Tue, Aug 21, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Taiwanese lily symbolic of Ghost Festival in Japan

By Lin Tsuei-yi and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter in TOKYO, with staff writer

Introduced to Japan nearly a hundred years ago, the Taiwanese lily — Lilium formosanum — has become a symbol of the Ghost Festival in Japan.

The first foreign botanist to discover the beauty of the Taiwanese lily was Reber Fortune, a Scottish botanist who came to Taiwan after the port in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) opened to foreign trade in 1860, said Lo Ming-yung (駱明永), who has been advocating for the restoration of the Lilium formosanum species for years and for it to be designated the national flower.

Fortune was also known as the man who smuggled 20,000 Chinese tea seedlings to Darjeeling, India, he said.

During the Japanese colonial era, the Taiwanese lily was considered a patio plant or cut flower and brought to Japan, Lo said.

Data published by Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies on invasive species in Japan show that the Taiwanese lily arrived in Japan in 1923 or 1924, he said.

Later, the Taiwanese lily was grown along Japan’s highways in large quantities, Lo said.

Taiwanese lilies are strong and love sunshine, making them good representations of the perseverance of Taiwanese, he added.

While he was traveling in Tokyo last month, Lo said he saw Taiwanese lilies in Rikugien, in Ueno Park, and in a private garden next to the Tokyo Tower, among other places.

Taiwanese lilies can be found not only across Japan, but also in South Africa and in Australia, he said.

Upon learning that Lo saw Taiwanese lilies at Ueno Park, calligrapher Chen Shih-hsien (陳世憲), who was in Japan to open a calligraphy exhibition, invited the daughter of the late Taiwanese independence advocate Huang Yung-chun (黃永純) to search for Taiwanese lilies in the park.

Huang’s children are strong like the Taiwanese lilies that spread to Japan 100 years ago, Chen said.

Huang, who graduated from National Taiwan University’s College of Law, was believed to have been blacklisted by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government because of his participation in Taiwanese independence movements in Japan in the 1960s.

According to local reports, he could not return to Taiwan and was almost deported from Japan, where he eventually changed his name and made a living by working at a laundry store and working as an interpreter.

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