people from evil spirits. That’s why chrysanthemum became the traditional food and drink of this day. The dogwood is a heavy scented plant which is used in herbal medicine, just like chrysanthemum. In ancient China, it’s believed that planting dogwoods on Double Ninth Festival would prevent disasters.
The chrysanthemum cakes are 9 layered and tower shaped cakes. Sometimes, people prefer to put two sheep or a red flag on top of the cake. The reason for the sheep on top of the cake is that the sheep in Chinese is ‘yang’. The chrysanthemum cakes are called ‘gao’ in Chinese and it is the homonym for high. So climbing mountains, in this instance, means climbing to a higher position in life.
Later on, it’s decided to celebrate this day as the Seniors’ Day, as well. Every year, the people show their respect to their elders while enjoying the Double Ninth Day activities altogether.