Any of several different plants whose flowers have been given symbolic meaning by many cultures. The lotus of the Greeks is Ziziphus lotus (family Rhamnaceae), a shrub native to southern Europe; wine made from its fruit was thought to produce contentment and forgetfulness. The Egyptian lotus is a white water lily (Nymphaea lotus). The sacred lotus of the Hindus is an aquatic plant (Nelumbo nucifera) with white or delicate pink flowers; the lotus of eastern North America is Nelumbo pentapetala, a similar plant with yellow blossoms. Lotus is also a genus of the pea family (see legume), containing about 100 species found in temperate regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America; the 20 or more species in North America are grazed by animals. The lotus is a common ornament in architecture, and since ancient times it has symbolized fertility, purity, sexuality, birth, and rebirth of the dead.
Learn more about lotus with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Chinese Buddhist millenarian movement that was often persecuted because of its association with rebellion. The movement had roots in 4th-century worship of the Buddha Amitabha, whose devotional cult inspired Mao Ziyuan to form the White Lotus Society, a pious vegetarian group of monks and laity. By the 14th century it had developed into a millenarian sect that combined Maitreyan and Manichaean beliefs and was active in rebellions at the end of the Yuan dynasty. The society became most prominent through its role in the White Lotus Rebellion (1786–1804), a large-scale uprising in central China that contributed to the fall of the Qing dynasty. It was eventually put down by peasants organized into local militia defense corps. Later Chinese governments came to use the term White Lotus for all illegal millenarian groups. Some observers saw the Nian Rebellion of 1852 as well as the secret society behind the Boxer Rebellion as new manifestations of the White Lotus Society.
Learn more about White Lotus with a free trial on Britannica.com.