Celebrating Ching Yang Jie or the Double Ninth Festival


 Dave Crosby/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Double Ninth Festival (Chong Yang Jie) is a traditional Chinese holiday and Taoist festival celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month – hence its name. In Japan, it's known as the Chrysanthemum FestivalEvidence of the celebration of Chong Yang Jie exists from as early as the East Han Period (25 CE).

Double Ninth Day & The Yijing (I Ching)

In Chinese numerology (based on I Ching theory) nine is the quintessential yang number. A day defined by a double dose of this potent yang energy is considered to be imbalanced, in a potentially dangerous way. So people do things to protect themselves, including climbing mountains, drinking chrysanthemum wine, and carrying sprigs of Dogwood. Some people also visit the graves of their ancestors, as a way to pay respect on Double Ninth Day.

Ascending To Great Heights On Double Ninth Day

It is customary, on Double Ninth Day, to go hiking in the mountains, enjoying the autumn sky and the clarity of the heights. The climbing of mountains also represents “climbing to a higher position” – so is symbolic of an increase in health, happiness, and prosperity in one's life. Along with being associated with yang energy, nine is also the number associated with longevity – so if the potential “dangers” of the day can be skillfully negotiated, it can be the source of a fountain of auspicious energy.

Chong Yang Jie & Chrysanthemum Flowers

Appreciating the beautiful chrysanthemum flowers, and drinking chrysanthemum wine, also are traditional aspects of the Double Ninth Festival. The ninth lunar month as a whole is known as the “month of chrysanthemum.” Chrysanthemum wine is believed to have many physical and spiritual benefits. Each year, the flowers and grains for the wine are mixed, and the brewing process has begun… only to be consumed on the following year’s Double Ninth Day.

Flower Cake For The Double Yang Festival

The special food of the Double Ninth Festival is a cake called Double Ninth cake, or chrysanthemum cake, or flower cake. These rice-cakes are called “gao” – which is a homophone for “height,” linking them to the practice of climbing mountains: ascending to great “heights.” The preparation of Double Ninth cake is a tradition that dates back to the Zhou Dynasty. The cakes are typically prepared from glutinous rice flour, and inlaid with chestnuts, ginkgo seeds, pine nut kernels, and pomegranate seeds – so that they look like blooming flowers!

Dogwood Springs For Health & Good Luck

It’s traditional also for people to carry sprigs of the zhuyu (dogwood/cornel) plant; and/or to plant the sprigs on Double Ninth Day, as a way to prevent disease and protect one's health and prosperity. Dogwood is a species of evergreen, whose leaves have many medicinal qualities.

Here, the great Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei alludes to the Double Ninth Day practices of carrying a Dogwood sprig and climbing mountains:

All alone in a foreign land.
I am twice as homesick on this day.
When brothers carry dogwood up the mountain,
Each of them a branch, and my branch missing.
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Reninger, Elizabeth. "Celebrating Ching Yang Jie or the Double Ninth Festival." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, learnreligions.com/double-ninth-festival-ching-yang-jie-3182897. Reninger, Elizabeth. (2023, April 5). Celebrating Ching Yang Jie or the Double Ninth Festival. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/double-ninth-festival-ching-yang-jie-3182897 Reninger, Elizabeth. "Celebrating Ching Yang Jie or the Double Ninth Festival." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/double-ninth-festival-ching-yang-jie-3182897 (accessed June 2, 2023).