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Climing the hill at Double Nine Festival

The 9th day of the 9th lunar month is the traditional Chongyang Festival, or Double Ninth Festival in China. It usually falls in October in the Gregorian calendar. In an ancient and mysterious book Yi Jing, or The Book of Changes, number "6" was thought to be of Yin character, meaning feminine or negative, while number "9" was thought to be Yang, meaning masculine or positive. So the number nine in both month and day create the Double Ninth Festival, or Chongyang Festival. Chong in Chinese means "double." Also, as double ninth was pronounced the same as the word to signify "forever", both are "Jiu Jiu," the Chinese ancestors considered it an auspicious day worth celebration. That's why ancient Chinese began to celebrate this festival long time ago.

Climing the hill on Chongyang FestivalThe custom of ascending a height to avoid epidemics was passed down from long time ago. Therefore, the Double Ninth Festival is also called "Height Ascending Festival". The height people will reach is usually a mountain or a tower. Ancient literary figures have left many poems depicting the activity. Even today, people still swarm to famous or little known mountains on this day.

On this day, people will eat Double Ninth Gao (or Cake). In Chinese, gao (cake) has the same pronunciation with gao (height). People do so just to hope progress in everything they are engaged in. There is no fixed ways for the Double Ninth Cake, but super cakes will have as many as nine layers, looking like a tower.

The Double Ninth Festival is also a time when chrysanthemum blooms. China boasts diversified species of chrysanthemum and people have loved them since ancient times. So enjoying the flourishing chrysanthemum also becomes a key activity on this festival. Also, people will drink chrysanthemum wine. Women used to stick such a flower into their hair or hang its branches on windows or doors to avoid evilness.

In 1989, the Chinese government decided the Double Ninth Festival as Seniors' Day. Since then, all government units, organizations and streets communities will organize an autumn trip each year for those who have retired from their posts. At the waterside or on the mountains, the seniors will find themselves merged into nature. Younger generations will bring elder ones to suburban areas or send gifts to them on this day.

Chongyang Cake
Chongyang CakeOn the day of Chongyang Festival, one traditional activity is to climb mountains. However, mountains are not everywhere for people to climb. Therefore, for those people who live in flat regions far from any mountain, the problem is solved by going for a picnic and eating cakes. The Chinese word for cake is Gao, a homonym of the Chinese word for high. Mountains are high, so eating cake can, by a stretch of the imagination, take the place of going for a climb.

The tradition of eating cakes in September is originated from the ancient times. Though the name of "Gao" started from the Six Dynasties, the cakes had already existed in Han Dynasty, which was called "Er" in Chinese at that time. It is made of rice flour, which is classified into two types: paddy rice flour and millet rice four. They are streamed together, which is named "Er". In September, the millet is ripe. It is regarded as the food just in season, which is offered to ancestors as sacrifices. Chongyang Cake comes from the food just in season in September. That is why Chongyang Cake is recommended for offering sacrifices to ancestors on the day of Chongyang Festival.

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