All You Need to Know about Chongyang Festival
Written by Jenni Li
Translated by Jennifer J. Lau
Chongyang Festival (also known as the Double Ninth Festival) began during the Warring States Period (475–221 BC) in ancient China. It became an official holiday during the Tang dynasty rule (618 - 907 CE) and continues to be celebrated today.
There are many origin stories about Chongyang Festival. The most well-known version comes from a story about a man named Heng Jing, from Donghan, who received wisdom from the gods. On the ninth day of the ninth month, him and his male elders went to the mountains to avoid catastrophe. Everyone carried a plant known as dogwood berries (zhuyu). After they arrived atop the mountain, everyone drank a mouthful of chrysanthemum liquor. Thus, the tradition of drinking chrysanthemum liquor, carrying dogwood berries, and climbing mountains on this day commenced. In ancient China, chrysanthemum represents longevity. Slowly, the Chongyang Festival became one that embodies the hope of longevity. As it developed, people began to include respecting elders as part of the celebration and that is why this day is also synonymous with “Elders’ Day.”
The traditional customs are mainly for travelling and admiring autumn scenes, climbing to higher elevations, viewing chrysanthemums, eating chrysanthemum cakes, and drinking chrysanthemum wine, but there are unique local characteristics to the celebration in different Chinese-speaking regions.
In Hong Kong and Macao, Chongyang is considered as the “Autumn Festival,” which contrasts “Spring Festival.” On the day of the festival, it is usually at the heart of autumn and many residents in Hong Kong and Macao will bring sacrifices and burn incense to worship their ancestors. After they visit the graves, the whole family will venture into nature for a short trip.
In Taiwan, just before the Chongyang Festival, the north wind begins to pick up and is very suitable for flying kites! And that is why, flying kites is a very well-loved activity for this day.
In Shanghai, many chrysanthemum exhibitions and competitions are held during the Chongyang Festival. The experts of Yuyuan Garden adjudicate the chrysanthemums from three criteria: innovation, elegance, and rarity.
Chrysanthemum exhibitions also appear in many other cities as a staple of the holiday. Even though many young people no longer pay attention to the lunar calendar, but they will still notice this Chongyang Festival because once they leave their abode, the whole city and its streets are covered with rows and rows of chrysanthemum planters. It’s hard to miss the celebration wherever one may go!