Besides peaches, lotuses are perhaps one of the more culturally significant plants in China. It has a particular resonance within Buddhism, and they flower can take on multiple meanings as both a symbol and a metaphor. A lotus, for example, grows out of mud and muck — and that can be taken as a sign of rising purity.
One can ponder all of this significance, or one can just enjoy looking them. Lotuses are fascinating plants, the blooms are lovely, and the seed pods sometimes look downright alien and extraterrestrial when compared to simpler flowers.
In all of Changzhou, there is one park that is especially dedicated to this flower. It’s in the northern end of Zhonglou and near the border with Xinbei. It’s called He Yuan 荷园 — which translates as “Lotus Garden.” It certainly is an appropriate name, because lotus grows very thickly here.
The park is laid out in such a way to give visitors many different ways to view both white and red blossoms, as well as a few other plants. A large pond lays at the center, and there are many wooden walkways. Around the edges of the place, there are also twisting and secluded stone paths. These seem to be preferable on very hot days, because these walkways afford a lot of shade and benches to sit on. One of these walkways leads to a second story viewing deck that allows a visitor to get a more panoramic vista the water and greenery.
I spent about two hours, in the middle of a hot July day, trying to find the most perfect specimen to snap a picture of. Only, it didn’t take me long to learn that I wasn’t the only one doing that. He Yuan was filled with people with cameras doing exactly the same. Some were just people and their cell phones striking dynamic poses with selfie sticks. However, more serious photographers with expensive zoom lenses were also wandering around, trying to find the most perfect lotus blossom to take extreme closeups.
It was the first time, however, I also saw this park as crowded as it was. All other times, it seemed empty and largely ignored. But, then, I realized I had first found this place at the wrong time of year. When the lotus flowers are not blooming, there really isn’t much to see except barren stretches of still water. When winter comes, the only real suggestion as to the park’s purpose is a metallic sculpture of seed pods.