I’m inspired by nature and Taipei Botanical Gardens has the richest selection of plants and trees in Taipei. These gardens have inspired me more than most, and played a part in the setting in many of my stories, particularly in the development of the sentient Ancient Forest of Prometheus.
Bo Ai Road Entrance to Taipei Botanical Gardens
This article is mostly about influences of plants in the gardens on the natural settings in my stories. If you’re looking for practical information, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Big green leaves
For years, I used to practice tai chi in the Taipei Botanical Gardens—after the city, the gardens are rich with oxygen, the fresher air is very noticeable when you enter—I almost became a part of the gardens, and without knowing the names of all the plants, I absorbed the nature around me. A lot of the Ancient Forest of Young Aina and Blue Prometheus comes from here—adapted with a little magic, of course.
I’ve not written a story with any intelligent hibiscus yet, but I imagine an in-your-face floral species
Did you know that plants respond to your words? Here’s a short extract from the beginning of The Huntress of Prometheus, a short story set a few years before the events of my first novel took place. Aina is alone in the forest:
A red flower shone as I walked towards the edge of the ancient forest. This was a place where the flowers still responded to magic and brightened to any who appreciated their beauty, and where a word could pacify the vicious, snapping vines that had once terrified me so much.
She was a part of the Ancient Forest of Prometheus.
Perhaps part of an intelligent floral colony on an outer planet—or—it could be the inflorescence of banana with the flowers blooming at the end and bananas growing from the top.
Plants have been used in writing of all kinds for centuries. I found an interesting section called Plants in Literature, which gives examples of plants used in Chinese literature—mainly poetry. Here you can see betel nut plants, coconut plants, lotuses, and others. They often used plants as metaphors, not as sentient creatures, as I like to do.
Looking at the greenness of the forest areas of the Taipei Botanical Gardens helped me imagine scenes like this, from Blue Prometheus:
Lights appeared around them. Plants glowed, some dimly, some brightly, in shades of pink, blue, green, red, and white. In the distance, there were dimmer violet lights. Bright red and orange insects flew between the exotic flowers, some of which grew from the surface of creamy green rocks.
Seeing the forest come alive around him reminded Thomas why he’d chosen to study geology and the environment at university. He loved being outside and close to nature. Despite later feeling slightly jaded about his studies, he’d always felt compelled to protect the natural world. “It’s beautiful, but why didn’t it glow before?”
“We weren’t far enough in, and it didn’t trust us,” Aina said.
He couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows at her. The idea that plants had feelings was absurd. “How can plants trust us?”
If you’re in Taipei and feel like taking a break from the heat of the city, the botanical gardens are worth a visit. They’re open from 5.30AM until 10PM every day. The nearest MRT station is Xiaonanmen.
Here’s a link to the Taipei Botanical Gardens website.
The National Museum of History is on the Nan Hai Road side of the botanical gardens.