Lotus festival puts spotlight on celebrated flower
By Qu Zhi
A wooden pavilion rises amid willow-lined waters as boats drift slowly through a scene of idyllic charm. A causeway connects to the pavilion, which is now surrounded by numerous fragrant lotuses — the best scene Gucun Park has to offer in summer.
Lotus is a symbol of purity and peace in traditional Chinese culture. For Buddhists, Hindus and many others, the flower represents the way people should live. It symbolizes “spontaneous” generation and divine birth in Buddhism.
Gucun Park in the Shanghai’s suburban Baoshan District is holding a Lotus Festival through August 10. The park is renowned as one of the top destinations to appreciate lotus flowers in the city.
During the festival, the opening hours of Gucun Park will be extended to 7pm with the same admission fee (20 yuan/US$3.2 per person).
The park has 35,000 square meters of lotus cultivation areas, with several viewing spots making for restful outings. Both walking and biking are suggested.
The pavilions and a wooden causeway are the best viewing spots, which also contain many other types of fresh plants. Visitors can sit in the café built next to the pond to avoid the summer heat while enjoying lotus.
A famous poet, Yang Wanli (1127-1206) of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), wrote the classic description of the elegant flower: “Lotus leaves grow to the sky with endless green, lotus blossoms bathed in the sunshine assume a most crimson hue.”
Gucun Park showcases 28 varieties of lotus, some very rare. Some reach 2 meters in diameter while others can be as small as a child’s fist. The flowers appear in various colors including red, white, pink, yellow and more.
The appreciation of lotus in China can be traced as far back as 437 BC, during the Spring and Autumn Period. Xi Shi was one of the celebrated Four Beauties of ancient China. The woman was said to be so stunning that while leaning over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond, the fish were so dazzled that they forgot to swim and sank away from the surface.
She was also a fan of lotus. The legend is that King Fu Chai of Wu built the first lotus appreciation pond for her, as she was his favorite concubine.
A term used in to praise the purity of lotus blossoms is that they are “emerging unstained from the mud in the pond.” Indeed, the flowers have inspired generations of Chinese poets and artists for this characteristic.
The most famous analogy originated in the Song Dynasty when Chinese neo-Confucian philosopher and cosmologist Zhou Dunyi indicated that lotus is the natural equivalent of the noble person.
“It’s never entangled, never branched to the side,” he wrote. “Its fragrance spreads far, yet its pureness does not fade. Straight, lofty and clean is its character. The world can only behold it from afar, yet never tamper with it.”
In consideration of the rich culture behind lotus, Gucun Park is introducing a series of themed events during the festival. These include a photography competition with poetic captions, Kunqu Opera performances and a Chinese wash painting exhibition at the nearby folk art museum.
For children, the park offers a forest carnival with a number of playful installations at Gate 2. There is also a 4D cinema to bring more fun experience.
The park also provides a spacious area for barbecue on the beautiful lawn. BBQ sets and tools are available for rent.
Date: Through August 10, 5am-7pm
Admission: 20 yuan
Venue: Gucun Park, 4788 Hutai Rd
How to get there: Gucun Park Station, Metro Line 7