The Blue Willow Pattern Story
The Blue Willow Pattern Story in full. There are some shortened versions of the story, but though it takes a little longer to read, I’d like to tell you the complete story of the blue willow pattern scene, which has been the stock pattern for millions of plates produced in China and England for at least the last 200 years.
The name China has been given to many kinds of pottery and porcelain indicating their origin, and was commonly used in the past to refer to the best tea sets in the house, ornaments on the mantelpiece, crockery in the cupboard or of course to the country in South East Asia. The story depicted on the blue willow pattern plate is that of an old Chinese legend, and once you hear that story, you will never forget it.
The familiar old blue Willow pattern plate can still be seen today and has been one of the bestselling plates down through the last couple of centuries. The name for the plate is derived from the figure of the tree which occupies the centre of the plate, and which is intended to represent a willow in the spring, unfolding its blossoms before its leaves appear.
Who hasn’t stared at these mysterious figures on the willow pattern plate, and in childish curiosity, wondered what these three dimly outlined people were doing on that bridge. Where did they come from, and where on earth are they going to? And what about the boat man with only one oar on the white stream? Who lives in the houses in that charmed island? And what do those disproportionately large doves signify?
Whether the pattern of this classic scene is on a flat over the dish or hollowed out into a soup tureen, those three blue people are always rushing over that bridge, the boat man is sitting listlessly on the stream, and the doves are always watching over the scene in the sky.
So take a good look at the plate again and I’ll tell you the story of what is said to be the Chinese equivalent of Robinson Crusoe to the Western World. It is the story of the Willow Pattern Plate.
On the right-hand side of the plate you can see a Chinese house of unusual size and magnificence. The wealth of the owner is indicated by its being two storeys high – a rare thing in the past in China, and by the existence of buildings at the back, and by the large and rare trees which are growing on all sides of the main building. This house belonged to a mandarin of great power and influence, who had amassed considerable wealth in serving the Emperor. The work was actually performed by an active secretary, named Chang, while the business of the master consisted in receiving bribes from the merchants, at whose smuggling and illegal traffic he winked, in exact proportion as he was paid for it. Suddenly however the wife of the Mandarin died and he requested the Emperor to allow him to retire from his arduous duties. He was particularly urgent in this request because the merchants had began to talk loudly of the unfairness and dishonesty of the Chinese manager of the customs. The death of his wife was a fortunate excuse for the old Mandarin, and in accordance with his petition, an order signed by the vermillion pencil of his Imperial Majesty the Emperor was issued to a merchant who had paid a handsome bribe to his predecessor.
The story continues on the next page Read More –