For ancient Chinese thought, the icon of lotus is not only meaningful for Buddhists. It also takes an important role in Ruism. In the following, I translate and note Zhou Dun-yi’s essay On Loving the Lotus for my readers to appreciate the Ruist love of lotus.
水 陸 草 木 之 花，可 愛 者 甚 蕃。晉 陶 淵 明 獨 愛 菊，自 李 唐 來 世 人 甚 愛 牡 丹。予 獨 愛 蓮 之 出 淤 泥 而 不 染，濯 清 漣 而 不 妖。中 通 外 直，不 蔓 不 枝，香 遠 益 清，亭 亭 淨 植，可 遠 觀 而 不 可 褻 玩 焉。予 謂 菊，花 之 隱 逸 者 也；牡 丹， 花 之 富 貴 者 也；蓮， 花 之 君 子 者 也。噫，菊 之 愛，陶 後 鮮 有 聞。蓮 之 愛，同 予 者 何 人？牡 丹 之 愛，宜 乎 眾 矣。
On Loving the Lotus
Among the flowers of water, land, herb and wood, many are loveable. During the Jin, Tao Yuan-ming loved only the chrysanthemum. Since the Tang, people have greatly loved the peony. I love only the lotus, because it rises from the mud but is not stained. It is bathed by clear waves, but is not seductive. Inside, it is open; outside, it is straight. It neither sprawls nor branches. The farther away one is, the purer is its fragrance. Upright and elegant, it establishes itself cleanly. It can be beheld at a distance but cannot be toyed with. I say the chrysanthemum is the recluse among flowers, the peony is the wealthy among flowers, and the lotus is the noble person among flowers. Aye, the love for the chrysanthemum is seldom heard of after Tao. As for the love for the lotus, is there anyone like me? Ah, but love for the peony is popular among the people.
[su_note note_color=”#bfb8b8″]Note: Zhou Dun-yi (1017-1073, C.E) is the founding Ru of Song-Ming Neo-Ruism. Using the image of ‘lotus’, this essay depicts the personality of the ‘noble person’ (君子, junzi), an ideal for Ru moral self-cultivation, and puts it in comparison to another two ideal personalities: one for Daoists and the other for ordinary materialistic people. Some of the translation is adapted from Feng Xin-Ming. (Bin Song)[/su_note]