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The Origin of Double Ninth Festival
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The Double Ninth Festival was mentioned as early as in the period of Spring and Autumn and Warring States in Ode of Chu. It also appeared in The Excursion, a poem written by Qu Yuan. During the Three Kingdoms Period, Cao Pi, Emperor Wen of Wei, indicated the custom of the banquet on that day in his works: A Letter to Zhongyao on Ninth Day.


Tao Yuanming, a scholar in the Jin Dynasty, wrote in the preface for his poem Nine Day’s Seclusion that “I live alone at home. I like the ninth day of ninth lunar month. Yet, without wine, I could only appreciate the chrysanthemum and express my feeling by lines.” Chrysanthemum and wine are both mentioned in the preface. Probably the customs of drinking wine and appreciating chrysanthemum had already prevailed during the Wei and Jin Dynasties. The Double Ninth Festival was instituted as a folk festival in the Tang Dynasty.


In the Ming Dynasty, the whole royal palace celebrated the festival by eating traditional pastries, and the emperors climbed up Wansui Mountain by themselves for the autumn view. The custom passed on to the Qing Dynasty.


The Myth about the Double Ninth Festival

Like most of other traditional festivals, there is a myth about the Double Ninth Festival.


According to the myth, there was a pestilence devil in Ruihe River in the Eastern Han Dynasty. As long as it showed up, every family got a person sick and every day got a person dead. People there suffered so much from the devil.


A plague took away the lives of the young man Heng Jing’s parents and almost killed him. Therefore, upon his recovery from the illness, leaving his loving wife and fellow county men, he decided to look for the immortal to study the magic for killing the devil. He looked on and on, here and there, and finally got news that there was an almighty immortal being on an ancient mountain on the east. Jing Heng, therefore, guided by a crane, eventually found the almighty immortal on that mountain after overcoming countless difficulties. The immortal was so deeply touched that he accepted Heng Jing as an apprentice. The immortal also taught him the fencing to beat the devil and gave him a magic sword as well. After years of hard practice, he finally became a man with extraordinary martial arts.


One day, the immortal called and told him “Tomorrow is the ninth day of ninth lunar month, when the devil will appear again. You've already finished the learning. Now it’s time for you to kill the devil." In addition, the immortal passed him a packet of evodia leaves and a jar of chrysanthemum wine and told him how to use them. Then, He hurried back home on the crane.


Upon his arrival, he led the fellow men as taught by the immortal to a mountain nearby on the morning of the ninth day of ninth lunar month. He passed to everyone a piece of evodia leaf and a cup of chrysanthemum wine, ready for subduing the devil. At noon, after several screams, the devil rushed out of Ruhe River. Upon its arrival at the foot of the mountain, the devil suddenly paused and turned hostile at the smell of the evodia leaves and chrysanthemum wine. At that moment, Heng Jing, with the sword in his hand, caught it up and stabbed it to death after a few rounds. Therefore, the custom of climbing the mountain against the plague passed on generations after generations. Wu Jun from the Liang Dynasty recorded this in Sequel to Qi Xie Ji.


From then on, this custom has been regarded as an activity to avoid disasters. In addition, according to the traditional view of the Central Plain people, the 2 numbers of “9” means longevity and good health, so the Double Ninth Festival was instituted as the Aged People’s Day later.

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