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Lychees, Rose Petals and a Drink Celebrating Chinese Emperor's Love

As you gently bring the chalice to your lips, vapors of lychee and rose race ahead to imbue your breath with heavenly feel. Take your first sip. Close your eyes and listen to the sweet little pops as taste buds crack open to hail the floral liquor.

Manu Remakant |

Updated:August 13, 2017, 2:05 PM IST
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Lychees, Rose Petals and a Drink Celebrating Chinese Emperor's Love
Image for representation purpose. (Image: Getty Images)
News18 Tippling PointSlip into a pool of aromatic water with this drink in hand. The water you dunk your body in is strewn with rose petals; the ruby liquid scintillates with a burn against the lambent lights from the walls.

Let the lights now dim.

As you gently bring the chalice to your lips, vapors of lychee and rose race ahead to imbue your breath with heavenly feel. Take your first sip. Close your eyes and listen to the sweet little pops as taste buds crack open to hail the floral liquor.

When the mind picks the tingle off the mouth, gently open your eyes. You may see Yuhuan, one of the four beauties of the world, with livery lips slightly parted, beckoning you to her side from the other end of the pool. A scatter of rose petals away.

Another sip and you might see the whole of medieval world has already risen behind her as a stage set. You are now in 16th century China.

Ly Shan — there is a legend behind this exotic drink you hold in your hand.

Emperor Xuanxong of the Ming dynasty was undeterred when he learned that Ying Yuhuan, the concubine, didn’t ‘belong’ to him, but to his son.

His heart had settled on the divine beauty.

The Emperor found his son a replacement and then elevated Yuhuan to the position of Yang Guifei, the highest position a concubine could aspire to become. One thing led to another.

Besotted by her beauty, and finding ways to appease her, the emperor began to promote Yuhuan’s relatives to important positions in an attempt to wash off her poor background, so that some day he could make Yuhuan, the empress

So much for love.

Ying Yuhuan on her part knew what brought her out of her modest background. So she spent a lot of time honing up what she had got. Legends tell us Yuhuan used to bathe in a pool filled with scented water and perfumes; flowers and fruits. That got her royal suitor madder, the emperor sent an army of 700 soldiers every morning to scour the countryside to pick lychee fruits and rose petals for her royal bathing.

But the bath did not last for long.

Enraged with the way some of Yuhuan’s relatives meddled with the affairs of the state, the powerful imperial guards fell out with the emperor. They insisted on him disposing the expensive toy he was playing with.

Swayed by the intense pressure, the poor emperor finally gave in and issued orders to a eunuch to take his love to a Buddhist shrine outside the city to see her off.

Yuhuan was strangled to death at the behest of her lover.

Emperor Xuanxong, now racked with guilt, rushed to the spot where his cherished love was lying motionless. But there was not even a grave. Instead of her body, all he could see were rose petals. The emperor sank into incurable melancholy and soon died brokenhearted.

The Chinese people in memory of the everlasting love and the unparalleled beauty of Yuhuan began to distil lychees and rose petals to make a supreme drink — Ly Shan.

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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