The scientific name of the lotus plant (蓮, 荷花) native to India and South East Asia is Nelumbo nucifera.

The roots of lotus are planted in the soil of a pond or river bottom, while the leaves float on top of the water surface or are held well above it. The flowers are usually found on thick stems rising several centimeters above the leaves. The plant normally grows up to a height of about 150 cm or higher and a horizontal spread of up to 3 meters. The leaves may be as large as 60 cm in diameter, while the showy flowers can be up to 20 cm in diameter.

Anyone who has ever observed a lotus flower emerging from a murky pond can appreciate the beauty of this exquisite plant.

The flower always looks so clean and pure against the background of a murky pond.

The lotus flower has come to be associated with purity, spiritual awakening and faithfulness in Buddhism and Hinduism.

In the night-time the lotus flowers close and sink into the water, then early in the morning the flowers slowly emerge from the water and bloom again. This portrays ‘rebirth’. The process repeats over a three-day period until mid-afternoon of the third day.

The lotus flower

Flower bud
Flower bud of Nelumbo nucifera
Flower starts to open
Lotus flower starts to open
P1080516 (1253x1280)
Lotus flower in full bloom
P1080201 (1246x1280)
The petals have fallen off leaving the drying stamens and the developing ovary
P1080182 (1280x1037)
The ovary developed into a dried seed cup (蓮蓬) with seeds (蓮子) inside

 

The leaves of the lotus plant

P1080157
The young leaves are unrolling out into a disc like leaf
P1080146 (1280x960)
Fresh leaves together with a lotus flower and two flowers buds
P1080138 - Copy (1280x960)
The rim of the leaves starts to dry and curl up. The leaf in the top left corner has turned yellow.
P1080164 (1280x1099)
The leaves in the bottom right corner have turned yellowish brown and wilted.

A variety possesses white flowers.

Lotus-Pond (1087x540)
Lotus of white flowers grows together with lotus of pink flowers in a pond. (Courtesy: Mr Michael Law)

Chinese Literature Related to the Lotus Flowers

Zhou Dunyi (周敦頤) (1017 – 1073) of the Sung Dynasty wrote the essay Ài Lián Shuō (愛蓮說) (Ode to the Lotus)

水陸草木之花,可愛者甚蕃。晉陶淵明獨愛菊;自李唐來,世人皆愛牡丹;予獨愛蓮之出淤泥而不染,濯清漣而不妖,中通外直,不蔓不枝,香遠益清,亭亭凈植,可遠觀而不可褻玩焉。
予謂菊,花之隱逸者也;牡丹,花之富貴者也;蓮,花之君子者也。噫!菊之愛,陶后鮮有聞;蓮之愛,同予者何人?牡丹之愛,宜乎眾矣!

All flowers and plants, both aquatic and land

Have attracted many admirers.

Tao Yuan Ming (陶淵明) loved the Chrysanthemums exclusively;

Since the Tang Dynasty, the multitude love peonies;

And yet I have a voracious desire only for the lotus,

Out of the turbid waters, it stands pure and unsullied,

It transcends the crystal waters to show purity,

Unclogged on the inside as it is upright on the outside

Devoid of creepers and branches

Dispersing its fragrance far and near

Standing elegant and crisp

Only to be admired from afar,

And not to be treated with irrelevance and contempt.

I think

Truthfully,

The chrysanthemum embodies seclusion and solitude

The peony embodies prosperity and eminence,

The lotus conveys the virtues of a gentleman.

Regrettably,

Except for Tao (Yuan Ming), the love for chrysanthemum is rare.

My fervour for the Lotus is not shared.

Only the peony is forever popular,  amongst the philistines.

