A Gweilo's Guide to Celebrating Chung Yeung Festival in Hong Kong
October 17, 2023
Whether you dropped down in the Victoria Harbour 25 years ago with eternal hope of your new home, or recently found yourself thriving in the Pearl of the Orient, you may still have not shaken that classic Gweilo identity and perspective of Hong Kong.
Are you not fully clued up on what our Chinese festivals mean or what to do for Hong Kong’s big calendar events? We’re here to help with our Gweilo’s Guide!
The Chung Yeung Festival, also known as the Double Ninth Festival, is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month to commemorate the lives of our ancestors. The traditional festival has close similarities with Ching Ming Festival, its spring-time counterpart.
It's observed in various parts of China, including Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau, and countries in Asia with immigrant Chinese populations. This festival has a rich history dating back over 2,000 years and is associated with various customs and traditions.
What is the meaning behind Chung Yeung Festival?
The Chung Yeung Festival, with its combination of traditional customs and profound philosophical background related to yin and yang energies, remains an important cultural event in many Chinese communities.
People in Hong Kong celebrate this festival with several activities. These include climbing up high mountains, cleaning the graves of their ancestors, and consuming cleansing foods to rid themselves of stagnant energy.
What is the significance of yin and yang in Chung Yeung Festival, and how does the festival differ to Ching Ming?
While both the Chung Yeung Festival and the Ching Ming Festival involve paying respects to ancestors, they are different. Ching Ming, which occurs in the spring, symbolises "light" or "brightness" and focuses on fresh beginnings after the cold season. In contrast, Chung Yeung is associated with "double yang" and the balancing of energies.
The term "Chung Yeung" means "double yang." Yang represents masculine energy, light, and the heavens in the yin-yang symbol. Celebrating on the ninth day of the ninth month is seen as an acknowledgement of compassion for the world and the light in all situations. However, it is also believed that an overabundance of yang energy can bring bad luck, so activities are performed to rebalance yin and yang.
What is the origin story for Chung Yeung Festival?
The festival's story is rooted in a heroic tale from the Han Dynasty. It typically revolves around a man named Huan Jing, who climbs a mountain to save his family and village from a demon or disaster.
The man receives divine guidance, and his actions lead to the defeat of the demon or the resolution of the crisis. This story serves as a reminder to count one's blessings and aim high in life.
How is Chung Yeung Festival celebrated in Hong Kong and Asia?
Families can hike to ancestral graves, especially those situated on mountains. The higher the mountain, the more blessings are believed to be bestowed. Offerings such as incense, paper money, and flowers are placed nearby graves as a sign of respect.
When it comes to dining, people traditionally dine on Chung Yeung cakes, made of rice flour and sugar, and often garnished with walnuts and dried fruit. The word for "cake" in Cantonese sounds like "tall" or "high," symbolising the wish for prosperity and advancement. Chrysanthemum beverages are also consumed to purify the soul and ward off evil spirits.
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