Lotus: A model for the industry and a robe for the monks

By January 27, 2013Myanmar

Lotus is not only a picture-perfect but also a surprisingly fascinating plant.

First of all, it is known for its “Lotus effect”. The surface of the leaves does not allow water drops or other liquids to loose its round shape, but will leave the drop unchanged, so that it rolls off the surface. While the drop rolls of the surface, it takes all the dirt away as well. Therefore lotus is a symbol of purity in many Asian countries (despite the fact, that it grows in really dirty and often muddy water). The nanostructure of the surface causes this effect, which is shown in the video below. The lotus effect has become an inspiration to  the industry ever since Wilhelm Barthlott discovered the self-cleaning ability of the lotus surface in the 70s. 600 000 houses have been built with this surface worldwide, dirt on cloth with this surface just rolls off, glass surfaces are promoted as “self-cleaning” or “easy-to-clean”(e.g. the road charge system on the motorway in Germany) and awnings or sails which become dirty easily outside, would stay clean for a much longer time.

Secondly, at Inle Lake in Myanmar, people still wave clothes with lotus fibre. Some people say, these fibre were the  worlds most precious ones.They cut the stalk and role the tiny fibres on the table, forming a yarn which they will spin and wave later on. The scarfs made of lotus are similar to linen, but to form a scarf 6000 stalks of lotus are needed since the fibre is so thin. I read that waving lotus was “invited” 90 years ago, when a woman of the Inle villages wanted to give a robe to the abbot of the local church. While decorating buddha statues, she realized the fine fibres of the broken stalks. Since lotus has always been the plant of purity, it seemed to be the perfect material for the robe. Yet, it takes 120 000 lotus stalks to create a robe for a monk. To thank the woman for her wonderful present, the abbot changed her name from Daw Sar U (Mrs Sparrow-Egg) to Daw Kyar U (Mrs Lotus-Egg).

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