Page 85

China

Y

ang Yuhuan – or Yang Guifei, as she was also known – was the best-loved concubine of Emperor Xuan Zhong, whose reign of 43 years between 713 and 756AD was the longest of China’s Tang dynasty. Yang was one of the ‘Four Beauties of ancient China’ and is famous for her love for the emperor. She is perhaps less known, however, for her love for the lychee, her favourite fruit. She adored it so much that the emperor had couriers ride night and day to bring her the sweet treat from Guangdong, some 1,900 kilometres away from her home in the capital. Today, however, lychee enthusiasts don’t need to go to such great lengths to obtain a punnet of their favourite fruit. Lychees are available in markets and supermarkets across the globe, from Tokyo to Toronto. The king of China’s exotic fruits remains as popular and adored as it was in Yang Yuhuan’s day – and it’s being consumed in greater quantities worldwide every year. China is, of course, the world’s biggest producer of the fruit, accounting for more than 60 per cent of the global output. Guangdong ranks first in the country, with more than 266,667 hectares of lychee orchards scattered throughout the province. Last year, 1.5 million tonnes were produced in the province and its exports were estimated to be worth more than US$10 billion – or MOP81 million – with 80 per cent going to the United States, Canada and Europe. Global production of the fruit has nearly doubled over the past 15 years – most of it in China. New and more sophisticated technology enables producers to store longer and ship over greater distances. The growers see many new markets to conquer – and that includes the producers in Guangdong, who are ambitious to say the least.

Lychees are delicious and juicy – and they are also low in calories and rich in fibre. A 100g serving of fresh lychees provides 86 per cent of the daily recommended vitamin C, hence their popularity worldwide. The fruit can be eaten fresh, dried or canned. And they are steeped in history.

Made in China The lychee tree is believed to have originated more than 2,000 years ago in the northern mountain forests of southern China. Then, rivers and migratory birds carried the fruit to areas of Guangdong and Fujian provinces on the banks of rivers or close to the sea, where growing conditions were ideal. Some villages in South China have trees that are more than 1,000 years old. China therefore became the first country to cultivate the fruit. In 111BC, during the Han dynasty, the royal record described a trial of planting lychee trees in the palace on the order of Emperor Hanwu – but it ended in failure as the plants couldn’t survive the northern climate. However, down south, cultivation took root – and the Chinese love affair with producing lychees has never dampened over 2,000 years. In 1059AD, for instance, imperial documents during the Song dynasty note 32 lychee cultivars in Fujian Province. In 1780, 43 cultivars are mentioned in Fujian, as well as Sichuan, Guangxi and, of course, Guangdong. In 1760 and 1860, two lychee varieties were introduced from the Mainland to northern Taiwan. Large-scale production for commercial purposes began at the end of the 1920s in the south of the island, where the land and climate was more suitable. The trees there are sheltered by the central mountains from the strong winds of the Pacific Ocean. 83

Profile for Macaulink

Macao Magazine September 2019  

We have found alarming figures on plastic waste over the course of putting together this issue: 160,000 plastic bags are used every second a...

Macao Magazine September 2019  

We have found alarming figures on plastic waste over the course of putting together this issue: 160,000 plastic bags are used every second a...