Importance of the Lotus Flower in Chinese Culture

The lotus’ importance comes from Buddhism, and is one of the eight precious things in Buddhism. The lotus is said to bloom in Beijing on lunar April 8 (the Buddha’s birthday) and lunar January 8 is Lotus Day. A cultural taboo related to the lotus is if a woman sews on lunar Lotus Day, she will have menstrual trouble.

The lotus (蓮花, lián huā, 荷花, hé huā) is known as the gentleman’s flower because it grows out from the mud, pure and unstained. The "he" in a man’s name indicates he is either a Buddhist or connected to Buddhism. The "he" in a woman’s name is a wish that she be pure and respected. 蓮 (lián) sounds similar to 聯 (lián, to bind, connect as in marriage); 戀(liàn) means to "love" while 廉 (lián) means "modesty"; 荷 ()sounds similar to 和 ( , also, one after another, uninterrupted).

In Buddhism, the Lotus Symbolizes:

  • One who comes out of mire but is not sullied
  • Inwardly empty, outwardly upright
  • Purity
  • Fruit, flower and the stalk of the lotus = past, present and future

Famous Pictures and Sayings Related to the Lotus

  • Lotus bloom with a leaf and bud means a complete union.
  • Magpie sitting on the stamens of a blown lotus and picking seeds: xiguo = may you have the joy (xi) of passing one exam (guo) after another (lian)
  • A boy with a carp (yu) beside a lotus (lian) means may you have abundance (yu) year in and year out (lian).
  • Two lotus blooms or a lotus and a blossom on one stem means wish for shared heart and harmony, because 荷 () means union.
  • A lotus (which represents a girl) and a fish (symbolizing a boy) means love.
  • Red lotus blossom symbolizes the female genitals, and courtesans were often called "red lotus."
  • Lotus stem symbolizes the male genitals
  • A blue lotus stem (qing) symbolizes cleanliness and modesty
  • Lotus symbolizes He Xian-gu.
  • The picture of a man on a boat surrounded by lotus blossoms is writer and philosopher Zhou Dun-yi (1017 to 1073) who liked the flower.