Ooh, beautiful Italy made me forget time and place — I have missed two major Chinese festivals, one is Chinese National Day on 1st Oct, and the long holiday in China that follows the national celebration; and the other one is Chong Yang Festival, which was yesterday.
I guess I will have to leave the national day to next year then, but talk about Chong Yang Festival and its festival food, if it is not too late — saying that, eating is never late. :))))
Chong Yang Festival is on every 9th September in Chinese lunar calendar. In I Ching it is said that number ‘six’ is ‘Yin’, and number ‘nine’ is ‘Yang’ (it is the famous ‘Yin Yang’), since 9th September is double ‘Yang’, so the festival is called ‘Chang yang’, as double ‘Yang’.
The legend of the Chong Yang Festival
There are many stories about the origin of the festival. A simple one is that in the old days, people thought ‘double Yang’ was a good symbol, should be celebrated, thus this festival was established.
Another story is a legend, it says that in Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 CE), around Ru river, there was a devil, who ruined many lives. Heng Jing, a young man decided to go to learn the necessary skills to fight against the devil. After years of study with a master, one day the master gave HengJing a sword, a pack of elaeagnus, and a bottle of Chrysanthemum Wine, told him to go home to fight with the devil as the devil would turn up on the next day — 9th September.
When Jingheng went back to his home town, he led all the locals to a hill, and gave them the elaeagnus and Chrysanthemum Wine for preventing the devil from getting close, then he used sword to fight with the devil, and killed it eventually. Since then, climbing on 9th September became a ‘festival activity’. So ‘Chongyang festival’ is also called ‘climbing festival’. Climbing simply means to go up somewhere higher, then you can see further, for example, a small hill, or a tower. Many famous poems describe the beautiful scene after climbing up.
Another traditional activity is ‘appreciating Chrysanthemum Flowers’. Besides the legend, there is another reason for Chrysanthemum appreciation — there are a few flower exhibitions a year in China according to different flowers’ flowering time, and now, in autumn – the season for beautiful Chrysanthemum Flowers. So looking at Chrysanthemum Flower show and wearing Chrysanthemum Flower in hair or making it into fragrant pocket to carry on the belt started as tradition since Tang dynasty.
In Chinese, Nine is pronounced as ‘Jiu’ (3), which is the same pronunciation as the word ‘long last / forever’, thousands years ago, people started praying for long last life, love, etc. Later, it was given an additional meaning — respecting the elderly. In fact, since 1989, this day is also set for ‘elderly day’ by the government, many organizations would set up some programs for taking elderly for an autumn trip to the mountains or seaside.
Traditional Chong Yang food
Ok, coming to food, like all the other festivals, there is a main festival food, along with all other seasonal fruits and vegetables. ‘Hua Gao’ is the food for ‘Chong Yang festival’. Hua is as flower, ‘Gao’ is as in ‘cake’. It is like ‘desert or snack cake’, made with rice flour and different kinds of fillings, and steamed. However, just like different regions in China have different traditional celebrations, this ‘Flower cake’ varies greatly as well. Tomorrow I will make this cake, and post the recipe — I know, I am already behind the time. :)))