The Chongyang Festival (or Chung Yeung Festival) is also known as the Double Ninth Festival as it falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month this year (Oct 7). According to the ancient Chinese divination text I Ching, this Double Ninth day has too much yang (active energy) and is therefore a“potentially dangerous day”.
Traditionally, people climb mountains, drink chrysanthemum wine, and carry the zhuyu (dogwood) plant for protection. Folks also go to parks to enjoy the beauty of chrysanthemums as the flower symbolises longevity. Drinking chrysanthemum wine is believed to ward off evil and block off disasters. The scent of the chrysanthemums and zhuyu is also said to repel insects and keep out the cold.
Although this annual festival is not celebrated in Malaysia, it is a traditional holiday celebrated in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In China, nine has a similar pronunciation to the word “forever”, which symbolises longevity.
In 1966, Taiwan rededicated this day as Senior Citizens’ Day. In 1989, the Chinese government also set this day as Seniors’ Day. Activities are held to show respect and appreciation towards seniors, such as sending them gifts and on trips. In Hong Kong, families visit their ancestral graves on this day.
The Japanese celebrate the Double Ninth Festival (Sept 9 on the Gregorian calendar) known as choyo and the Chrysanthemum Festival at Shinto and Buddhist shrines. It is one of Japan’s five sacred ancient events and is celebrated as a wish for longevity. People drink chrysanthemum sake, eat chestnut rice (kuri-gohan) and chestnuts with glutinous rice (guri-mochi).
Koreans also celebrate Double Ninth on Sept 9. Their festival is known as jungyangjeol. They eat pancakes with chrysanthemum leaves, carry dogwood, and cultivate good health by participating in outdoor activities like climbing hills and mountains for picnics, or gazing at chrysanthemum blossoms in parks.
Water to boost relationships
Malaysian feng shui master Yap Boh Chu said the Double Ninth Festival is “a semi-auspicious day”. “It is a good day to demolish a building,” he said. “However, it is a bad day for burial and burning of the memorial tablet in Taoist memorial services.”
Yap explained this is because it is believed that the luck of the descendants will be affected. His advice is not to disturb the southwest sector of the house. “It is extremely bad to do anything in this sector as this can lead to sickness and accidents.”
However, if the north sector of your house has a water element, it is a sign that it is good to start a relationship. “If not, you can enhance your relationship by placing a bucket of water in this sector and changing it every day for five days only.”
History and legend
The origin of Chongyang dates back over 2,000 years to the Warring States period (475BC-221BC) in China, when the festival was held in the palace. It was celebrated by the public during the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD) and was known as Chongyang during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280AD).
The custom of celebrating the day by enjoying chrysanthemum and drinking wine is believed to have originated during the Jin Dynasty (265-420AD). It was officially set as a festival during the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). In the Ming and Qing dynasties, flower cakes were eaten to celebrate the event, and the emperor climbed the mountain on this day.
During the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220AD), people would fall ill and die whenever a devil – some say, monster – in the Ruhe River emerged. A man named Huan Jing survived, but his parents died because of this.
After his recovery, he sought an immortal’s help to vanquish the demon and was given zhuyu leaves and chrysanthemum wine. Huan Jing distributed the leaves and wine to the people. On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, the creature emerged from the river but became dizzy when it smelt the zhuyu and flowers. Huan Jing drew his sword and killed it.
According to another version of the myth, on the Double Ninth day, a man named Heng Jing advised his countrymen to hide on a hill while he battled a monster. When the monster was killed, the people held a victory celebration on that day.