The Jewel in the Lotus

The lotus flower is a very important symbol in China.  Even though many people are non-religious today, Buddhism still has a big influence on people’s values. In Buddhism, the lotus flower represents the beauty of the soul, and the fact that good can come from anywhere. In the real world, lotus flowers actually grow in muddy water.  One of the most common mantras in Tibetan Buddhism is “Om Mani Padme Hum” which literally means “Behold! The Jewel in the Lotus.” There are whole books written about this one phrase, but my impression is that it is kind of like saying to look deep into the center of one’s soul to see beauty.

Lotus flowers are commonly seen all over Beijing.  The flower shown in the first photo was so beautiful that I thought it was fake (and I had to touch it to believe that it was real).  You can also see lotus flowers represented in wood, stone, and plastic in Buddhist temples.  In this photo to the right, the lotus flowers are made of wax. Big statues of Buddha almost always show him sitting upon a lotus flower.

At the Summer Palace, which was the Chinese Emperor’s summer vacation spot, there are lotus flowers everywhere. It’s really beautiful. We were able to ride in a boat around this lake, and see them up close from the shore.  Some people even throw coins on the giant leaves, perhaps for good luck. It’s hard to tell in this photo, but the buds are gigantic!

When I looked at the flowers up close, I saw the jewel in the lotus! In the center of each flower, there is a kind of fruit growing!  And this fruit is edible.  It has seeds that can be eaten plain or cooked, and a pulp that is delicious when cooked up with seasoning. Once the leaves fall off, the piece in the center is visible.

When they sell lotus flowers on the street, for eating, it looks like this.  You can see how big these are:

When you eat the lotus root, it looks like this. In this case, it’s stuffed with rice and soaked in sugary good sauces:

Never tried lotus root? You can buy it all over. In Boston, for instance, I’ve seen it in Chinatown at super markets.  It’s worth trying something new. And maybe you’ll become more enlightened after tasting it!

Categories: China

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7 replies »

  1. Cool!!

    I agree with you Ms. Krakauer, I would probably have to touch the flower in the first photo to see if was real too!!
    I remember we learned about the lotus flower being an important symbol in Buddhism when we went on a field trip! I think you’re probably right, Ms. Krakauer, you have to look deep inside someone to see the beauty of their soul.
    You’re also right about the fact that you can see lotus flowers pretty much everywhere in Beijing!!
    In the Summer Palace, I had seen a ton of lotus flowers too! I’m not sure if I saw anyone tossing coins in there for good luck, but you’re right the flowers are huge!!!!
    I never knew the fruit inside the flower was edible though, I didn’t even know it was a fruit!! I thought it was just like the center of any flower.
    Did you try the fruit? Did you try the lotus root? If so, did you like them? I’ve never tried the fruit, but I’ve tried the root. And …. well …… I didn’t really like it.

    May the Lotus Flower bring you Luck!!
    😉 ~ Anna

    • Hmm… I don’t actually know if the middle part is called fruit. I might be wrong. But you can definitely eat the seeds in it. The lotus root is really good, but it’s like tofu in that it tastes like whatever sauce it’s cooked in. Hope you are having a fun summer, Anna! Thanks for all your comments. 🙂

  2. i cant believe how big that is!! Do lotuses have a pleasant smell? I also appreciate that they think of soals as a nice thing and not as an evil thing like the devil.

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