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The Cultural Connotation of “Lotus Flower Appears Above the Water”

Lotus is also known as “furong” (芙蓉), “lianhe” (莲荷), “lianhua” (莲花) or “hehua” (荷花) in the Chinese language. Every part of this plant has its certain practical value. The root of it is called lotus root. Li Shizhen wrote in Bencaogangmu: “The lotus root is a kind of immortal root. It can reinforce the middle energizer, invigorate qi, remove stasis and help produce new blood.” The lotus flower petal can clear heat, dispel dampness and stop bleeding. The lotus stamen can tonify the kidney and secure essence. The lotus leaf base has the effect of heat-clearing and diuretic. The lotus petiole can make qi flow smoothly and resist chest stuffiness. The lotus seed can purify the heart, nourish the lung, and tonify the spleen and kidney. The green lotus plumule can clear heat, relieve uneasiness of mind, strengthen the heart and lower blood pressure. Fresh lotus leaf, which is neutral and bitter, can clear heat and remove toxicity. It can also be used to make soup or brewed as a substitute for tea. Dried lotus leaf can be used as an appetizer, spleen nourisher, and blood-fat depressor. The lotus seed shell is a specialized herbal medicine for dredging and stasis removing.

Because of its wide range of uses and good curative effect, the lotus plays an important role in Chinese life nourishing culture and is widely used in people’s daily lives.

1. Lotus can be called as He (荷) in Chinese, the pronunciation of which is the same as “He (合)” (harmony) in Chinese. So the design with two lotus flowers symbolizes a harmonious coexistence.

2. Lotus has strong roots, thick leaves, and bloomy flowers. So the design with many blossoming lotus flowers can symbolize prosperity of families and the society.

3. The design of a magpie standing on a lotus stamen with a fruit in its mouth is the symbol of passing important tests successively. (quoted from Han Zhenwu, Chinese Folk Mascots)

Lotus is also famous in Buddhist culture. The Lotus Sutra (Saddharma Pundarika Sutra) wrote that pundarika is a sacred name of lotus. The flower is the symbol of Buddhism. It is said that when Shakyamuni was born, he walked seven steps, and then seven lotus flowers grew from his footprints. Lotus can be found everywhere on Buddhist relics, architectures and sculptures. For example, there is a Bodhisattva statue in the Ajanta Caves in Southern India. The Bodhisattva lowers his eyebrow, gazing into a lotus flower in his hand, acting as if he is enlightening all beings to be immune to evil wills from the outside world just like the lotus, growing from mud without being contaminated. Only in this way can people achieve moksha.

The Buddha and Bodhisattva are like pure lotus flowers growing from mud, making people respect them at first sight.(quoted from the second half of Ghanavyuha Sutra) The Sutra uses mud as the metaphor of worries of life and death, and use lotus as the metaphor of Buddhata. All beings have their own Buddhata, but sometimes these are covered by worries and bad habits, and cannot be seen, just like lotus seeds hiding in the mud. Once a person breaks through the worries of life and death, he can immediately achieve moksha. (quoted from Lin Kezhi, Buddhist Allusions)

Besides the records in daily living and Buddhism, the lotus is also popular among poets and litterateurs.

For example, Jiang Yan, a Southern dynasties litterateur and a senior official of Song, Qi and Liang dynasty, loved this plant. He wrote The Poem for Lotus, which was easy to understand and widespread.

“The stamens shine like gold. The roots are as clear as ice and jade.

The red lotus flowers bloom, stretching their crimson petals.” (quoted from The Anthology of Jiang Wentong)

The Northern Song Dynasty litterateur Zhou Dunyi also loved the lotus. His work On the Love of Lotus enjoyed great fame in history.

Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073), whose courtesy name was Maoshu, was born in Daozhou Yingdao (today's Dao County in Hunan Province). In his later years, he built the Lianxi school under the Lotus Peak of Mount Lushan, thus he was also called Master Lianxi. His work On the Love of Lotus was a short passage of only about a hundred characters, but it contained deep meanings and thoughts. The passage wrote: “Only I love the lotus, because this flower can keep itself uncontaminated in muddy water, and looks not seductive in clear water. Its stem is straight without little branches. Its fragrance is pure and its posture is elegant. Its beauty can only be enjoyed at a distance, and cannot be winded arbitrarily around fingers.”

By writing “The flower can maintain uncontaminated in muddy water and looks not seductive in clear water”, Zhou praised the gracefulness and pureness of the lotus. This line can be an idiom describing people with ambitions maintaining their morality in the dark society. Our countless revolutionary predecessors keeping themselves upright in the dark old society and firmly fighting against evil are typical cases.

Then why is this routine named “Lotus Flower Appears Above the Water (Fu Rong Chu Shui)”? We can easily find out the answer from the movement and structure of the routine.

1. When doing this routine, by crossing step into packing step, the exerciser imitates the posture of lotus root twining in the water without being contaminated.

2. When doing this routine, the exerciser remains his body straight with his palms holding together and lifting up, imitating the straight posture of the lotus blooming and giving out fragrance in a gentle breeze.

3. Judging from the goal of body strengthening, because the packing step in this routine can dredge the three yin meridians and three yang meridians of foot, this movement can strengthen the stomach, the spleen, the liver, the gallbladder and the kidney.

4. When doing this routine, the exerciser's one upper arm folds beside his hip, while another upper arm retreats back to his chest. Also, he attaches his wrists together, bends his fingers, flips his nails, holds together and lifts up his palms. Because these movements can dredge the three yin meridians and three yang meridians of hand, the routine can strengthen the heart and the lung, smooth the intestine, eliminate clogs and recuperate the triple energizers.

In a word, when doing the routine of “Lotus Flower Appears Above the Water (Fu Rong Chu Shui)” in Daoyin Yangshenggong Shi Er Fa, combining the cultural connotation and the movements together can make exercisers enjoy the combination of human and natural rules and the unity of body and spirit, become relaxed, pleasant, healthy and longevous.

(By Zhang Guangde and Si Chaoquan)

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