A pink, white (fig.) or pink-and-white flower of the family of
water lilies (fig.), and sacred among the Hindus. The flower is associated with the divine birth of the
Buddha and used symbolically in Hindu and Buddhist art, often represented in gold or gilded (fig.).
The lotus is praised in the sacred
Aum mani padma hum. According to legend
comes from the
golden lotus that emerges from the navel of
Vishnu, and the Buddha took seven steps immediately after his birth causing lotus flowers to bloom wherever he touched the earth
(fig.). They are a metaphor for
Enlightenment because they rise from the mud towards light, like Buddhism raises itself above depravity, and the petals symbolize the
Four Noble Truths and the
Eightfold Path that the Buddha revealed to the world. When opened they unveil the hard core with its seeds, an allegory for new life.
Pedestals (fig.) used as
the base for
usually in the form of a lotus (fig.) and in the
wai, the Thai greeting, the hands are brought together in the flame-like shape of a closed lotus flower (fig.) to pay respect.
The use of lotus flowers in art is not always connected to religious beliefs,
e.g. in China,
art works with fat babies dancing whilst holding lotus leaves or lotus flowers
are used in the hope that one would give birth to several boys in succession,
since the character lián (連) meaning ‘successively’
is a homonym for the character lián (莲) which means ‘lotus’.
Since lotus leaves provide protection for any
them, it also symbolize abundance, as in Chinese, fish are called yú (鱼),
a word with the same sound as yú (逾)
meaning ‘to exceed’ and yú (余), meaning
boy depicted in Chinese art holding a lotus and a
goldfish, expresses the hope that
one would prosper year after year, as goldfish are symbol for ‘surplus of
money’ or ‘gold in excess’, and the lotus
for sequence (fig.).
In addition, the shape of the
ruyi, an ancient
Chinese scepter-like tool and symbol of power
is believed to have derived from the stalk and leave of the lotus. In Buddhist
iconography, the lotus may also be represented as a circle with flower petals as seen from above, often behind the head of Burmese-style Buddha images, temple gates, walls and fences (fig.), and reminiscent of the Kiku or Chrysanthemum Seal, i.e. the Imperial Seal of Japan. Some parts of the
lotus flower are fit for human consumption, such as its root and its seeds (fig.).
There are two kinds of lotus
root available in Thailand, that is a Chinese variety (fig.)
and a Thai lotus root (fig.).
The former is rather bulbous, with about three to four separate segments and
hollow tube-like canals on the inside, and when cut up, the slices are circular
with holes, whereas the latter is much thinner and not segmented. From the root a sweet and aromatic, brown coloured health drink called nahm rahk bua
(น้ำรากบัว) is made which is said to be refreshing and a cure against oral blisters caused by dehydration. The seeds are acorn-shaped and sit in a large cup-like seed head (fig.).
This calyx is called fak bua (ฝักบัว) in Thai which is the same word as for a shower
head, which shape it resembles. However, before consumption the green skin of the seeds should be peeled off and the tiny yellow-green shoot that sits in the centre of the seed should be removed as it tastes quite bitter. Lotus seeds and seed heads can be found on
Thai markets nationwide, while peeled creamy white lotus seeds with their distinctive brownish top can be found in bulk above all in Bangkok's
In summertime, the calyxes are widely sold as a snack
on the streets near popular tourist spots all over China (fig.). The giant leaves of the lotus are completely water-repellent and its surface structure has been imitated in certain technical applications
lotus stems are partially cut and then pulled apart (fig.),
generating thin fibers in between the pieces, which are then spun into threads (fig.),
which are typically woven into Buddhist monks' robes.
Lotus plants are often used as ornamental plants in ponds or pots, especially in
temple gardens or at temple buildings (fig.).
The lotus is one of the eight auspicious symbols or
The lotus flower has also inspired architectural designs, such as that of the
Lotus Temple in Delhi (map - fig.) and that of the Tram Huong Tower in Nha Trang (fig.). In Thai, the lotus is called
or just bua, and in Sankrit
padma, i.e. for the
pink lotus (fig.), whereas the white
(fig.), red and blue lotus are called
Also known as Indian lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India, and by the botanical
name Nelumbo nucifera. See also
See also POSTAGE STAMPS (1),