TODAY -

Cheirao Ching Kaba and the Double Ninth Festival

James Oinam *

Cheirao-chingkaba at Chingmeirong as part of Cheiraoba :: April 14 2017
Cheirao-chingkaba at Chingmeirong on Cheiraoba - April 14 2017 :: Pix- Lamdamba Oinam



Chinese philosophy talks about the yin and the yang. These are opposing forces in nature, and when the two are equally powerful then there is harmony and stability. But at times one of them can become more powerful causing imbalance.

The ninth day of the ninth month of Chinese calendar is said to have too much yang and hence it is considered ominous. On this day, the Double Ninth festival is celebrated. This falls in October month of the western calendar.

One may mention here that the Manipuri expression 'mapanni panba' (translation the ninth [day]) also means a bad omen. Also, in Manipur, while buying fruits like banana meant for prayers, people talk about 'chang thokpa'. The numbers 1 and 7 are good, according to Chingtamlen. But if that is not available then the bananas are counted in pairs.

There seems to be disagreement on whether the even or the odd number is preferable. But the notion of 'pairing' brings to mind the pairing of the ying and the yang.

In the Double Ninth festival, which is celebrated in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Japan under various names, people climb mountains. This is where one starts wondering if the Manipuri Cheirao Ching Kaba in which people climb a nearby mountain was influenced by the Double Ninth festival.

Cheirao Ching Kaba is a part of New Year celebration of Manipur called Cheiraoba festival, observed in March-April. So why do Manipuris climb mountain on this day?

In the Double Ninth festival, people also drink chrysanthemum liquor. People renovate the graves and offer food to dead ancestors which is consumed afterwards. In Manipur also, making food offerings to dead ancestors is practised, although it is not consumed later. Having more than one similarity is unlikely to be just a coincidence.

Whether or not they are related, the folktale of the Double Ninth festival is fascinating. Below is the story sourced from the BBC's School Radio podcast:

Once upon a time, there lived a farmer called Heng Jing. He had a beautiful wife and three children. Heng Jing had a prosperous farm nestled among the mountains, and a river flowed near the farm. In spite of having all this, he was not happy.

The reason was a long time ago, a plague monster had come at night. The next morning, Heng Jing found both his parents dead. He was worried that the monster will come back again. So he was restless and worried. Then he decided to do something about it.

On the top of the tall mountain, there lived a wise old man called Fei Changfang. Heng Jing climbed the mountain to seek advice from the wise man.

The old man said, 'In order to kill the plague monster, you will need three things. You will need chrysanthemum wine, dogwood tree and this sword.'

Heng Jing said, 'What can the chrysanthemum and dogwood do? I will take this sword only.'

But he could not lift the huge sword. He became humble and asked the wise man teach him and became his disciple.

The wise man taught him about the yin and the yang. He also taught him about the properties various herbs. Gradually, Heng Jing became stronger and stronger and was able to lift the sword.

One day when the two of them were walking in the hills, the old man suddenly stopped. He looked at the sky and became grim.

'What is wrong?' asked Heng Jing.

'Tomorrow will be the ninth day of the ninth month. There will be too much yang. The monster will come tomorrow,' he said.

On hearing this, Heng Jing ran to his home. It was night when he reached. He asked his wife to climb up the tall mountain nearby and take the children with her.

Then he came near the river with the sword, chrysanthemum wine and dogwood branch. Early morning, the clear river water turned black and smelled of death and disease. The sky was covered with dark clouds.

The plague monster came down the river in the form of an enormous snake. Heng Jing attacked the snake with his sword, but the snake was too quick for him. Then he remembered the chrysanthemum wine and the dogwood.

Sprinkling the wine on the dogwood branch, he held it up. The sweet smell of the chrysanthemum wine and dogwood enchanted the snake, and it became still. Heng Jing took this opportunity and chopped off the head of the snake with his sword.

Heng Jing was so tired fighting the snake monster that he fell asleep. When he woke up, his wife and children were there. The old man was also there. They were all laughing. He had never seen the old man laugh before.

References

o Festivals - Chinese Double Ninth Festival. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05d6v9l
o https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Ninth_Festival
o http://paochelsalaitaret.net/article/dk26.pdf
o http://e-pao.net - Festival Channel




* James Oinam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on February 15, 2018.



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