Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Story of Willow Pattern China

I've never been a huge fan of fine china, and didn't even register for any when Adam and I got engaged. I just thought--I wont ever use it. But I think that I have found the set of china that my daughter will use. I've decided that I'm going to program her to love this pattern of china by raising her with it. She'll have little toy sets and I'll start building her collection with every birthday and Christmas so that she'll be all set one day. It's just perfect. It's called Willow Blue, or Willow China Pattern, and it makes sense. Willow lives in China, so she should have Willow Pattern. This is a picture of a tiny miniature tea set of Willow pattern china. I had a similar tiny tea set growing up, and I think Willow would enjoy this in several years.

Of course, Willow pattern comes in blue, red, and green. But I think that blue and white wins.

But that's not all, there's a brilliant story and history that goes along with these dishes. I don't believe that these are the most aesthetically pleasing dishes I've ever laid eyes on, but I love the romanticism of the story and the long history it totes along with it--so maybe this will further explain my recent obsession with Willow Blue china.

The Willow Legend:

There was once a Mandarin who had a beautiful daughter, Koong-se. He employed a secretary, Chang who, while he was attending to his master's accounts, fell in love with Koong-se, much to the anger of the Mandarin, who regarded the secretary as unworthy of his daughter.

The secretary was banished and a fence constructed around the gardens of the Mandarin's estate so that Chang could not see his daughter and Koong-se could only walk in the gardens and to the water's edge.

One day a shell fitted with sails containing a poem, and a bead which Koong-se had given to Chang, floated to the water's edge. Koong-se knew that her lover was not far away.

She was soon dismayed to learn that she had been betrothed to Ta-jin, a noble warrior Duke. She was full of despair when it was announced that her future husband, the noble Duke, was arriving, bearing a gift of jewels to celebrate his betrothal.

However, after the banquet, borrowing the robes of a servant, Chang passed through the guests unseen and came to Koong-se's room. They embraced and vowed to run away together. The Mandarin, the Duke, the guests, and all the servants had drunk so much wine that the couple almost got away without detection, but Koong-se's father saw her at the last minute and gave chase across the bridge.

The couple escaped and stayed with the maid that Koong-se's father had dismissed for conspiring with the lovers. Koong-se had given the casket of jewels to Chang and the Mandarin, who was also a magistrate, swore that he would use the jewels as a pretext to execute Chang when he caught him.

One night the Mandarin's spies reported that a man was hiding in a house by the river and the Mandarin's guards raided the house. But Chang had jumped into the ragging torrent and Koong-se thought that he had drowned.

Some days later the guards returned to search the house again. While Koong-se's maid talked to them, Chang came by boat to the window and took Koong-se away to safety.

They settled on a distant island, and over the years Chang became famous for his writings. This was to prove his undoing. The Mandarin heard about him and sent guards to destroy him. Chang was put to the sword and Koong-se set fire to the house while she was still inside.

Thus they both perished and the gods, touched by their love, immortalised them as two doves, eternally flying together in the sky.

There are several different versions of the legend that I've read, but this seems to be the most consistent. There's also speculation over WHO actually brought the pattern to England in the late 18th century. Whoever it was, it was definitely a china manufacturer who was hoping to make a profit off of the romanticism attached to the Far East. Whether he really found the pattern in China, or designed it himself, I am not fully convinced in either direction. The 'legend' however, is most likely a fabrication of the English china manufacturers, since it cannot be traced back to China. It's still an interesting story, and I can see why it became so popular in the 1700's. This pattern has always been in production since then, and although it's popularity has had ups and downs, it has lasted over two hundred years. There's lots of side-stories that go along with Willow china too, since it's so it's found in some factory's foundation, and shards have been found in secret underground tunnels, and etc., etc. Here's a link to a cute video about the story of Willow pattern.

Here's a pretty Willow pattern set manufactured by a company called Johnson Brothers, which I find to be even more comical and fitting, since my Willow is also a Johnson.

I love the pretty hat box that this set of twenty comes in.

There are also table linens available in Willow pattern, and apparently, this dress.

Maybe wall paper?
Maybe not this Christmas, because she needs a stroller more than china, but this is in her future. I promise.


1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your post! I had a blue willow tea set as a child and have recently inherited the family set. Looking forward to using it for special dinners.