LI YANG Res­cu­ing the lo­tus flower in ‘Ce­ment City’

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

You would never know Guigang’s past dubbed “lo­tus city” from its looks to­day. Some lo­cals are just try­ing to re­con­struct an old Guigang that is still liv­ing in their mem­o­ries.

All main roads there are made with ce­ment. The road sur­face is in­vari­ably crushed by heavy trucks car­ry­ing ce­ment. The smoggy air is thick with pun­gent smells dis­charged from the ce­ment fac­to­ries.

Forty years ago, long be­fore the two big ce­ment com­pa­nies from Hong Kong and Tai­wan saw the Karst hills in the city, Guigang looked dif­fer­ent. Three rivers me­an­der through the city. Hun­dreds of small lakes dot­ted the plains in the val­leys. Dozens of species of lo­tus flow­ers flour­ished in the nat­u­ral wa­ters.

It was fa­mous for its jack fruit, lo­tus root, lon­gan, tippy tea, fish, rice, and as a place with milk and honey. Even the great famine in the early 1960s in China did not leave a scar in lo­cal people’s mem­ory thanks to its time-hon­ored agri­cul­tural tra­di­tion of in­ten­sive and metic­u­lous farm­ing in an ideal nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

The bor­der con­flict be­tween China and Viet­nam pro­cras­ti­nated the open­ing of the whole Guangxi un­til the late 1980s.

The late bird flies fast. The rich wa­ter re­sources, non-fer­rous metal mines, lime­stone hills, nat­u­ral woods and a govern­ment thirsty for growth have at­tracted flocks of busi­ness­men from neigh­bor­ing Guang­dong since the early 1990s.

Guigang earned new names as “ce­ment city” and “down city”. The fac­to­ries not only boost the econ­omy with their out­puts, but also re­shape the city’s looks with their waste.

“When asked where to find a lo­tus flower in Guigang sev­eral years ago in a pho­tog­ra­phy show in Guang­dong, I felt re­ally ashamed that lo­tus al­most die out in my home­town,” said Liu Duan, a lo­cal chain su­per­mar­ket owner and a pho­tog­ra­pher from Guigang.

Af­ter that, Liu started two breed­ing bases of lo­tus in the city to res­cue the dy­ing-out flow­ers in a bid to match the city with its old name. Each year he or­ga­nizes a lo­tus fes­ti­val in Guigang to raise the pub­lic’s aware­ness of the “holy flow­ers,” which sym­bol­ize lofty moral­ity and pure­ness.

Liu Duan thinks the spir­i­tual mean­ings rep­re­sented by the lo­tus bear spe­cial rel­e­vance to Guigang to­day. He hinted that both the govern­ment and the en­vi­ron­ment should be clean.

Hun­dreds of lo­tus in flow­er­pots and thou­sands of lo­tus seeds are gifted to the res­i­dents dur­ing the ac­tiv­ity. But few busi­ness­men would like to join him be­cause of the poor re­turn.

“I just want to main­tain the lo­tus’ roots in people’s minds. Af­ter most of the nat­u­ral lakes dis­ap­peared, the lo­tus had ac­tu­ally been up­rooted from the city,” said Liu.

He in­vited a young agri­cul­tural tech­ni­cian, Liu Peng, who is from a fam­ily tak­ing care of the plant for gen­er­a­tions in An­hui prov­ince, to help him. They col­lected seeds from around the world and se­lect the fittest for the lo­cal cli­mate and wa­ter.

But the ex­pen­sive lo­tus is not pop­u­lar among lo­cal con­sumers.

“I know

it is hard job.

It is his sin­cer­ity that touched me and set­tled my mind to come all the way to Guangxi to help him rebuild the ‘lo­tus city’ of Guigang,” said Liu Peng.

“I would never for­get one day two years ago when we went to res­cue the wild lo­tus in a lake that was be­ing dried up by the real-es­tate de­vel­op­ers. Each seed we dug from the mud is a trea­sure,” re­called Liu Peng.

The city govern­ment sup­ports Liu Duan’s project and of­fers him a show­case foun­tain pond in front of the govern­ment build­ing to plant lo­tus. Con­tact the writer at liyang@ chi­


Liu Duan (right) chats with his col­league at his lo­tus farm in Guigang.

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