There are mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival, dragon boats for Dragon Boat Festival, but what about Chung Yeung Festival? From its name and its origins to what to do during this time of year, find out all you need to know about the lesser-known public holiday of Chung Yeung Festival in our short explainer.
During the Chung Yeung Festival (重陽節), people mainly go hiking and visit the graves of their ancestors. The annual holiday falls on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar, which is why it’s also known as the Double Ninth Festival. Nine also happens to be a “yang” number in the dual yin and yang concept from ancient Chinese philosophy. Double yang—also known as chung yeung (重陽) in Cantonese—is way too much of a good thing, though, so to balance out the energy, many Hongkongers go hiking to ward off bad luck (more on that in a bit).
The traditional Chinese holiday can be traced all the way back to the Han dynasty two millennia ago. It has lost its original intention of driving away danger over the years, and today, it’s celebrated throughout East Asia as a relaxing family day out. Though both are public holidays that have to do with ancestor worship, be careful not to confuse Chung Yeung Festival with Ching Ming Festival, which is in April.
There are sundry variations, but legend has it that a prophet warned a man named Huan Jing about an epidemic that was going to break out in his village. Huan Jing heeded the advice and brought his family with him as they fled to the mountains to escape. Sure enough, when they came back down, the village was wiped out by the plague while only he and his family survived. This explains why many go hiking to high points of the city on this day, hoping to emulate Huan Jing and benefit from some of his good fortunes. And since most ancestral graves are up on the hills, many will pay a visit as a family—or even with extended family—to tidy up the grave and pay their respects.
Unlike many of the other Chinese festivals celebrated in Hong Kong, there are not any performances to see or places to go just for the Chung Yeung Festival. Popular spots people visit during the day include Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, as well as the Peak. But unless you want to jostle with the crowds, we suggest you avoid those places. Instead, check out our plethora of hiking guides and pick one that you fancy! Alternatively, plan an idle day out with the family and have a picnic or fly a kite at a hidden park.
Perhaps you have not seen or heard of the Chung Yeung cake (重陽糕) before. Though it’s not as well-known in Hong Kong, many in mainland China still eat it to celebrate the Festival. The multi-layered sweet is made with rice flour, jujube, and assorted nuts, alternating between layers of red and white. If you’re thinking that it looks like a tower, you’re right: “Cake” in Chinese (糕) sounds the same as “high” (高), symbolising improvement and the successful heights in life. So those who don’t fancy hiking may eat the cake as a substitute for reaching high places, or do both at the same time for the best shot at success in the days that follow!