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Vol. 3 Issue 9

The Blue Willow pattern has been in production by one company or another in England since 1780. It has been copied by many companies, some from other countries, since then. Some of them being from Germany, Japan, and the United States. Royal Worcester, Spode, Adams, Wedgwood, Davenport, Clews, Leeds, Burleigh, and Swansea are just some of the makers in England that soon followed in making the pattern. The pattern usually includes two birds, a bridge, a willow tree, three men, and a Chinese landscape. It was originally developed by Thomas Minton, who then, was an apprentice potter in England, for Thomas Turner of Caughley, Shropshire. He engraved and designed it presumbably after a Chinese legend. The modern "Willow" by Burleigh is a reproduction of Enoch Wood's plate. It is considered to be the best execution by the finest artists and has been in production since 1922. Blue Willow by Wedgwood, however, is the most popular English china pattern. There have been some changes from the original Chinese Willow that Thomas Minton copied. The original did not have an apple tree or the two doves. There was no bridge where two people are seen crossing. It is also not known if the stories that are connected originated in China or England. However, it is thought that it originated in England since the main components were not on the original plate. The Blue Willow pattern has been a stock pattern in most British manufacturers for nearly two centuries. Its popularity has come and gone and then returned once again to reclaim its popularity. It is usually found in the more popular cobalt blue, but can also be found in black, pink or mauve. THE LEGEND The legend of the Blue Willow pattern is based on a romantic Chinese legend. There are several versions of the legend, but they all have the basic storyline. It is of a rich Mandarin whose daughter is betrothed to a Duke, but has eloped with his secretary the night of her betrothal party to the Duke. They are discovered by her father on the bridge, but made their escape. Many years later, they were found, captured, and died in each other's arms. The gods touched their love at the moment they died, transforming them into lovebirds, forever kissing each other. There are many poems dedicated to the story. Here is one of them.....
My Willowware plate has a story, Pictorial, painted in blue From the land of tea and the tea plant And the little brown man with a queue. Whatever the food you serve, daughter Romance enters into the feast, If you only pay heed to the legend, On the old china plate from the East. Koong Shee was a mandarinís daughter And Chang was her lover, ah me, For surely her fatherís accountant Might never wed pretty Koong Shee. So Chang was expelled from the compound, The loverís alliance to break, And pretty Koong Shee was imprisoned In a little blue house by the lake. The Doughty old mandarin reasoned It was time that his daughter should wed, And the groom of his choosing should banish, That silly romance from her head. In symbols the dress she should wear, Her headband of scarlet lay waiting, She should ride in a gold wedding chair. He was busily plotting and planning, When a message was brought him one day, Young Chang had invaded the palace, And taken his sweetheart away. They were over the bridge when he saw them, They were passing the big willow tree, And a boat at the edge of the water, Stood waiting for Chang and Koong Shee. The furious mandarin followed, The groom with revenge in his eyes, But the little boat danced on the water And traveled away with the prize. But vengeance pursued to their shelter And burned the pagoda, they say From out of the flames rose the lovers A pair of doves winging away. They flew toward the western heaven The pretty Koong Shee and her Chang Or so says the famous old legend From the land of the Yangtze Kiang. I wouldnít be one to deny it, For the little blue dove and her mate Forever are flying together Across my Willow ware plate.
Author unknown

For more Willow Pattern Poems:   The Willow Pattern Poem   Short Willow Pattern Poems For versions of the Blue Willow Legend:   The Willow Legend   The Story of Blue Willow RESOURCES The Potteries.Org The Story of Blue Willow Suite 101 Kovel's Antiques & Collectibles Price List - 1991 Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide - Eighteenth Edition, 2000

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