Water Lilies and Lotus at Jogyesa Temple



Even the monks love photographing the flowers

Water Lilies and Lotus at Jogyesa Temple, Seoul

(There are a lot of photos, so please scroll through and enjoy)

We’ve always loved water lilies, no matter where we are—in a park or garden in the USA, at a lake in South Africa, in a park in France, at a temple in Korea or Japan. They are gorgeous, and incredibly photogenic, so over the years we’ve collected up hundreds of photos. So, I decided to do a couple of photo essays, and Korea seemed like a perfect place to start.

Water lilies, also called lotus by some, are an important religious symbol in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. They both symbolize resurrection, because many of the lilies close their flowers at night and reopen in the morning at first sunlight. Buddhists regard the water lily and lotus as a symbol of enlightenment because of the beautiful bloom that emerges from the mud/water. They also consider these blooms a symbol of purity, spontaneous generation and divine birth. No wonder then that we find them at Buddhist Temples in Korea, Thailand, and Japan.

Pink lotus
Lotus plants


Waterlily pond

However, there is some difference between a water lily and a lotus. The leaves of the lotus rise above the water (they are emergent) while the leaves of the water lily float on the surface. The same is true for their flowers; water lily flowers float, although some can be 6-8 inches above the water. Water lilies can also have variegated leaves, whereas lotus plants generally do not.



WyellowIn Buddhist beliefs, the color of the flowers is also important.  A white water lily/lotus refers to purity of mind and spirit. If a flower is red is refers to compassion and love.

A blue flower refers to common sense; it uses wisdom and logic to create enlightenment. The pink flower represents the history and historical legends of Buddha. A purple flower speaks of spiritual awakening and mysticism. And finally, a gold flower represents all achievement of all enlightenment, especially in the Buddha.




The flowers feature on the temple door panels too

The stage of growth of the flower is also important as a different stage of enlightenment. A closed flower represents the time before a Buddhist follower found Buddha or enlightenment. A fully open flower represents full enlightenment and self-awareness.

These aquatic plants grow in lakes, ponds and edges of streams.  So, temples organize some kind of water and large wet muddy pots for these gorgeous plants to grow and flourish.


The flowers also feature on paper fish

fish2These lovely blooms are all from a small area really, at Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, the biggest temple in the city, and all taken on one visit. It’s amazing how many beautiful flowers they have managed to grow in such a small space. We also noticed that the water lily/lotus is also often used as a motif on flags, lanterns etc.


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