Lotus is a vital aquatic ornamental plant with different flower colors. To explore the flower coloration mechanism in lotus, the constituents and contents of pigments in two lotus cultivars with red and white flowers were analyzed. Although flavones and flavonols were detected in both cultivars, anthocyanins could only be detected in the red cultivar. A comparative proteomics analysis on the flower petals between these two cultivars was conducted. A total of 88 differentially expressed proteins were identified with 36 more abundant and 52 less abundant in the red than in the white cultivar. Among them, four enzymes involved in the anthocyanin pathway were identified, i.e. flavanone 3-hydroxylase, anthocyanidin synthase, anthocyanidin 3-O-glucosyltransferase and glutathione S-transferase. Analysis of the expression patterns of anthocyanin biosynthetic genes indicated that the anthocyanindin synthase (ANS) gene might be the critical gene determining anthocyanin biosynthesis and accumulation in lotus flower. Further analysis showed that different methylation intensities on the promoter sequence of the ANS gene might result in the different flower coloration in the red and white cultivar. This study provides new insights into the mechanism of flower coloration in lotus, and may be helpful in its breeding and germplasm enhancement.