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Studies of Green. Lotus

Writing articles is not an easy task, especially when it comes to describing one's own paintings and their creation history. One day, while dealing with the stress of renovating my apartment, I found myself yearning for the fresh air of a tropical forest. The smell of rain, earth, and moss was something I longed for. I decided to paint a tropical forest as a means of escape from my reality. As I delved deeper into my work, I stumbled upon the symbolism of lotuses, which I wasn't specifically searching for. They came to me by chance and added a deeper meaning to my painting.


The rose is a favorite flower for many people. Along with the lily in Western art and the lotus in the art of the East, they represent the primary floral triad, competing with each other for dominance. The lotus is most commonly seen in the mythology of China, Egypt, and India. Lately, I have been inspired by the aesthetics of China.


The lotus flower has been highly regarded in China since ancient times, even before the spread of Buddhism. For instance, Immortal He or He Xiangu is often depicted holding a white lotus flower. This goddess, who originated from Taoism, serves as the patroness of the hearth, the forebear of female alchemists, and the bearer of a lotus which can enhance one's physical and mental well-being. She is the only female member of the "eight immortals" pantheon. Although there are two legends surrounding her ascension to the pantheon, they will not be discussed here.


There is a another legend about Xi Shi, one of the four first beauties of China. According to an unverifiable source, Xi Shi collected lotus flowers at Lake Xihu in Hangzhou. As a result, the lake became known as the embodiment of Xi Shi's beauty. In some sources, she is said to have been crowned as the goddess of the lotus flower, while in others, she is compared to a peony. However, I couldn't find much information about this legend, and my research mostly led me to plump teapots named after Xi Shi. Therefore, I suggest taking this legend with a grain of salt, as Chinese sources are not accessible to me.

Xi Shi played a significant role in ancient China's political structure. After receiving special training, she was sent to spy under the guise of a concubine in the enemy kingdom of Wu Fu Chai. She spent ten years away from her true love, weakening the power of the Wu kingdom from within. This led to her native kingdom of Yue regaining power over its territories. As her mission neared its end, she hoped to reunite with her lover, but different legends tell different stories about her fate. In one version, she decides to die because of her separation from her lover. In another version, she and her lover leave the palace world and live happily away from secular intrigues.


The Chinese poet Zhou Dunyi composed the poem "Ode to the Lotus" in the early 11th century. This poem became a philosophical inspiration for many. The poet observed that the lotus flower grows out of muddy water but remains pure and immaculate. Similarly, people living in a corrupt environment should endeavor to rise above it and maintain their purity.


In Buddhist mythology, which entered China in the 1st century BC. the creation of the world is a series of endlessly opening lotuses.

I also have heard a legend which talks about a "Lake of Lotuses" that exists in the sky. Each lotus in the lake is believed to represent a person's soul. It is said that the lotus either blooms or withers depending on the actions performed by the person.


In Western mythology, there is a beautiful and rare mention of the lotus in Homer's "Odyssey". In the story, the flower was used to create an entire settlement. The inhabitants of this settlement were called Lotophagi, or lotus eaters, and the lotus helped them forget their sorrows.

The sacred lotus tree is mentioned in the Muslim tradition too. It's called the lotus of the extreme limit, and it stands in the seventh heaven. According to the tradition, the knowledge of creation ends here, and everything that descends from Allah meets everything that ascends from the earth at this limit.


It is interesting to note that the concept of seven (sometimes three) heavens originated from the religious beliefs of Sumer. In ancient Mesopotamia, people believed that the earth was surrounded by three (or seven) domes of heaven, and the highest sky was personified by the god of the sky and the god of all gods. As the highest determinant, the god of heaven was considered an emanation, and no iconographic image of this deity has been discovered so far.


This is where I start to overthink, going deeper and creating conspiracy theories about flowers...



Interesting Chinese metaphors that I came across while writing this article:


卧薪尝胆 wo xin chang dan (literally: “sleep on brushwood and drink bile”) - endure hardships in the name of a goal, prepare for revenge


情人眼里出西施 qíngrén yǎn li chū xī shī - in the eyes of everyone who loves him, his beloved seems more beautiful than Xi Shi (the famous beauty of antiquity)


沉鱼落雁,闭月羞花 chényú luòyàn, bìyuè xiūhuā (literally: making a fish dive deep, and a flying goose sink to the ground) - speaks of the beauty of a girl


东施效顰 Dōng Shī xiào pín (literally: Dong Shi imitates the movement of his eyebrows) - The text speaks about the negative consequences of blindly copying others without understanding the context. According to legend, there was a girl named Dong Shi who attempted to imitate the famous beauty Xi Shi. However, while Xi Shi's frowning eyebrows added to her beauty, Dong Shi's attempt to emulate her resulted in a sad and unappealing appearance.


出水芙蓉 chu shui fu rong (literally: young lotus flowers that have just risen from the water) - a beautiful girl

Working name: Studies of Greens, Lotus

Material: oil on canvas

Size: 50*100cm

Inspo: unknown probably AI generated

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