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Double Ninth

Double Ninth
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The ninth day of the ninth month is the Double Ninth, and has been an important celebration all over Asia since 25 AD. Nine is a lucky number in China, and bears a similar pronunciation as "forever" or "everlasting." The number nine appears throughout Chinese history, and many Ancient Chinese emperors built temples, walls, and rooms in multiples of nine (for instance, The Forbidden City in Beijing has a total of 9,999 rooms, with number of stairs in staircases being nine or a multiple of nine, and the height of the three great halls were 9 Zhang and 9 Chi). But everyone who has ever played around with luck knows that it is closely tied to danger. The I Ching shows nine as a number of the Yang, being both masculine and in opposition to the feminine yin, and an odd number that signifies danger.

The holiday, known in Chinese as Chongyang, has become a celebration of seniors and ancestors. In order to ward off the potential danger of the nine, participants drink chrysanthemum wine, eat chrysanthemum flower cakes, wear zhuyu, and climb mountains as a sign of good health. Many Chinese visit cemeteries on this day to clean their ancestors graves and burn incense sticks.

Other Asian cultures have come to celebrate the double ninth in different ways, according to their own distinct traditions and stories. In Japan, it is known as Chōyō, Kiku no Sekku, or Chrysanthemum day. It is celebrated on the double ninth according to the Gregorian calendar, rather than the lunar calendar. Important in Japanese culture, chrysanthemums themselves are the symbol of the Imperial House of Japan. Flower festivals and displays are held from September into October.

In Korea, although it has not been widely celebrated since the 1970s, the holiday is called Jung’yangjeol. The Koreans also celebrate with chrysanthemums and hold ancestral rites for those who had passed away without a known date of passing and for those who had no known offspring.

The Double Ninth is known as Tết Trùng Cửu to the Vietnamese and Chung Yeung in Hong Kong.

Many literati including Korean Choi Ikhyeon, Chinese Du Fu and Wang Wei, and Japanese Matsuo Basho have written poems about ascending heights on the Double Ninth.

By Thad Higa

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