(Translated by Dorothy Lee 何慧玲)

IMG_2219 (338x1280)

Written by Patrick Siu in clerical script dated 2014

Lotus Flower Paintings Throughout the Century

8de26d9115d9de5ac09a48d7d9ede94f
By an anonymous painter in the Sung Dynasty (960–1279)
Lan Ying (藍瑛) (1585 - 1664)
Artist: Lan Ying (藍瑛) (1585 – 1664)
wang 1
Artist : Yùn Nántián (惲南田)(1633-1690)
Wang 3
Artist : Yùn Nántián (惲南田)(1633-1690)
Wang 4
Artist : Yùn Nántián (惲南田)(1633-1690)
Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626 - 1705)
Artist:  Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626 – 1705)
Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626 - 1705) c 1697
Artist: Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626 – 1705) c 1697
Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626 - 1705) Flowers on the River, 1697, a small section
Artist: Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626 – 1705) Flowers on the River, 1697, a small section only
Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626 - 1705) Flowers on the River, 1697, another small section
Artist: Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626 – 1705) Flowers on the River, 1697, another small section
Artist: Chao Shao-ang (趙少昂) (1905 – 1998)
Artist: Chao Shao-ang (趙少昂) (1905 – 1998)
Artist: Chao Shao-ang (趙少昂) (1905 – 1998)
Artist: Chao Shao-ang (趙少昂) (1905 – 1998)
Artist: Zhang Daqian ( Chang Dai-chien) (張大千) (1899 – 1983)
Artist: Zhang Daqian ( Chang Dai-chien) (張大千) (1899 – 1983)
Artist: Zhang Daqian ( Chang Dai-chien) (1899 – 1983)
Artist: Zhang Daqian ( Chang Dai-chien) (張大千) (1899 – 1983), dated 1945, set of four hanging scrolls, ink and colour on paper, 358 x 596 cm
鄧芬荷花 (3)
Artist : Deng Fen (鄧芬) (1894 – 1964)
鄧芬荷花 (2)
Details of Deng Fen’s (鄧芬) painting
Artist : Ip Chit Hoo (葉哲豪老師) (1918 to present), 1983
Artist : Ip Chit Hoo (葉哲豪老師) (1918 to present), 1983
P1390333
details of the above painting
2010 Mr Leung's Exhibition 082 (1263x1280) (2)
Artist : Sze Chiu Leung (梁仕釗老師),  dated 2005

A Cantonese Song related to the Lotus Flower

‘Fragrant Water Lily’ (荷花香) in the movie “Mysterious Murder” 《紅菱血》(1951) was composed by Wong Yuet Sang (王粵生) with lyrics written by Tong Tik Sang (唐滌生) for Fong Yim Fun (芳艷芬).

荷花香 新月上
荷花愛著素衣裳
花香引得情蝶浪
怎禁她芬芳吐艷滿銀塘

心如明月呀 留天上
夜夜塘邊照檀郎
情味是甜還是苦
郎情可似柳絲長

輕輕偎向檀郎問
你可知情到深時怕斷腸
花香那得千日艷
榴花結子便枯黃

人對花兒輕薄後
莫道‧花殘仍可癡嚐
有情忍看花零落
花泣飄零淚滿塘

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJMB1-msLw (粵曲 荷花香) (not sung by Fong Yim Fun, but highly recommended)

Acknowledgements :

I would like to thank Mr Ip Chit Hoo (葉哲豪老師), my painting teacher, for giving me the beautiful lotus and mandarin ducks painting in 1983 as my wedding gift.

I would also like to thank Mr Sze Chiu Leung (梁仕釗老師), master of Chinese painting and calligraphy, for allowing the use of his marvellous work to demonstrate a good painting full of spirit and elegance.

Last, but not least, I would like to thank Mrs Dorothy Lee (何慧玲女士) sincerely for her wonderful English translation of the poem.

Bibliography :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelumbo_nucifera

http://www.epochtimes.com/b5/tag/%E5%BC%B5%E5%A4%A7%E5%8D%83.html

http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_49f5af5901012p9p.html (translation of Ode to the Lotus)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGmXX-WVA1A

http://www.lingnanart.com/Chao/L-master-chao.htm

http://wangchangzhengb.blog.163.com/

http://deng-fen.com/Deng_Fen/http://www.szechiuleung.com/about.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJMB1-msLw (粵曲 荷花香) (not sung by Fong Yim Fun, but highly recommended)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjW_lto-_Ew (sung by Fong Yim Fun)

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