The man-made Lotus Lake is clearly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kaohsiung. It is located in the district of Zuoying between Turtle Mountain (‘Kueishan’) and Half-screen Mountain (‘Panpingshan’). It is an old and yet still sought-after attraction, having opened in 1951. Several water competitions for the 2009 World Games, such as canoe polo, water skiing, and Dragon Boat race were held here. Obviously, it is called “Lotus Lake” for the abundant lotus plants on the lake, but they are not the only reasons why you should visit the place.
Other than the scenic lake itself, check out Lotus Lake for its many enchanting pagodas and pavilions. The first to see are the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. The looming twin pavilions welcome you as you enter the lake, and keep in mind to enter the Dragon and then exit through the Tiger for good luck. Doing it the other way gives you the other kind of luck. Next in line is another twin pavilions, the Spring-Autumn Pavilion and the nearby Wuli Pavilion on the pier. Also nearby is the Qiming Temple. The Spring-Autumn Pavilion surrounds a Guanyin on top of a dragon statue that seems to be emerging out of the water. Curiously, there are always four or five turtles (real, live turtles) crowding the tail of the dragon that is submerged underwater. The turtles are often mistaken to be part of the statue. The gaping mouth of the dragon leads into the tunnel with inner walls that are painted with several images of Chinese deities. Also inside is a collection of religious books.
Nearby is a Chinese fortuneteller. Pay a cheap NT$10 to know your future from a machine that can answer all your questions about your future. Tourists, especially westerners, can’t resist trying this out.
Walking around the lake you will be led to the Beiji Xuantian Shang Di Pavilion, but you may not notice it at all since in front is a huge colorful statue of the Emperor of Dark Heaven, also known as Xuantian Shang Di in the local tongue. Folk people will tell you that the Emperor of Dark Heaven used to be a simple butcher. After butchering so many pigs in his lifetime, however, he repented of all the killings and did good things for the rest of his life to pay for his bloody past. For the many good deeds he was able to do, he was venerated as god when he died. As a god, he could control fire and other elements, and was capable of defeating earthly monsters using his sword.
Finally, see Lotus Lake for the magnificent Confucius Temple, which is a highlight of the tour to most visitors. This is one of the oldest and most eye-candy temples in Kaohsiung, if not the whole of Taiwan. It is both a religious and architectural wonder. This temple that is dedicated to the famous teacher and philosopher is full on Sundays as people gather on the temple ground to dance.
Lotus Lake is near the train station, which makes it your ideal first tourist stop when in Kaohsiung. Surrounding the lake compound are the Old City of Zuoying, Chai Mountain, and lush forests.