Chung Yeung Festival, which falls on the ninth day of the ninth month every year in the Chinese calendar, is a traditional holiday meant for hiking and tomb-sweeping. The special occasion has been mentioned in writing since before the Eastern Han period, which is almost two thousand years ago! Why did the ancient Chinese designate a specific date for hiking?
Chung Yeung Festival translates literally into “Double Yang Festival.” Traditional Chinese philosophy sees everything as either yin (moon, female, passivity, dark) or yang (sun, masculine, action, light). Nine is a yang number, and so the day of two nines is believed to be overflowing with yang energy. When the yin and yang forces are out of balance, things go wrong. Thus, it was believed that accidents or disasters are more likely to occur on this Double Yang day. To escape the impending disasters, people head out to the mountains.
The best-known origin story of Chung Yeung dates back to Eastern Han. A man named Huan Jing was told by his immortal teacher to take his family and fellow villagers up on a mountain on the ninth day of the ninth month. Despite not knowing why, they obeyed the teacher’s advice. That night, when they returned to the village, they found that all their livestock had died. Since then, people climbed up to the mountains to get away from disasters on the day.
The tomb-sweeping came in later. In Chinese culture, graves are located higher up in a scenic hill or mountain. Over time, people also took this day as an opportunity to visit their ancestors’ graves and pay their respects.
Call it superstition — or an excellent piece of ancient wisdom, because what better time is there to go hiking than fall? It’s also a great reminder to appreciate the beautiful fall weather, and to leave our anxieties behind for a day.