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The 9th day of September in the lunar calendar is the Chinese Chong Yang Festival and a happy occasion in autumn. According to the traditional theory of Yin and Yang, both the 9th month and the 9th day of the month belong to Yang, which means positive and masculine, and Chong means double, thus it is called Chong Yang. People often gather for a party, appreciate chrysanthemums, pin the leaves of Cornus on clothes. And the custom of climbing mountains and eating a special cake also features the day.

This custom of climbing mountains can be dated back as early as West Han Dynasty. Some old travel notes have it that, people climbed to mountain peaks not only for beautiful scenes and poetic inspiration, but also the avoidance of evil spirits and disasters.

This practice came from an ancient folktale. It is said long ago there appeared a devil of plague in the Ruhe River. People lay down and died wherever it came up. A boy named Heng Jing swore to help his neighbors and fellow people to get rid of it. He visited many famous mountains to seek a powerful master. Finally an old Taoist took him in and taught him how to defeat the devil. Heng Jing put his whole heart into study and practice. One day, the Taoist called him up and said, 'Heng Jing, tomorrow is the 9th day of September and the devil will reappear. It is time for you to go home and stop the devil.' The master also gave him a pack of leaves of Cornus and a jar of liquor soaked with chrysanthemums. Riding a crane, Heng Jing went a great distance back home in a day. As instructed by his master, he told his fellow villagers to climb up the nearby mountain with a Cornus leaf pinned on their clothes and a glass of chrysanthemum liquor in hand. When the devil of plague came up from under the water, it got dizzy by the scent of Cornus and chrysanthemums. Heng Jing fought with his master's sword and killed the devil in a few rounds. People held parties, drank chrysanthemum liquor to celebrate it. And the next year, the custom of mountain climbing became popular among the villagers.

In the golden September, chrysanthemum blooms, reminding people of the folktale. And later a special cake with dates, chestnuts and meat was made to add more festivity to the special day.

Written by our column writer Hao Zhuo.

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