During warm weather months, lotus plants can be found growing in virtually all ponds and lakes in city parks across China. The verdant, broad leaves of the lotus plant can completely consume the surface of small ponds.
In August, lotus flowers are in peak profusion. Under the summer sunlight, their large blossoms are radiant and glorious, their petals soft and pure.
The lotus flower has figured prominently in Chinese poetry, stories, songs, paintings, and sculptures. In China, the lotus flower symbolizes purity, peace, harmony, and truth.
Over one thousand years ago, Zhou Dunyi, a neo-Confucian philosopher, wrote a poem whose title has been translated as “ode to lotus.” His poem, which is famous to this day, recognizes how the lotus flower rises from the mire of the earth and emerges undefiled. Many have interpreted Zhou Dunyi’s words as a philosophy for living. As we live amid a mire of human dysfunction and vices, we must rise above the muck by striving to live in peace and harmony.
The lotus flower is an important symbol in Buddhism. Similar to the philosophical import of Zhou Dunyi’s poem, the lotus flower in Buddhism symbolizes a rising from murkiness to blossoming into clarity and enlightenment. The Buddha is often depicted seated or standing on a lotus blossom, as is the Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion.
Large patches of lotus can take up an area of several hectares. One of the best places in China to see vast stretches of lotus is West Lake in Hangzhou. Extensive and glorious patches of lotus grow along the periphery of West Lake.
One of the things that makes West Lake one of the top spots for viewing lotus is the surrounding scenery. The lotus is often set against a backdrop of rolling, green hills and emerald green water. You won’t find many prettier places in China than West Lake.
Lotus flowers are also a symbols of summer in China. In fact, they have become the flower that is synonymous with summertime. The presence of a lotus blossom means long and warm days.
Lotus leaves and stems are not tolerant to cold weather. During winter months, the leaves and stems die. The plant’s tuber, a thick, white structure that is buried in the mud, survives the winter in a state of dormancy. In the spring, the tuber comes to life and sends out new stems.
Visiting a lake or pond late in the afternoon is a great time to view lotus plants. Photographers call the hour or so before sunset “the magic hour.” It is a time when the sun obliquely casts a soft, golden light on the landscape, and everything looks vivid.