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What would you do for love? Read on below to get inspired as the most romantic season of the year descends upon us

As Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Where there is love, there is life”. Just take a look around, and you will realise love is all around us. In fact, as the quote opines, it is the very essence of life. As the season of love approaches, we bring to you some of the most romantic historical Asian love stories that are guaranteed to fill your hearts and make you swoon this Valentine’s Day. From tales of undying young love to valiant bravado, here are five of the greatest love stories ever told. 

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1. Song of Everlasting Regret

The poem was originally written during the Tang dynasty by the famous Chinese poet Bai Juyi and chronicles the love story of Emperor Xuan Zong and Lady Yang. The charming Lady Yang enters the imperial palace and beguiles the Emperor with her beauty. The two fall deeply in love and as the poem goes, they take a bath together in the Hua Qing Pool. A love affair soon ensues and the two avow to love each other forever. 

However, their love affair is soon interrupted by a rebellion waged by the Emperor's general who was disgruntled with the Emperor who had fallen so in love with Lady Yang that he had begun to neglect his state duties. The Emperor and Lady Yang hurriedly try to escape but were stopped by ministers who believed that Lady Yang’s brother was the one who had instigated the rebellion and insisted on killing Lady Yang to save the country. Cornered by his soldiers, the Emperor had no choice but to watch the love of his life take her last breath under the bleak moonlight.

The death of his one true love grieved him so much that he ultimately abdicated the crown and passed on his title as Emperor to his son. 

2. Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan

Often described as one of the seven wonders of the world, the stunning 17th-century white marble Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal, one of the most iconic landmarks in India, tells a tale of love. 

Shah Jahan met the love of his life when he was just 14 years old. While taking a walk by the lanes of Mena Bazaar, he passed by a beautiful girl who was selling silk items. The beauty of this girl was so captivating that he could not stop thinking about her and enquired after her. Soon, romance blossomed between the two.  

Even after marriage, their love for each other was so deep that the two were inseparable and would accompany each other to all events. The queen was also his political confidante and supported him in state affairs. The queen who he loved deeply was given the lovely title of ‘Mumtaz Mahal’, which means ‘the jewel of the palace’.

In 1631, Mumtaz passed away after falling very ill after having given birth to the couple’s 14th child. Six months after her death, the grieving emperor ordered for the construction to commence. Situated on the bank of the Yamuna River, the Taj Mahal reflects hues of light throughout the day, glowing pink at sunrise and pearly white in the moonlight, a lasting symbol of undying love.

 

3. The Butterfly Lovers

The Butterfly Lovers, the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet, is a legend that tells the tragic love story of Liang Shan Bo and Zhu Ying Tai.

In a time when women were not allowed to pursue an education, Zhu disguised herself as a man and travelled to Hangzhou to study at Songshan Academy. In the course of her study, she met Liang, a scholar from Kuaiji with whom she became good friends. The two studied together at the academy for the next three years and gradually, the latter developed feelings for Liang.

On the day of Zhu’s departure back to her village, she confessed her love for Liang. However, having no clue that Zhu was a woman, Liang did not realise she was professing her love for him. In her last attempt, she asked him to visit her and that she would introduce one of his sisters to him. Unfortunately, having been born into an impoverished family, he did not have the means to visit her and arrived late.

By then, it was too late as Zhu had been engaged to a high local official. A gut-wrenching parting, the two promised to be buried in the same tomb after death. If they could not be together in this life, at least they would be, in the next. 

Liang missed Zhu so much that he became ill and eventually passed away, leaving Zhu heartbroken. On the day of her marriage, Zhu went to Liang’s tomb to pay respects to him. Zhu prayed for the tomb to open up and miraculously, it did. Instantly, she leapt into it and the tomb closed after her. The lovers were finally united and were said to have turned into a pair of butterflies and flew away into the sunset. 

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4. Prince Dhola and Princess Maru

Having been married at a very young age as a form of alliance between the two regions, Prince Dhola of the kingdom of Narwar and Princess Maru of the kingdom of Pingul were meant to officially meet when they had entered adulthood. However, due to the passing of his father, Dhola had forgotten about his childhood marriage to Maru and had married a woman named Malwani.

Maru, who longed to meet her childhood husband, wrote many letters to him—all of which were intercepted by Malwani who was jealous of his earlier marriage and tried at all costs to hamper the two from ever meeting. 

Maru even sent a musician to Dhola in the hopes that his songs would remind him of her. The singer sang the Raag Malhar, a beautiful song of love that moved Dhola to tears and jolted his memory of Maru. Longing to see her again, Dhola visited Poongal and finally reunited with Maru. The lovers fell in love shortly after and decided to return to Dhola’s palace together.

In the midst of the journey, they were stopped by Umra Sumra, who wanted to court Maruvani and hence, plotted to kill Dhola. Having been warned by the singer’s wife of Umra’s scheme, Dhola quickly climbed onto a camel's back and escaped unscathed with his wife. The lovebirds eventually reached the palace safely and lived on happily ever after.

5. The Peacocks Fly to the Southeast

The Peacocks Fly To The Southeast was written by the Chinese poet Xie Lingyun and depicts a tragic love story that transpired during the Eastern Han Dynasty.

During the Han Dynasty, Liu Lan Zhi, a girl from a poor family married Jiao Zhong Qing, who came from an official family whose status was on the decline. Although the couple loved each other very much, the two's marriage was eventually broken by Jiao’s mother who could not accept Liu’s lowly background. Liu was forced by her mother-in-law to leave her husband and then forced to remarry by her older brother.

Liu who still loved Jiao, refused to marry another man. Anguished by the fact that they could not together, Liu drowned herself in a lake. After finding out about her death, Jiao who was devastated by her death, hanged himself on a tree in his yard to express his undying love to his wife, in hopes that they would be able to together in the afterlife.

The Peacocks Fly to the Southeast has become one of the most famous love stories in China, and now propagates for free love and marriage in the country. 

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