By Megan Singleton
Every year the ponds at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens flood with fragrant blooms of towering lotus and delicate water lilies in the summer and every year we see a pilgrimage of Asian and Asian American friends at the park to enjoy the flowers so sacred in their cultures.
The lotus has many symbolic and cultural meanings in Asia, ranging from fertility to peace, spiritual enlightenment to purity. It’s no wonder that with the many meanings, we see so many folks come to appreciate this sacred plant. Hindu, Buddhist, and Egyptian cultures revere the lotus for it’s life cycle representative of rebirth. What does the lotus symbolize for you?
One such lotus at the park is called the Manchurian Lotus. This lotus is an ancient variety that was extinct until a Japanese scientist had a brilliant thought. Dr. Ichiro Oga traveled to a northern region of China after hearing reports of ancient lotus seeds being found in dried lake beds. The seeds he excavated were later carbon-dated to be between 1040 and 1288 years old! Later at John Hopkins University, he was able to germinate these seeds. The descendants of these seeds now bloom yearly in the display ponds behind the Visitor Center!
The Lotus & Water Lily Festival also provides opportunities for Asian & Asian American friends to enjoy the park more deeply. Running annually in July, the festival coincides with the peak bloom of the lotus flowers. Each year, local Asian American dancers are featured at the festival and frequently feature traditional Chinese tea ceremonies. Stay tuned for more information on the festival soon!
This month, and every month, we celebrate the work and passions of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi Americans across the country who have helped drive the innovation and cultural abundance we are surrounded with daily.