An interview with Ms. Lin Ying, Managing Director of Hong Kong Royal Padma Group Co., Ltd
When the concept of “health” floods people’s lives with innumerable new terms of healthy foods, healthy travel, healthy wearables and more, people sometimes get lost and forget what a truly healthy life should be about. Ms. Lin Ying is seeking the answer.
Ms. Lin was once a journalist in the mainstream media in the east China port city of Xiamen, before later moving to the business world of Hong Kong, gaining rich experience in international trade and logistics. But her career path totally changed when in 2013 she met for the first time with the precious blue lotus (Padma) and was amazed by its pure beauty and health enhancement value. Later, she found an ancient vast rice terrace system covering an entire mountainside in Chishui city of Guizhou Province. She decided to start her blue lotus project there. Through this bold experiment, Lin Ying brings to people a wide range of healthy options centered on the precious blue lotus. Moreover, she creates many job opportunities for the local people and gives new life to the ancient terraces, which would otherwise have been deserted. SpaChina interviewed Ms. Lin Ying, to hear more about the blue lotus story and her understanding about healthy life.
What are the reasons that motivated you to start blue lotus (Padma) cultivation and the relevant health product development? Is this your first project in the wellness industry?
The story began in the fall of 2013 when I traveled in Taiwan with several friends. Having visited the Taipei Palace Museum, Shilin Official Residence and Yang Ming Shan, we were no longer interested in the busy city center or the night market. We decided to drive to Chao Hsi Hot Spring in Taichung where we saw an advanced pig breeding farm, and a most traditional dairy farm. Finally, our guide, who is a close friend, said: “Now I will take you to the Lotus Villa to enjoy the lotus delicacy.” The blue lotus paddy field was owned by Mr. Chen and it has been henceforth deeply engraved in my heart.
It was a warm fall day. The sunshine poured down on the fields by the Pacific coast. Mr. Chen picked some full blooming yellow and blue lotus for us. We then sat down around a stone table under a tree and made a pot of fragrant lotus tea. The lotus spread across the water with brilliant colors. After enjoying several cups, Mr. Chen, with a big smile, asked me to stretch out my hands. He took the lotus out of the teapot and pinched the flower’s stem. Suddenly, the pure natural collagen of the flower flowed down the back of my hand. “Wipe it on your face and neck!” he urged excitedly. This was my first time of having a collagen facial out in the open.
With my skin fully nourished, I then enjoyed a lotus pot meal (one pot for one person) at the Lotus Villa. After the meal, Chen again offered us a pot of fresh tea. The blue flowers were unfolding in the boiling water. Meanwhile his mother served up a plate of egg rolls and we could still see the petals in them. Afterwards, to my even greater surprise, there was lotus ice cream in pure yellow and blue colors made from fresh lotus without any addition of artificial flavors or sweetener. Chen’s mother told us that they made only 200 lotus ice cream portions every day and it always fell short of demand because all the neighbors loved it.
When we again passed the lotus pond on that sunny afternoon at our departure, I discovered that the huge lotus leaves’ were curling upward a little bit. Chen explained to me the reason. Every fall, when the wild ducks and migratory birds begin their southward migration, they stay on the warm lotus leaves during the night and the leaves curl up to warm them. The next morning, the birds swim or fly away but some of them might come back again in the evening. They choose a new leaf every time. Some of them enjoy the place so much that they even forgot to journey to the south.
Chen said to us, pointing at the three-story villa where we had the lotus dish: “More and more visitors come here and are reluctant to leave. So we have had to move to our old houses a little far away and ride here every day by motorcycle.”
In the past, Chen was a teacher in a school and his dad was a clothes maker. But afterwards, they fully devoted themselves to the paddy fields handed down from previous generations and started their happy and poetic life.
After this first encounter, I returned several more times. A thought always lingered in my mind: What is a true healthy product? What is a true healthy experience? Starting to eat so-called healthy food at the age of 70 or 80 years old? Everyone should be responsible for their own life and we need to find the answers ourselves.
Why did you choose blue lotus and Bao Yuan Terraces? Does this ancient terrace have any significant meaning to you?
As this idea of healthy lifestyle emerged in my heart, I began my study of blue lotus. Blue Lotus, also known as Padma, is a multispecies hydroponic plant of nymphaeaceae. According to ancient Chinese medical books, blue lotus works at the heart meridian channel and the liver meridian channel of the human body. It helps to improve sleep quality, calm the nerves, protect the heart and liver, expel toxins and nourish the skin.
As a plant that can be eaten, drunk and applied to the skin directly, blue lotus has a strict requirement in terms of the planting environment. Although China boasts vast areas of agricultural land but, after several decades of industrial development, it is not easy to find purely clean land. On another trip, I happen to visit Chishui district of Guizhou Province. There was no industry along the clear Chishui River, which feeds the Bao Yuan Terraces located 400 meters above sea level. The terraces affected me deeply with their unique river valley land formation. It was during the Spring Festival, the mid-winter, but before my eyes, I only saw green mountains and fresh water, as well as warm sunshine. The vast terraces seemed to have been waiting for the blue lotus since they had been built at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty nearly 2,000 years ago.
For various reasons, these terraces couldn’t support the local people’s livelihood any longer, so most of the young adults of the area went out to work elsewhere with only the elderly and the children and the handicapped left there. Consequently, it became a poverty-stricken village. Faced with the nearly-deserted fields, I decided to do something so that the blue lotus which I had met at Mr. Chen’s home could bloom in Bao Yuan Terraces which not only boast a long history, but also feature an ideal cultivation environment. Equally important, the terraces are really in need of help.
What types of health products have you developed based on blue lotus? Who are your target customers? Compared to other health products of the same type in the market, what are the unique points of blue lotus products?
