The Blue Willow China Pattern
When I was a little girl, my Great Aunt Eva, who lived in London, gave me a little china tea set with a blue willow pattern. It was not a full sized set, but the kind of thing one could use to throw a tea party for one's dolls. It was a nice gift, and I used it a lot, and in time, through a lot of moves, I lost most of the pieces.
I never married, so no one ever threw me one of those bridal showers, and I didn't ever get a full set of dinner plates. But somehow that blue willow china pattern had made a big impression on me. When I moved to Missouri with my two year old daughter, the local grocery store ran a promotion. You could get a piece of blue willow china with every grocery purchase over a certain total. That's how I bought my current set of china, piece by piece. And that is the china I serve meals on every day to our small family of three. Over the years, I've chipped a few pieces, but surprisingly, Bow has never broken any of my china.
Making Up Stories about The Blue Willow Plates
When my daughter was very little, she and I used to make up stories about the figures that appear on the blue willow plate. We would especially focus on the three people who are going over the bridge. My daughter also liked to talk about the two birds flying high above the blue willow scenery. Our stories would vary from day to day. But did you know that there are traditional stories associated with the Blue Willow Pattern?
I will share a few of them with you.
The Blue Willow Story
Legend has it that there was once a wealthy mandarin whose daughter was more beautiful than the graceful willow tree itself. The young girl fell in love with a servant of her father's, a poor accountant of low and common birth. Her father became very angry. He fired his daughter's suitor and built a high fence around his house to keep the pair apart. Instead, he betrothed his daughter to a highborn gentleman, a Duke. The marriage was to be consummated on the day the last blossom fell from the willow tree. But the accountant arrived on the eve of the wedding and carried the bride away in the Duke's ship which was laden with the gold and jewels which the Duke had brought as bride price. The two escaped to a secluded island, where they lived for some time in great and untroubled happiness. But in time the Duke caught up with them and had them put to death. The gods, taking pity on the young lovers, turned them into a pair of doves who flew away.
Willow Pattern Plate
The Willow Pattern -- an operetta
China Lore as a Way To Promote Sales of the Willow Pattern
Some say that this story was invented two hundred years after the china pattern was imported to England, and that its sole purpose was to promote the sale of the willow tree pattern. In time, even an operetta was written to enact and dramatize this story. As a marketing campaign to enhance the value of a china pattern, it was an ingenious move.
A Very Old Snapshot: Friendship and Blue Willow China
Before I gave up Coke, I was already into Blue Willow
The History of the Blue Willow Pattern
So what is the real story behind the blue willow china pattern? Some say the that the blue willow pattern is the way the illegal Hung Society defied the Manchu rulers they considered to be alien invaders unjustly tyrannizing China. The plates were meant to remind members of the Hung society of their pledge to defend Chinese and Buddhist values.
The Manchu are supposed to have destroyed all the original blue willow pattern pottery and plates except those smuggled out of the country. The design made its way into England in the 18th century and was re-introduced into China from England in the 19th century.
Whatever the truth of these various legends may be, the Willow Pattern has made a big impression on my family, and it is on this very china that the only literate chimpanzee in the world takes his meals every day.
(c) 2010 Aya Katz
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