It was about 3 years ago; a story I was told not to tell anyone. I am breaking my promise here.
As a millennial tech company entrepreneur, I had been under a huge amount of pressure for a while, at work and at my newly-established home. I tried to explore and study new technologies to keep myself updated with the world that running machines, but the new ones just kept coming. I struggled to balance my life and to stay healthy, but was sleep deprived every day.
I felt like I was drowning.
Drowning in all of my stress, in all of the tech gadgets.
Drowning into a deep deep swirl of dreams, beautiful and strange dreams.
It was dark, with sparkles of lights, winking from a distance.
I tried to reach to them, really hard, with my arms almost separating from my shoulder.
Suddenly, I felt a splash of water on my face. It was cold. I opened my eyes, finding one of my arms in the water. “Where am I?”, I asked myself one second before I figured it out, or not really. I was on a wooden boat with a pair of paddles, surrounded by water. I was on a company kayaking trip before I fell asleep. I remembered. “Where am I?” I shook off the water, stood up and asked myself again.
The water beneath me extended along, from the tip of the little boat I woke up from, into a flare of mist. It was quiet. I could hear the breezing wind and some strange faint sound of things dropping into the water. It was chilly. I had goosebumps. Everything seemed so dreamy but so real at the same time. Up ahead of me, there were some dots of light with several blurred large circular figures appearing and disappearing from the haze. “A lily pond?” I asked myself.
The haze never quite lifted as I flowed towards the space of unknown. I wondered if I just had just come across a lily pond like the one my grandpa had in his garden back in my hometown in China. It was not long until I found out it was a completely different “pond” - some very foreign and strange looking structures began to tower over me as I approached further. And for some reason, maybe because the cool air stood so calm and pleasantly refreshing, I was not afraid.
As I got closer, I could see clearer. The lily pads or, rather, “mega lotus leafs” were the size of a football stadium. I imagined myself looking at them from God’s perspective - their main bodies elegantly supported by free-formed stems, flowing above and under the water. The leave’s veins assemble a delicate pattern, like the string of a web; the leave’s tissue stretched thin and glowing with a bit of light from below. I could only make out a few of them with my limited visibility, but the ones I saw had a good array of size and position.
The waterway among the giant lotus leafs is very spacious. I let my eyes wandering around until a little light spot caught their attention and drew me closer, realizing later that it was the gate to the lotus complex. “I must be dreaming. And I might as well go for the adventure.” I thought to myself.
Then I carefully docked my boat on the side of the gate, and stepped into the floating platform.
The Shangri-La - “Ye Cheng”
It was instantly warmer as I stood in front of a tube that was attached to the bottom of the platform. There was no signage, no instruction, nothing indicating if it was artificially constructed or if it was naturally grown. The mystery was killing me.
I jumped in.
I quickly plunged into darkness, a narrow and warm tunnel spitting me out onto some soft ground. My eyes welcomed a flood of light and a scenic landscape with people walking and happily chatting together. I could see to the outside with the giant lotus leafs through these large transparent openings. There were so many questions in my head at this point, but the strangest thing was that everyone was dressed so old fashioned, it looked like it must have been hundreds of years ago.
Before I broke the ice to talk to them, people noticed me first. Of course, I was the man with the different style. They were greatly astonished to see me and greeted me with the warmest smiles. They spoke in traditional Chinese dialect as if they were truly from the era. Luckily I was able to understand most of it. They asked me where I came from and who I was, and I told them I was a tech company CEO, who grew up in China now working in America.
They understood nothing of my sentence. People gathered around me without any idea what technology was; they did not even know that America existed. “Oh gosh, have I just traveled through time?” I gasped.
From our conversation, I learned that these people are the descendants of the refugees from the Qing Dynasty. They came across this lotus world and began living in their own way along with the lotus eco-system for centuries, completely cut off from the world. They call their home “Ye Cheng” (Leaf City).
Their city is all naturally grown. The system runs based on the micro-cycle amongst the stem, the leaf, the seed cells, the nutrients in the water and the sunlight.
The lotus veins help structure all of the soft tissues together to form the leafs; the leafs hold up many individual seed pods for people to sleep. The stems are not only the circulation routes, but also people’s common ground for social interactions and dining. The citizens of “Ye Cheng” can transit between different locations through the nutrient pumping system that naturally exists in lotus stem itself, the wider knots of stems serving as the gathering spaces.
People do not have ownership of any space in the city, not even the individual pods, because they are living cells that can grow and die off. As the lotus absorbs energy from the sunlight and water, there are always new seeds forming. The outgrown seeds are squeezed out from the edge of the lotus leafs. The clear shells would quickly melt into the water, while the inner tissues keep dropping contacting part of the main stem. Over time, the tissue would grows back into the system. They are 100% self-sufficient!
The citizens of this “Ye City” live off from the nutrients absorbed from the water, delivering to them through the small tentacles attached on the wall - almost like smoking hookah these days.
“Sweet!” I tried a sip, while watching a seed pod dissolving itself into the water.
Please Don’t Tell
I had a thorough tour of “Ye Cheng” and was amazed by everything.
The life there was so simple - the only rule people needed to follow was to grow with the nature. I could not believe that the human society had a chance to survive without making generations of inventions. Instead of living with the nature, we decided to create so much excessive “technologies” to exploit the earth.
“Everyone should learn to live like you guys!” I said to the host. However, he made me promise not to tell anyone about their existence as we said goodbyes. After all, they were not totally carefree; they were afraid of sharing too.
I left the city on the boat I came from. I looked back as I paddled away from the gate. The giant lotus leafs disappeared with a breeze of wind.
It must have been a dream – a dream where I visited a Shangri-La lotus city. I will never tell.