What is the Double-Ninth Festival or 重阳节? (2023)

September 15, 2022

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Double-Ninth Festival or Chongyang Festival will be on October 23 in 2023.

Not many foreigners know about it and it might not get as much fanfare as the Spring Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival, but the Double Ninth festival is an important folk festival in China and is still celebrated until today.

Read on to learn all about the Double Ninth festival, including why it is called “Double-Ninth”, the origin of the holiday, and how to celebrate it.

double ninth chinese holiday

What is the “Double-Ninth Festival”?

The Double Ninth Festival or 重阳节 Chóngyáng jié is a traditional Chinese holiday dedicated to celebrating the elderly and good health.

When is the “Double-Ninth Festival” celebrated?

The Double-Ninth Festival is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which typically falls in October in the Gregorian calendar. This year, that will be on October 23rd, 2023, while in 2024, the Double Ninth Festival will be celebrated on October 11.

Why is it called “Double-Ninth Festival”?

Dating back to before the Han dynasty (25 A.D.), the Double Ninth Festival is called "重阳节 Chóngyáng jié " or “Double Yang Festival” because according to the classic I Ching (易经, also known as The Book of Changes), the number “9” is a “yáng” (masculine) number.

The holiday falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of lunar calendar, which are both “yáng” numbers, or a “Double Yang” day. And since Chóng means “double” in Chinese, the Chinese name 重阳节 was kept to refer to the Double Ninth festival.


The Legend of the Double-Ninth Festival

There was once a man named Heng Jing who lived in a village near a river. The river was home to a terrible river monster that spread plague and disease, and it was greatly feared by all the villagers. When Heng Jing’s parents fell ill, he decided that he must kill the monster once and for all.

Heng Jing journeyed to a distant land where an immortal being, moved by Heng Jing’s determination, shared the secret to defeating the river monster.

On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, Heng Jing returned to his village and armed himself with a sword. To protect against the disease spread by the river monster, Heng Jing carried chrysanthemum and dogwood (both of which are antioxidants) in his pockets.

He sent the villagers high into the mountains and descended to the river where he slayed the monster. The villagers came down from the mountain and celebrated Heng Jing’s victory, commemorating his bravery and cleverness every year on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month.

double ninth festival

How is Double-Ninth Festival celebrated?

In 1989, China also dubbed the Double-Ninth Festival “Senior’s Day” (老人节, Lǎorén jié), so visiting grandparents is very common. Many people have family reunions and pay tribute to the elderly together. T

he younger generations may also accompany their parents and grandparents to climb mountains. Climbing mountains on the Double-Ninth Festival has a symbolic meaning: the Chinese believe it to prevent disease and bring luck and longevity. This is also why the Double Ninth Festival may sometimes be called “Height Ascending Festival” (登高节, Dēnggāo jié).

What foods are eaten during the Double Ninth Festival?

Chrysanthemums are strongly associated with the Double-Ninth festival as they are believed to be beneficial to one's health and may even cure diseases. For this reason, it is common to eat chrysanthemum cakes, drink chrysanthemum wine, and enjoy the beauty of chrysanthemum flowers. Some women also wear chrysanthemum flowers in their hair to ward off evil.

Eating chrysanthemum cakes is actually a pun, since the word for “cake” (糕, gāo) is pronounced the same as the word for “high” (高, gāo). So, if you eat a cake, maybe you don’t need to climb a mountain after all… 😉

Do you have any plans for the Double-Ninth Festival?

About the Author

Eden has been learning Chinese since 2008. She fell in love with the language, food, and culture and never looked back! Eden lived in China for six years, including in Harbin, Beijing, and Dali.

Eden- Author

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