Who Are The White Lotus?


  • The Order of the White Lotus was initially a small club formed to bring together people who enjoyed playing the board game Pai Sho.
  • Over time, the White Lotus grew in numbers and their focus shifted towards sharing knowledge and influencing the world in a positive direction.
  • The White Lotus played a significant role in assisting the Avatar, training them in leadership and harmony, but they were unable to prevent the Air Nomad genocide or locate the Avatar before he disappeared.

One of the best parts of Avatar: The Last Airbender is how nuanced and fleshed out its world is. The four nations feel like real places, with their own cultures and histories. The people within them are not monoliths, but have differing politics and points of view. The histories of these places and people are richly explored, and the amount of detail makes everything feel tangible.

There is a lot of lore in The Last Airbender that doesn’t get quite as much of a spotlight, but is nonetheless well developed. One of the most interesting of these, undoubtedly, is the Order of the White Lotus. As a secret shadow organization, it makes sense that the show doesn’t directly give out a ton of information about the group’s history. If one knows where to look for it, however, the lore is all there.

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The White Lotus Before Avatar: The Last Airbender

The Order of the White Lotus was formed long, long before the era of Avatar Aang and the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Originally, The White Lotus was a small, private club founded in the name of bringing together like-minded people who wanted to play Pai Sho. Pai Sho is a board game that Iroh is seen playing numerous times in Book One. In addition to playing the game with one another, White Lotus members would also use it to secretly indicate their affiliation to other members. They would place tiles on the board to create the shape of a lotus, with the lotus tile in the center.

As the White Lotus grew in numbers, it also grew in scope. Those who cared enough about Pai Sho to join the order tended to be intelligent and clever, and their focus shifted towards sharing knowledge and leading the world around them in the right direction. The members of the White Lotus did not want credit for their work or to appear as a controlling force to the people, however, so they maintained their secretive nature. They wanted to influence things from afar, only stepping in directly in times of great distress.

The White Lotus began to work with the Avatar in order to bring about peace and prosperity in the world. As with everything else, they did this discretely. A few members of the White Lotus would enter the Avatar’s life and become a mentor to them, teaching them the ways of leadership, harmony, and kindness. After a long period of success, the Order’s first real misstep came when they were unable to find Avatar Kyoshi, leaving her without guidance or training for her early life. They attempted to rectify this upon discovering the Avatar’s identity as an adult, with one of their own being tasked with becoming Kyoshi’s companion and guiding her on the right path.

The White Lotus were unable to prevent the Air Nomad genocide or find the Avatar before he want missing. While Aang slept in the iceberg, the White Lotus attempted to protect the remaining nations from Fire Nation conquest. White Lotus members infiltrated the Fire Nation military and attempted to sabotage the war effort from within. Unfortunately, they were neither able to stop the war or locate the Avatar.

The White Lotus During Avatar: The Last Airbender


When the Fire Nation began the final step of their conquest during Sozin’s Comet, the Order of the White Lotus made an unprecedented move and came out of hiding in order to fight back against the Fire Nation. They revealed themselves to Team Avatar, who discovered that many of their older mentors were members of the White Lotus. The Order had been assembled by Iroh, who was not only a member but was in charge of the entire organization, sitting atop it as the Grand Lotus. The Order of the White Lotus fought against the Fire Nation army, helping to end the Hundred Year War.

After the war was over, the Order of the White Lotus remained in the public eye. They became known collaborators with the Avatar and protectors of the world order. Aang began to rely on the White Lotus more and more, and as a result of both this need and the awareness of their existence, the organization grew in size. The White Lotus now employed a greater number of members than ever before. Many of these members began as low level sentries, allowing the White Lotus to assign members as security teams for important people or dangerous prisoners.

In between the ending of The Last Airbender and the beginning of Legend of Korra, tensions would grow within the Order of the White Lotus. Some members felt that the order had become subservient to the will of the Avatar rather than to their original villain. A breaking point was Aang founding Republic City. The already disgruntled members felt that this aligned the Avatar far too closely with the world governments, and by extension, the White Lotus. In spite of Iroh’s attempts to keep the order together, a faction eventually broke off from the White Lotus. Led by Xai Bau, this rogue organization was named the Red Lotus. With the goal of dismantling all world governments and ending the Avatar Cycle, the Red Lotus would prove to be one of the greatest threats to peace during the era of Avatar Korra.

Every Known Member of The White Lotus

The most iconic member of the White Lotus, Iroh became aware of the organization’s existence when he left the Fire Nation to embark on a spiritual journey. Feeling lost after the loss of his son and the failure of the Siege of Ba Sing Se, the mission statement of the White Lotus gave Iroh hope for a future filled with peace and change. Iroh rose the ranks of the White Lotus quickly, ascending to Grand Lotus in only a few years. In Book One, he offers hints of the Order’s existence. He defends taking time to play Pai Sho to Zuko, telling him it is more than just a game. In the episode “The Waterbending Scroll”, Iroh loses a Pai Sho tile and is very concerned with recovering it, much to Zuko’s annoyance. When Iroh eventually realizes that the tile was up his sleeve the whole time, he reveals that the tile in question is actually the lotus tile used to communicate with other members. Bumi, king of Omashu and one of Aang’s oldest friends, was another high ranking member and the most powerful Earthbender in the order.

Jeong Jeong is another member of the White Lotus. He was Aang’s first Firebending teacher and a deserter of the Fire Nation, as Zuko and Iroh would go on to do as well. Having abandoned his nation is an early sign of his true allegiance, as he understood that the Fire Nation had no interest in harmony. He played an important role during the final defense against the Fire Nation, joining Iroh in using their comet boosted Firebending to defend Ba Sing Se.

Jeong Jeong is alike many of the other named members of the White Lotus, as many of Team Avatar’s mentors were revealed to be part of the organization. These include Pakku, Katara’s sexist Waterbending teacher, and Piandao, Sokka’s swordfighting instructor. Piandao gave some of the clearest hints about the existence of the White Lotus. Despite being of the Fire Nation, he is not bothered by Sokka’s status as part of the Water Tribe and states his belief that knowledge transcends borders. He also gives Sokka a lotus tile as a parting gift.

The Order of the White Lotus is undoubtedly one of the most mysterious parts of the Avatar world. While usually not being the main focus, it speaks to the quality of the show that such an understated part can be so developed and act as such an important part of the world it’s in. Background elements like the White Lotus only show why The Last Airbender has remained so beloved after all this time.

NEXT: Legend of Korra: What Happened To Sokka and Suki?