Macau Lotus Festival © ahchupsan.blogspot Macau Lotus Festival © ahchupsan.blogspot

The 16th Macau Lotus festival: a guide

The 16th Macao Lotus Festival showcases the city’s blossoming culture

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Writer

In the late 1990s, the lotus made news headlines when some ancient seeds, known to be almost 500 years old, germinated. The University of California Los Angeles research biologist Jane Shen-Miller and an international team of scientists collected 20 lotus seeds from a dried lake bed in north-eastern China. Four of these, dated from 200 to 500 years ago, sprouted – leaves, stalks, stems and all. One of nature’s aberrations? Not at all. An individual lotus plant is known to thrive for up to 1,000 years if ideal conditions for optimal growth are present. There are many reasons why lotuses live so long. The roots are embedded deep in the soil on the bottom of ponds and rivers, while the leaves and flowers grow above the water and can span up to 60 cm and 20 cm in diameter, respectively. What’s most amazing is the lotus’ ability to maintain its own temperature, and revive after stasis... But enough botany for now.

江南荷畔-荷花花藝展2© Macau Lotus Festival

The lotus has been part of Asian culture for millennia. In ancient China, writers lauded the aquatic perennial Nelumbo nucifera as a flower that ‘grows untainted from murky waters.’ Its longevity, ability to return to vigour after hard conditions, and the humble roots of the parent plant that produce bright blooms, are perfectly analogous with Chinese familial values. The lotus happens to be part of the tropical Asian diet as well, and it is wholly edible, from the seeds and rhizomes to the petals and leaves. The national flower of India and Vietnam is also depicted on Macao’s flag, its banknotes and coins. Even temples, streets, sports grounds and schools are named after it. If you have a green thumb, are a bona fide botanist, or just wondering when is the best time to come and visit, then the Macao Lotus Flower Festival is not to be missed.

Related: What’s trending on Macau's food scene for summer 2016

2© Macau Lotus Festival

Now in its 16th edition, the festival has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2000. During the week-long event, visit any major square, park or sightseeing spot and you will be treated to the breath-taking sights of thousands of potted lotuses. The main venue is Carmel Garden, where the lotus’ unique beauty is showcased in many different settings, in addition to flower-arranging and photography competitions, exhibitions, lotus floral art lectures and demonstrations, guided tours, children’s activities, lantern-making, fan-painting, even face-painting workshops. There is something for everyone in this Portuguese landmark.

taipa-houses© Macau Lotus Festival

As the lotus is native to China, how about admiring one of the most outstanding Chinese schools of landscaping – the Lingnan style – at Lou Lim Ieoc Garden on the peninsula? Evocative pagodas, portals and paths form a stunning backdrop to the flowers in full bloom, often as large as serving platters, covering the ponds from one end to another in a colourful spectacle that is without doubt the greenest event of the year in Macau.

Related: The best walks in Macau

lou-lim-loc-gardenLou Lim Loc Garden

Hungry for more? You can learn about lotus gastronomic culture and savour themed menus throughout the city during the festival. From floral tisanes and wonderful pastries filled with lotus seed paste, to lotus leaf-wrapped rice and a nice stir-fry with slices of rhizome, the Noble Flower definitely lives up to its name. www.macaotourism.gov.mo

Macau Lotus Festival

Carmel Garden, Macau

www.macaotourism.gov.mo