11 April 2009

Flower: Xi'an Easter, Lotus from Stellenbosch, South Africa

Easter from South Africa.

All Rights Reserved from this photographer.

From the photographer:

In the middle of the seventeenth century Catholic Europe was a-buzz. In far-away Xi'an, the famous Chinese capital once of the Tang dynasty - known by many today for its terra-cotta burial soldiers - a black marble monument had been discovered around 1625. Dating from 781 CE, it has a long inscription (about 1900 Chinese characters plus a kind of summary in Syriac, the semitic language of many Near-Eastern Christians) which gives an Imperial Edict of Toleration of 638 CE: Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and 'The Luminous Religion' of one Alopen are all to be tolerated.

The Lotus - Nelumbo nucifera, Sacred Lotus, Sacred Water Lilly, Blue Lotus - is, of course, associated with The Buddha; he is ofen depicted as sitting on a Lotus, and where he steps Lotus blossoms spring up. This signifies 'purity' - the Lotus flower arising up-and-away from usually muddy waters.

Thus it is an entirely different symbol than that of the Christian Cross of 'The Luminous Religion' which had been brought to China by the Nestorian Christian missionary Alopen via Syria and Persia. Christ, indeed, is so to speak a 'muddy' man in addition to being God.
Yet, in China a connection was made between the symbol of the Cross and that of the Lotus.

There are many funeral monuments of Chinese Nestorian Christians in which the Cross is seen to appear out of the open Lotus flower. (Incidentally, the Nestorian brand of Christianity - its Christology on the relationship of the human and divine 'aspects' of Jesus - is perhaps the easiest to accommodate with Buddhism.)

Thus a lotus at Easter might appear to be quite appropriate in a mutual understanding of Purity and Spring by both Christians and Buddhists.

This sacred lotus was photographed in the Botanical Garden of the University of Stellenbosch in very bright sunlight yielding sharp contour in macro.

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