When the blue lotus was seeded in Bao Yuan Terraces, experts from the Agricultural Products Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture came to see them. Pleased with the large-scale plantation of such a rare species, they also carried out sample inspection on the blue lotus, planting soil and irrigation waters. The results showed that there was no heavy metal in the soil; the water source reached the second level of quality; and the active elements of blue lotus was rich in plant collagen, anthocyanin, quercetin, alkaloid and flavone, all of which are precisely what is needed by the human body. Working together with scientific research teams, enterprises, and industry experts, we have developed the following ranges of products based on blue lotus.
Healthy food: blue lotus tea, blue lotus food (flower pie, flower egg roll, flower candy, flower ice cream and flower hot pot). Wellness products: blue lotus pure hydrolat, blue lotus medical cold compress, blue lotus anti-blue light cold compress, blue lotus eye cream, blue lotus repair serum, blue lotus sun cream…Leisure products: blue lotus wardrobe sachet, blue lotus car pendant, blue lotus fresh cut flowers.
These products are unique for their abundant natural and active elements which benefit health greatly, and are very different from products with additives sold in the market. We honor natural wellness and have our loyal customers who have need of quality wellness products and experiences.
For example, when we developed the blue lotus medical cold compress, we used blue lotus pure hydrolat to replace ionized water. The anthocyanin contained in blue lotus can effectively ease pain, diminish inflammation, remove scars and acne, as well as play amazing functions in terms of skin injury repair, sunburn repair, and health maintenance after hormone injections.
What are your sales channels? How is the feedback from the market?
We are continually developing, producing and launching products into the market. We mainly sell our products through intracompany platforms, client networks and partner platforms. We are still at the beginning phase and are updating our product portfolio. Nevertheless, I have confidence that blue lotus products will be recognized by the market.
Have you joined hands with spas to enhance the beauty and wellness experience of customers with your products?
I believe that blue lotus products will renew people’s spa experience. For example, blue lotus tea and food offer new options for spa-goers. Blue lotus bathing is another great choice and the plant collagen can be further applied to nourish the body after bathing. For facials, we have Blue Lotus Pure Hydrolat which can be used through cold/hot compress, sprinkling or steaming. After the massage, therapists can wipe the Blue Lotus Serum on guests’ skin for repair and nourishment. We are now seeking opportunities to cooperate with spas.
How do you develop the leisure sightseeing/wellness tourism programs centering on blue lotus terrace and other local resources?
The Bao Yuan Terraces are now magnificently clothed in a sea of blooming blue lotus, which attracts increasing numbers of visitors who come to enjoy the sights and the lotus tea. In addition to blue lotus cultivation and product development, we also focus on resort construction around the terraces. The major part is a group of low-rise villas of low density and high privacy which are perfectly blended into the green mountains and clear waters. The aim is to meet the wellness requirements of modern visitors who seek relaxation, stress relief and healthy travel.
What developmental phase has the wellness sightseeing program reached?
We have applied to the relevant departments and have gained approval to launch the program. Currently, we are working on the overall construction plan. There are already industry people, visitors, and enterprises who show great interest in the program. They have also concretely told us their expectations and requirements.
What wellness products and experience do modern customers want?
I would list three examples.
- I once met an overseas returnee architect, born in the 1980s who said: “My ideal life is like this. I will buy a big area of land in a bamboo forest and build a cottage which faces broad rice terraces and a sea of flowers. Every morning, I get up to enjoy the dew and pick the flowers for my salad. Every evening, I rest under a curtain of stars and fall asleep in the frogs’ croak.”
- I have a friend from Hong Kong, born in the 1970s, whose job is an English Translator. She came to the terraces twice and then gave up the idea of buying a house in Hong Kong. On the contrary, she would like to live here in the blue lotus villas with her husband and daughter once construction is completed. She said: “How carefree I am when I stay here! Why should I go back to Hong Kong to be tormented by the tiring life? In the future, I will come here to pick plant collagen myself and say goodbye to the industrialized city.” She also loves our blue lotus medical cold compress very much.
- In the summer of 2018, a group of travelers came here from Chongqing. They said that originally they had planned to buy holiday houses along the Chishui River, but now they gave up the idea and were waiting for the blue lotus villas construction work to be completed. They said they would each buy one villa and spent their sunset years here. That is also my wish…
The blue lotus project is also known as an anti-poverty project. What support and help have you offered to the local people?
When the blue lotus were seeded in the Bao Yuan Terraces, it offered many job opportunities to the local villagers and gave them the wish to work here instead of going away to the big cities. Moreover, it is a good experience to cultivate the land handed down from their own forefathers. The lowest salary working on the terraces is 3,500 yuan a month, while the poverty line set by the government is also 3,500 yuan a year. It means that as long as you have the will to work here, you can surely say goodbye to poverty. There are some women who stay in the village because of their children’s education. Maybe they don’t have experience or strength to do farm work, but they can pick flowers, do cleaning, or help with the good processing.
From your perspective, what are the most valuable things that your project has brought to the local region, the local people and the extensive customers respectively?
The blue lotus project is a new industry mode since we combine three industries together. First of all, we have brought new life to the deserted terraces, a cultural heritage from the end of Eastern Han Dynasty, by planting blue lotus here. We don’t apply fertilizer or chemicals, and keep absolutely an natural plantation which helps to restore the dynamic of the land. Secondly, we do local processing and send the raw materials to certified enterprises for production. Thirdly, we construct wellness resorts. The village enjoys convenient transportation. There are four airports within a 40 mins to 2-hour drive. And the highway network has reached every county now. Overall, the project brings new industries, more consumption and wellness development. All these are big advantages.