When they gather lotus at Nantang in autumn The lotus blooms are higher than their heads; They stoop to pick lotus seeds, Seeds as translucent as water.
The Ode to Xizhou
Yuefu Folk Song of the Southern Dynasties
Nobody knows exactly when the lotus seeds started to be planted in Hunan and got well-known throughout the world.

Over 3000 years ago, Qu Yuan, a minister to the King from the southern Chu during the Warring States Period, wrote down numbers of descriptions about lotus seeds in his poems when he was in exile in the region between the Yuanjiang River and the Xiangjiang River.

And over 2000 years ago, there left the records of lotus seeds in Hunan in "Yue Jue Shu" (an important scripture about the history of the State of Wu and Yue in ancient China).

The lotus seeds grown in Hunan are named after "Xiang", the short form of the Province as "Xiang lotus seeds". The Xiang lotus seeds are honored as one of the major categories of lotus seeds in China. Boasting of irreplaceable and distinct characteristics, they thus had been offered to the royal court for long as precious tributes, hence the name "tribute lotus seeds" as well as the fame of "the Top First lotus seeds in China".
July is the good time to pick lotus seeds. The column of Hunan Geography takes a lotus seeds tour in Nanxian County of Yiyang.

Located at the broader area between Hunan and Hubei Province, Nanxian County is in the hinterland of the Dongting Lake area. The famous Nanmao Canal is a necessary access for people to drive through from Changsha to Nanxian County

Stretching from Maocao Street in the south to Nanzhou Town (a county town) in the north, Nanmao Canal, a hundred-mile-long artificial waterway used for irrigation, was dug by the people of Nanxian County in 1980s. It was later called "the Red Flag Canal" of Nanxian County. (Here "red flag" comes from the "Red Flag Canal Spirit" of the man-made heavenly river in Linzhou, referring to self-reliance, hard-working, united cooperation and selfless sacrifice.)
Along both sides of the canal, jade green metasequoias stand in rows., Parallel to the east side of the canal runs a highway. With the shaded giant metasequoias flanking it, a hundred-mile avenue is taken shape.

A driving tour with a green-filled sight and cool breeze renders pleasant relaxation, making people feel like rambling in a wonderland.

At the north end of the canal locates the county town of Nanxian County. It is a typical Hunan town, delicate, tidy and full of modern atmosphere. Numerous local specialties such as Nanzhou Daqu Wine, spicy salted duck, Chen Keming series noodles, etc. will absolutely satisfy your taste buds.
Deft boys and pretty girls
Reach an understanding while boating;
Their prows veer slowly,
But the winecups pass quickly;
Their oars are entangled,
As they cut through the duckweed,
And girls with slender waists
Turn to gaze behind them.
Now spring and summer meet,
Leaves are tender, flowers fresh;
With smiles they protect their silks,
Drawing in their skirts, afraid lest the boat upset.
Some delicious local food made from potherbs are just known by their vernacular names such as "Ou gen zi" and "ji lin gan" (lotus root), which can be enjoyed only in the lake area. Nanxian people favor cold dishes, or the appetizers like beef salad and goose's intestines, for it can easily whet people's appetite. A delicious cold dish cannot be made without a flavoring, the chili oil. Nanxian people are addicted to spicy food and good at making chili oil which are extremely yummy with moderately salty and spicy taste and irresistible sweet smell.

Early next morning, we were extremely surprised at the abundant traditional local breakfast made ready by a store in an alley of Nanxian County.

Each of us was served a bowl of rice noodles with cuttlefish and a share of pot-stewed dish in spiced sauce containing a big piece of pettitoes, a braised pigtail and two duck webs. The wine and tea are offered for free. The large-sized mineral water bottle on each table is filled with rice wine instead of water as we originally thought. The local made rice wine sends out strong and pleasant fragrance as the bottle top comes off.
It is a custom for the local people to have a drink in the morning. With the sweet and fragrant rice wine washing down the golden pot-stewed dishes in spiced sauce and the delicious rice noodles with cuttlefish, you cannot help being in the pot of a cozy relaxation.

It took us one hour to drive from Nanxian County to the Guangfu Lake, the destination of our tour. Guangfu Lake, situated on the outskirts of Huage Town, is the largest inland lake within Nanxian County. Sunlight splashes the surface of the lake covering 7800 mu and sparkles the ripples dancing along gentle breeze.

On the boundless lake stretch tier upon tier of lotus leaves. Thousands of fresh red lotus flowers dot the green jade leaves with supple twigs and tender leaves flickering in soft wind.

A Chinese poem describes that "the green lotus leaves stretch to the horizon, and the lotus looks extremely bright under the sunshine".

Going through the layers of lotus leaves in a small boat, we felt our breath and heart revitalized with the fresh flavor of the leaves. Lotus seedpods are within reach, containing plump lotus seeds that taste sweet. Among the lotus leaves, fishes frolic freely.

Various birds hover overhead, enjoying their lives in this West Dongting Lake nature reserve. They build their delicate nests above water and hide them among the tiers of lotus leaves. Within quite a few nests lie several eggs, waiting for hatching.

Weeping willows on the lakefront wave gently in the breeze, corresponding to the tender ripples on the surface of lake. Lovely birds sing and dance cheerfully in and around the willows.

A little straw shed stands on the bank, beside which several local people are repairing a wooden boat.

Firstly turn the wooden boat over and have it brushed with wood oils (tung-oil) on its bottom. Then tuck some twines into the gaps among boards. The final step is sealing up the gaps with the mixture of wood oils and lime.

It sounds simple. But once we actually have a try, it's another story.
With a harvest of fresh lotus seedpods picked by ourselves, we were laughing, cheering and singing all the way back home. The poem Lotus Gatherers by Emperor Yuan of the Liang Dynasty suddenly came into our minds.