In the eyes of the Chinese people the lotus symbolizes lofty character and divine virtues.
The renowned Sung Dynasty(960-1279)scholar Chou Tun-yi(1017-1073)once extolled the lotus as the gentleman of all flowers in his famous poetic essay,"Beloved Lotus."
In the early years of the Chinese Republic,a well-known prose-writer,Chu Tzu-ching(1898-1948),wrote a short piece in praise of the lotus,"a heavenly fairy"descending upon this ephemeral world.
The shape of the lotus blossom is unique.Its petals show beautiful curvature;its pistil is a star like dot.And its flowers of pink,light purple and fine yellow,in accompaniment with light and dark green leaves,are really an embodiment of beauty.
The lotus in its tender beauty also enjoys a distinctive status in Chinese painting.From Wang Mien(1335-1407)in the Yuan Dynasty(1260-1368)on down,many a painter has employed various painting styles described as sketchy,elaborate,dry,wet,neat and ink-splash-to bring out the poise and grace of the lotus.
One of the best known contemporary painters,Chang Ta-chien,has portrayed a magnificent lotus scene on a 5'x 10'screen.Another contemporary,the heavybearded Chang Chieh,is noted for the tenderness and buoyancy of his paintings of the lotus.
The lotus is a rooted plant found in ponds and marshes.In early spring,green leaves begin to emerge from the surface of the water.By summer,it is blooming profusely.
After the flowers have withered,all that remain are the capsules containing the seeds.Soup made out of stewed lotus seeds is considered a delicacy.The root of the lotus is called Lian O in Chinese.It is thick and juicy and is a popular food.
The Chinese are not alone in exhibiting a special affection for the lotus.In ancient Egypt,the lotus was regarded as a divine object and frequently was said to appear in the pure water ponds of paradise.
In ancient India,the lotus was also adored.To the Hindus,it symbolized affluence,good health,divinity and eternity.
After the founding of Buddhism,legend has it that the Buddha,right after being born into this world,stepped on five lotus flowers.It is believed that all beings in the Western Paradise are the reincarnation of lotus blossoms.
In the Buddhist scriptures,the lotus is praised as possessing four virtuous attributes,namely,fragrance,cleanliness,tenderness and loveliness.Because of its association with the lotus,Buddhism is sometimes referred to as the"Lotus Religion."
In China,as early as the Shang Dynasty(1766-1122 B.C.)lotuses were often found engraved side by side with such objects as cranes,clouds and dragons on bronzeware and ceramics.
Following the introduction of Buddhism into China,Buddhist temples sprang up everywhere.A lotus pond is often a part of such temples.Buddhist idols are placed on lotus-shaped seats.Various parts of the temple,such as pole,platform,tile,brick,spire and threshold,are prolifically inscribed with lotus designs.
Adoration of the lotus in the modem world may be witnessed in the growing of the flower in scenic resorts-wherever suitable water is to be found.
Growing the lotus for roots and seeds is a money making farm industry.Lotus farming is mostly found in Nantou,Changhua and Chiayi counties in central and southern Taiwan.It has also added much beauty to villages of the areas.
Taipei is blessed with a number of spots known for lotus ponds.The parks at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and many others are graced with the presence of the lotus.
The huge lotus pond at the Botanical Garden in downtown Taipei is universally acclaimed.Over its rippling surface can be seen the wave-like motion of the lotus leaves,with hundreds of flowers dancing about in the soft breeze.What delight!
Lovers of the lotus know the prime times of the day to witness the beauty of the flower in its fullness.It has a matchless beauty in the morning mist;at noontide,the lotus leaves arch like spread umbrellas.An enchanting lady in the evening sun and a silvery fairy in the soft moonlight are changing aspects of the lotus that have captured the hearts and souls of countless poets,writers and artists through the ages.