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All you need to know about 重阳节- Double Ninth Festival

Oct.14, 2021

重阳节 (Chóngyáng Jié) is an important traditional festival with the theme of respecting the elderly on the ninth day of the ninth month in the lunar calendar.

Compared to 清明节 (Qīngmíng Jié / Tomb-Sweeping Day), 端午节 (Duānwǔ Jié / Dragon Boat Festival), 中秋节 (Zhōngqiū Jié / Mid-autumnFestival),  this one might sounds a bit unfamiliar to you.

In today's post, we are going to bring all you need to know about "重阳" to you so you can understand the cultural significance behind this festival better.

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Why do we call it "重阳 (Chóngyáng)"?

The name 重阳 comes from an essential concept of Chinese culture - 阴阳 (Yīn Yáng).

In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism or the idea that two opposite characteristics can actually exist in harmony and complement each other.

This concept is perfectly illustrated by this famous sign:

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阳/Yáng is represented by the light swirl and 阴/Yīn is the dark swirl. Yin and yang each represent various qualities. But overall, Yang is warm, young and active, etc., whereas Yin is cold, old and receptive, etc.

Taoism believes 9 is the largest number representing 阳/yáng. The ninth day of the ninth lunar month (or double nine), with two largest Yang numbers - 9 and 9, are believed to contain very auspicious spirit. Hence, the day is called "重阳节 - Double Yang Festival". 重/chóng means "repeat, once more".

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The history of 重阳节

重阳节 originated more than 2000 years ago. In the Han Dynasty (B.C. 202 - A.D. 220), there were records of the customs that people wore cornus officinalis, drank chrysanthemum wine and climbed high on this special day. But at that time, these activities were generally popular among the nobility. Until Tang Dynasty (A.D.618 - A.D.907), 重阳节 finally became an important folk festival.

In 1989, the Chinese government designated 重阳节 as "the Festival for the elderly" to express wishes for health and logevity of senior citizens. The reason of this lies in the "double 9". 99 sounds the same as "久久". "久" means "for a long time", which contains the auspicious meaning of "long and healthy life". So nowadays, 重阳节 is also a special day to advocate the morality of  "repecting and loving elders" in Chinese society.

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How do Chinese people celebrate 重阳节?

To celebrate 重阳节, Chinese People not only inherit the traditional customs but also constantly create new ways of celebrating.

Enjoy chrysanthemum wine/菊花酒 júhuā jiǔ

Chrysanthemum wine/菊花酒 júhuā jiǔ is brewed from chrysanthemum, glutinous rice and distiller's yeast. Because chrysanthemum wine has anti-inflammatory effects, nourishing the liver and brightening the eyes, it was regarded as "auspicious wine" in ancient times.

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Wear cornus officinalis/茱萸 zhūyú

Cornus officinalis/茱萸zhūyú has the functions of expelling insects and removing dampness. Before pepper was introduced into China, it was one of the main sources of spicy flavor. On 重阳节, people wear 茱萸 to prevent diseases and avoid disasters, wishing to have a healthier body.

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Both 菊花/chrysanthemum and 茱萸/cornus officinalis are considered to have cleansing qualities and are used on other occasions to air out houses and cure illnesses.

Conquer a height to enjoy a distant view

It is also customary to climb a high mountain or building on 重阳节. Ancient Chinese people originated this custom out of their worship towards mountains.

Besides, people also believe the weather during 重阳节 causes the "rising of clean air and sinking of dirty air". So the higher the terrain is, the cleaner air there will be. Therefore, "ascending a height to enjoy clear air and a distant view" has become an important folk custom for 重阳节.

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In recent years, on 重阳节, there are many different activities to highlight the value of "repecting the elderly". For instance, on this day, the elderly are given free physical examination, and they can visit many scenic spots for free. The community volunteers will visit the elderly living alone and send presents.

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That's all what we would like to introduce about 重阳节. Hope it helps you to understand this festival better. We will quote a famous 重阳-themed ancient peom to end this post.

Double Ninth
Remembering my Shandong Brothers
by 王维 Wáng Wéi (701-761)

Dú zài yì xiāng wéi yì kè
Měi féng jiā jié bèi sī qīn
Yáo zhī xiōng dì dēng gāo chù
Biàn chā zhū yú shǎo yì rén

Alone, a lonely stranger in a foreign land, 
I doubly pine for kinsfolk on a holiday. 
I know my brothers would, with cornus officinalis spray in hand, 
Climb up mountain and miss me so far away.

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All you need to know about 重阳节- Double Ninth Festival