Chung Yeung

(redirected from Kite-Flying Festival)

Chung Yeung (Chung Yang Chieh, Kite-Flying Festival, Festival of High Places)

Type of Holiday: Folkloric, Calendar/Seasonal
Date of Observation: Ninth day of the ninth Chinese lunar month
Where Celebrated: China
Symbols and Customs: Good-luck Charms, Kite Flying, Mounting the Heights, Têng Kao
Related Holidays: Chrysanthemum Festival

ORIGINS

The festival known as Chung Yeung in China has much in common with Japan's Chrysanthemum Day (see CHRYSANTHEMUM FESTIVAL). The ninth Chinese lunar month is known as the "Chrysanthemum Moon" because it marks the season when these flowers are in bloom. Chrysanthemum-viewing parties were at one time held by the Imperial Court in the grounds of the Forbidden City on this day. But now the "Double Ninth" is primarily an occasion for picnicking in the hills (see MOUNTING THE HEIGHTS ) and KITE FLYING . In southern China, it is a day for visiting the family graves and performing ceremonies in honor of dead ancestors. It is a public holiday in Hong Kong and Macau.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Good-luck Charms

KITE FLYING competitions are held throughout China on this day. It is primarily an activity involving boys and men; girls tend to watch from the sidelines, and the women are usually busy preparing the evening feast. Because maneuvering the kites, which are often quite large and elaborate, requires considerable skill, the kitefliers come well prepared with their favorite good-luck amulet or charm. They may wear the claw of a tiger to make them brave, carry a peachstone to ward off misfortune, or wear a coffin nail tied to their ankle to protect them from accidents.

A jade amulet is considered the best good-luck charm of all. Jade is known as the "stone of the seven virtues," which include benevolence, knowledge, uprightness, power, purity, eternity, and moral principles. Best of all, it never wears out, no Chung Yeung

matter how often it is used. Before releasing their kites, the competitors rub the amulets in their hands. If they win the competition, they rub the charms again.

Kite Flying

Kite flying is such an important part of the Chung Yeung festival that huge crowds gather to watch the spectacle. The festival kites, made of silk or paper, are often so large that it takes four or five grown men to handle them. Shaped like butterflies (symbol of pleasure and a happy marriage), fish (health, wealth, and offspring), dragons (male vigor, fertility), and other symbolic creatures, some of the kites have movable eyes, limbs, and wings. As soon as they are in the air, the competition begins. Their operators try to cross each other's strings, pulling and vibrating their own string in such a way that it cuts the string of their opponent's kite. When someone's kite is downed, the spectators yell and cheer. The competition can be fierce, and sometimes the police are brought in to prevent fights. To add to the excitement, some kites have firecrackers attached, which are set to go off after the kite reaches a certain height.

Some of the kites give off eerie sounds as they flutter overhead. This is because they have tiny Aeolian harps (made from gourd-shaped frames of bamboo with slivers of the bamboo plant stretched across them to form "strings") attached. These "singing" kites are a reminder of the Han dynasty general who, when his army was trapped and about to be annihilated, frightened the enemy by flying kites overhead that had been fitted with metallic strings. They made such a strange noise that the enemy soldiers thought they were being attacked by supernatural powers and ran away.

Occasionally a kite flier will set his kite adrift in the hope that when it falls to earth, the evil lurking within the family will fall with it. Some believe that if the kite flies higher than the string allows, it will bring the family great honor.

Mounting the Heights

According to legend, the custom of climbing a nearby hill or mountain for a picnic on Chung Yeung goes back more than 2,000 years. A famous magician, Fei Changfang, warned his student, Huan Ching, to immediately take his family away from the valley where they lived and up the nearest mountain. Huan heeded the warning, leaving all of his possessions behind. When he returned, he discovered that his house, his cattle, and everything else he owned had been destroyed as Fei had predicted. The Chinese commemorate Huan's escape by going to the highest places they can find and flying their kites. Those who, like Huan, are scholars often spend the day sitting in picturesque mountain settings, composing poems and discussing classical texts. There is another theory about why people mount the heights on this festival. Because it was observed at a time of year when the harvest had just been brought in, enemies felt free to make war on each other. Groups of men with provisions were sent up to the mountains as lookouts, so they could warn their people of any advancing armies. Long after the need for these expeditions passed, people continued to mount the heights with food and wine.

Têng Kao

Chung Yeung picnickers traditionally feast on chrysanthemum wine and special cakes called têng kao, made of glutinous rice, filled with meat, and steamed. The name of these cakes is a play on the Chinese words, which mean not only "cake" but "promotion." The individual who eats them is believed to secure his or her advancement in official life, just as the person who "climbs the heights" advances his or her scholarly knowledge.

FURTHER READING

Bredon, Juliet, and Igor Mitrophanow. The Moon Year: A Record of Chinese Customs and Festivals. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1927. Gaer, Joseph. Holidays Around the World. Boston: Little, Brown, 1953. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

WEB SITE

Hong Kong Tourism Board in New York, New York www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_chun.jhtml Chung Yeung
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Chung Yeung

September-October; ninth day of ninth lunar month
A Chinese holiday, Chung Yeung is the second family-remembrance day of the year. It's customary, as on the festival of Qing Ming, for families to visit the graves of ancestors, tend their gravestones, and make offerings of food, which are eaten after the ceremonies are completed.
It's also traditional on this day for people to go to the hills for picnics and kite-flying. This is done because, according to an ancient legend, a scholar was warned by a soothsayer that disaster would fall on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. He took his family up into the mountains. When the family returned to their village, they found every living thing dead. They gave thanks that they had been spared. The custom of flying kites stems from traditional lore, which holds that kites can convey bad luck up into the sky.
The day is also known as Ch'ung Yang, Double Nine Day, and the Festival of High Places . It is a public holiday in some places, including Hong Kong and Macau.
CONTACTS:
Hong Kong Tourism Board
115 E. 54th St., 2nd Fl.
New York, NY 10022
212-421-3382; fax: 212-421-8428
www.discoverhongkong.com
SOURCES:
AnnivHol-2000, p. 240
BkFest-1937, p. 81
BkHolFestWrld-1970, p. 117
BkHolWrld-1986, Oct 15
DictFolkMyth-1984, pp. 225, 1106
EncyRel-1987, vol. 3, p. 327
FolkAmerHol-1999, p. 380
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 574
HolSymbols-2009, p. 147
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
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