Wednesday marks the traditional Double Ninth Festival in China. The festival is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar every year, thus deriving its name "Double Ninth".
The festival is also known as Chongyang Festival.
Traditionally, it's a time when families gather to hike up hills, drink chrysanthemum wines, eat Chongyang cakes, and wear cornels but that's only one part of the story.
The day is also seen as an opportunity to care for and appreciate the elderly.
But first, let's take you through the old traditions associated with the festival by narrating its three origin stories, all of them are centered around a common theme - how to avoid disaster and prolong your life with proper preparation.
The Plague Demon killer - Huanjing
In Han Dynasty, the Plague Demon from river Ru brought illness and misery to the nearby villages, and a lot of people died because of its evil deeds. A righteous young man, Huanjing, decided to kill the demon for the good of the neighborhood. He sought help from the god and learned swordsmanship and tricks to defeat the demon.
One day the god told Huanjing that the monster is about to return on the ninth day of the ninth month to spread disease. As instructed by the god, Huanjing took all villagers to a mountain and taught them how to use the fragrance of chrysanthemum wines and cornels to drive the demon away. And when the monster emerged from the water, the scent of the plants and wine made him dizzy - which is when Huanjing killed it with a sword and stopped the plague.
A lucky escape from the floods
A long time ago, there was a family living on the foothills of Mountain Li. They earned their living by farming and were honest and warm-hearted.
One day, a fortuneteller visited their home and requested them to allow him to stay over for a night. Although the family was not rich, all members welcomed him, treated him with a tasty feast, and slept on the floor to spare him a bed. While leaving the next day, the fortuneteller told the family to climb Mountain Li on the ninth day of the ninth month and instructed them to not return until noon.
The family followed his advice and brought chrysanthemum wines and Chongyang cakes to enjoy the tour to the mountain. However, at noon, sudden floods in the valley destroyed all houses. It was then the family realized that the fortuneteller had saved their lives.
The chrysanthemum fairy's guide
Once upon a time, on the river bank of the Great Canal lived a farmer called Aniu with his blind mother.
Aniu was worried about his mother's disease but all medicines failed to return her eyesight. One night, he dreamed of a girl, who told him to find white chrysanthemum ten miles to the west of the Great Canal. She said the flower would blossom on the ninth day of the ninth month and could cure his mother's eyes.
He did as instructed by the girl in the dream, and planted it in his backyard. A few days later, the plant blossomed with nine white flowers. His mother's eyesight was recovered by the medicine prepared from the flowers.
These tales, passed on for over a thousand years, are an indispensable part of the traditions we abide by today. But with changing times the festival has also integrated some new meanings in the modern world.
In 1989, the Chinese government officially announced the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar as a day for senior citizens, aiming to encourage all to respect and love the elders. Reason? The pronunciation of double nine in Chinese is the same as another term meaning "a long time," thus extending a wish for all elders to live a long and healthy life.
The old customs are all still relevant to people's health. Hiking encourages people to exercise, while chrysanthemum wines are beneficial for the eyes, liver, and brain. Cornel, with its special fragrance, can drive away the pest and prevent people from catching a cold. The day is also a good reminder for all, especially for the seniors, to take care when the weather is changing.
Nowadays, it's a fashion for young adults to have a family outing with their elder parents on this day. When busy-working children come back to their lonely elders, warmly catch up, and enjoy the lovely scenery of the fall, their family ties are deepened.
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