Being one of the most culturally diverse countries, China celebrates a lot of traditions and culture-based festivals that are nothing but pure joy to be a part of. There are countless festivals in China, but today, we bring you the fascinating Chinese double-day festivals. If you are deeply interested in Chinese culture and traditions, this is a good chance to learn about these special Chinese festivals.
The Double Fifth Festival
The dragon boat festival, or Tuen Ng Festival, falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (according to the Gregorian calendar, in 2022, it falls on June 3rd). On this day, people honor the death of Qū Yuán, a Chinese poet and politician who became a national hero for his patriotism and contributions to traditional poetry.
Qū Yuán 屈原 lived during the early feudal dynasties in China, in the Warring States period to be specific (approximately 475 to 221 BC). It was typical for Chinese intellectuals to serve in government during the period, and Qū Yuán was no exception. He was a dedicated government official in the State of Chu for some time. However, later he was exiled after being slandered by another official.
Though Qū Yuán was exiled, he spent most of his time producing many works of poetry in order to show his love for the country. Upon hearing the news that the State of Chu was not doing well politically and was defeated at the hands of competing states, Qū Yuán was in a deep depression. Eventually, after finishing his final poem, he committed suicide by drowning himself in Hunan Province’s Miluo River as a symbol of despair over the current political situation.
During his exile, Qū Yuán had risen in popularity with the local community. After hearing this tragic news, villagers took boats and dumplings to the middle of the river in an attempt to save Qū Yuán, but their efforts were in vain. Villagers began banging drums, splashing water with paddles, and tossing rice dumplings into the water, serving both as a gift to Qū Yuán’s soul as well as a means to keep the fish and evil spirits away from his body. The search for Qū Yuán’s body produced the dragon boat races, while the rice dumplings became the zòngzi we know today.
Cultural traditions and activities
Participating in dragon boat races
The most well-known activity of the Double Fifth Festival is the tradition of racing dragon boats. Originally, boats were made of teak and painted “dragon” heads and tails. Today, they are made of modern materials such as fiberglass.
Dragon boat racing has evolved into a sport with a variety of rules and regulations throughout the years. This sport has lately acquired appeal with people all over the world, especially in the United States. Many races have been held in big cities such as New York and Chicago.
Eating zòng zi
Zòng zi 粽子 is the most popular treat to eat during the Dragon Boat Festival. It’s a rice dumpling composed of sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and knotted with plant stems to make a pyramid shape. The fillings are also various, including egg yolk, lotus seeds, ham, red bean paste, rose, melon, date, chestnut, and pork.
The Double Seventh Festival
Qī xī festival, also known as the Double Seventh Festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, is one of the traditional Chinese festivals. This holiday celebrates the romantic story of a weaver girl and a cowherd. Of course, as it name suggests, this festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. (this year, it falls on August 4th in the Gregorian calendar)
The Chinese Valentine’s Day centers around two star-crossed lovers, Zhī nǚ 织女, a weaving girl and the daughter of a goddess, and Niú láng 牛郎, a lowly cowherd. Niú láng met Zhī nǚ, they fell in love, married, lived happily, and finally gave birth to two children, a boy, and a girl. When Zhī nǚ’s mother, a goddess, learns that her daughter has married an ordinary man, she brings her to heaven and casts a gigantic river between heaven and earth to separate the pair — this river is now known as the Milky Way.
Separated from their loved one, Niú láng and his children could only weep bitterly. Fortunately, their love caused all the magpies to pity them, and they flew up into heaven to create a magpie bridge across the river, allowing Niú láng and Zhī nǚ to meet there. Zhī nǚ’s mother afterward was moved by their love and enabled them to meet on the magpie bridge every year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
Cultural traditions and activities
The most common tradition for ladies is to demonstrate dexterity abilities. It’s a chance for young women to show off their skills by speedily threading a needle under the moonlight. They’re also competing in carving exotic flowers, animals, and unusual birds, usually on melon skin.
Worshiping the weaver fairy, Zhī nǚ
Women prepare offerings of tea, wine, flowers, and various fruits to pray to Zhī nǚ for wisdom and to grant their wishes. Young single women often pray for a good spouse, while newly married women wish to bear a baby.
Eating qiǎo guǒ
This is a popular treat that is often prepared during Qī xī festival. Qiǎo guǒ is a fried thin pastry of different shapes, made with oil, flour, sugar, and honey. People believe that by eating qiǎo guǒ, it will help reunite the couple on the magpie bridge.
You might also be interested in: How to Celebrate Chinese New Year: 5 Main Traditions and Activities
The Double Ninth Festival
The Double Ninth Festival, also referred to as the Chóng yáng festival, is held on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month (this year’s festival is celebrated on October 4th in the Greogorian calendar). In Chinese culture, nine is regarded as the number of Yang. The ninth day of the ninth month is the day that has two Yang numbers, and ‘Chóng’ in Chinese means double, which explains the name Chóng yáng. Since 1989, this festival has been designated as the Senior’s Festival to show respect for the elderly.
Legend has it that during the Han Dynasty, a devil inhabited the Nu River and caused disease for neighboring people. Because of the devil’s power, the parent of a young guy named Hengjing passed away. For that reason, Hengjing went to find an immortal who could teach him swordsmanship to drive the demon from the people.
The immortal told Hengjing that the devil would appear on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, and he would need dogwood and chrysanthemum wine to scare off the devil. Hengjing took bags of dogwood and some chrysanthemum wine and returned to his hometown. On the morning of the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, Hengjing led all the villagers to the nearest mountain, with each holding a piece of dogwood leaf and a cup of Chrysanthemum. When the devil came out from the Nu River, it came to a halt because of the scent from the dogwood and the chrysanthemum wine. While the devil was out in the open, Hengjing stabbed it with his sword a few times and took it down.
Since then, the custom of climbing mountains, drinking chrysanthemum wine, and holding onto dogwood on the ninth day of the ninth month has become a widespread tradition.
Cultural traditions and activities
People believe that climbing or hiking on the Double Ninth Festival can ward off diseases as in its legend. Not to mention, it’s a golden time to enjoy natural beauty and relax with family and friends.
Eat Chóng yáng cakes
In Chinese, cake 糕 is pronounced “gāo” which is similar to the word for “high” 高 gāo. Therefore, people consider climbing to be the same as eating cake on this occasion. Chóng yáng cake is a nine-layer cake shaped like a tower with a great wish that one will make improvements to a higher level after eating the cake.
Drinking Chrysanthemum wine
The festival would not be complete without the consumption of Chrysanthemum wine. Chrysanthemum is a flower that acts as an antitoxin and may ward against evil. Many people believe that by drinking chrysanthemum wine, they may heal and avoid all types of diseases.
You might also be interested in: Lucky and Unlucky Numbers in Chinese Culture
Experience the festivities for yourself!
Chinese festivals are always full of joy and activities to take part in. If you happen to be in China during any of the festivals listed above, make sure to take time to enjoy the celebrations.
If you’re interested in Chinese culture, history, or language, find more posts like this on Pandanese. Pandanese is a Chinese learning platform that helps users learn Chinese easily by employing mnemonics and Spaced Repetition System (SRS). We encourage you to check out our Pandanese blog and read as much as you like about language and culture topics before starting your learning!