Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 17 News List

A blooming great day out

Lotus farming has made Kuanyin township in Taoyuan County an ideal place to make a weekend visit

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

PHOTO: YU SEN-LUN, TAIPEI TIMES

Driving south of Chiang Kai-shek airport in Taoyuan County, one might think it's a plot of barren land except for a congregation of factories. But after turning west entering Kuanyin township (觀音鄉) and Xanadu seems to appear in front of you.

A total of 47 lotus farms are located at the town's three major roads. Every summer from June to September, 70 hectares of lotus and water lilies blossom. This is where the annual Taoyuan Lotus Festival (桃園蓮花季) takes place, which starts this weekend.

In terms of viewing lotuses, local people normally use the terms "South Paihe, North Huanyin" to describe the two major lotus tourism places in Taiwan. Paihe refers to Paihe township in Tainan county, a place having more than 30 years of history producing lotus seeds and roots as agriculture products.

Kuanyin township, which started growing lotuses eight years ago, has made its business more tourism-oriented. Five years ago, since the Taoyuan Lotus Festival began, the township has taken away quite a few tourists from Tainan, because of its closeness to Taipei city.

"Here we have up to 50 kinds of lotus and water lilies." said Yang San-kuei (楊三貴), an owner of Wu-tso Yang Family Farm (吳厝楊家莊), which is one of the most popular farms among the 47 lotus farms.

According to Yang, the origin of Kuanyin's lotus growing began with an environmental protest. Ten years ago Taku stream in the township was contaminated by industrial waste from nearby factories. After two years of struggle, factories started to obey waste processing rules and the stream was saved.

Villagers tried to grow lotuses around the stream, testing the water quality and they blossomed, literally. In a way, the lotus farms in Kuanyin represent the fruitful result of environmental protection.

The famous kinds of lotus at Kuanyin's farms include Perfume Water Lily, Giant Water Lily and White Lotus. When the plants blossom, from 5am to 2pm, one can only be impressed by the multi-colored (pink, yellow, blue and white) flowers, either lying by the beds of water lily leaves, or poking out of the water.

Sung Dynasty poet Chou Tun-yi (周敦頤) once wrote a well-known poem praising the beauty of lotuses, describing them as the noblest gentleman among all the flowers: "Coming from mud but never tainted by the mud; having no tendrilled vines, and no complicated branches and leaves; Standing gracefully because of its erect stems coming out from the water. But you can only view a lotus from afar, not casually play with it, because of the thorns on its stems," Chou wrote in his Love Lotus (愛蓮說).

"We also have lotus and water lilies that blossom during the night," Yang said.

At Wu-tso Yang Family Farm, there is a cafe facing a pond of night-water lillies, so that tourists can view the flowers during the early evening, while sipping coffee or a healthy herb tea.

Apart from lotus viewing, most of the farms in Kuanyin township offer other flower gardens for flower-viewing, flower-picking activities, and the sunflower garden, rose garden and organic vegetable warm house.

Picking a dozen freshly blossomed roses costs you only NT$100. And at the organic vegetable houses grow romanie lettuces, strawberries (available from December to May), aloe, rosemary, lemon balm, spearmint, sage and stevia.

Picking 1kg of the lettuce costs just NT$100. And if you want to take a stem of lotus flower back home, you can also request the gardener to cut one for you.

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