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Blooming Marvelous Jul. 18. 2007

Beijing's signature summer flower, the lotus, is now in full bloom. Here are some spots to see the beautiful flowers, and relax at one of the capital's many parks hosting lotus festivals.

Lotus Flower Pond

The biggest lotus exhibition is located in Lianhuachi (Lotus Flower Pond) Park, southern side of Beijing West Railway Station. Since last week, a record number of some 10,000 pots of water lilies of more than 300 varieties have been on display.

Lotus Flower Pond

In addition, more than 50,000 lotus flowers of all kinds are blossoming in the ponds of the park, which boosts water surface area of 150,000 square meters.

A dozen royal water platters in the ponds at the east part of the park is another highlight. Imported from tropical countries, the lily's big green leaves are the size of round tables. These lilies have become popular seats for visiting children.

Some of the oldest lotuses on display have been revived, including the ancient water lilies from Baoding, Hebei Province and pond lily from Pulandian, Liaoning Province, whose seeds were buried deep in the earth for hundreds of years before being found and cultured this year.

The most precious lotuses in the exhibition are two rare kinds of waterlilies. One, called Mrs Perry Slocum, is imported from the United States with dazzling green petals, and another is from Japan, with yellow blossoms that look like the flying skirts of dancing beauties. Both are being shown to the public for the first time.

Besides enjoying the lotus views, visitors can also get to know how to plant water lilies, guided by experts. Every weekend there are performances including classic music played on pipa and guzheng (both are Chinese plucked instruments). Special lotus ikebana shows are also held.

Location: Lianhuachi (Lotus Flower Pond) Park, northeast of Liuliqiao, West 3rd Ring Road, Fengtai District.

Ticket: 6 yuan.

Tel: 010-63972892

Old Summer Palace

If taking a boat and plucking water chestnuts among the lotuses sounds appealing, the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan, pictured above and right) is a must-do for summer. A lotus festival has been in full swing since June 28, celebrating the blooms on Beijing's most spacious lake. The festival will run until mid-October.

Tourists can also enjoy delicious food, all made with lotus, including lotus root juice (5 yuan a cup), lotus congee (2 yuan a bowl), lotus seed soup (5 yuan a bowl) and lotus tea (30 yuan a cup). A special lotus banquet is also provided, but booking one day in advance is required.

Location: Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace) Park, Haidian District.

Tel: 010-6262-8501

Ticket: 10 yuan.

Beihai Park

As a former imperial park, Beihai Park was well-known for the beautiful scenery of lilies 1,000 years ago. A lotus show is now on, which will run until August 10. A total of 3,000 potted lotus of different kinds are in full blossom. The most precious is a kind of soil-less cultured lotus planted in small bowls, with flowers only about a fist big.

Location: Beihai Park, l Wenjin Jie, Xicheng District.

Tel: 010-6403-3225.

Ticket: 10 yuan.

(China Daily July 18, 2007)

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