The Willow Pattern

A favorite design for blue china plates, imitating, but not copying, the Chinese style of porcelain decoration, introduced into England by Thomas Turner of Caughley about 1780, when the craze for things Chinese was at its height.

To the right is a mandarin's country seat, two stories high to show the rank and wealth of the possessor; in the foreground a pavilion, in the background an orange-tree, and to the right of the pavilion a peach-tree in full bearing. The estate is enclosed by a wooden fence, and a river crossed by a bridge, at one end of which is the famous willow-tree and at the other the gardener's humble cottage. At the top Of the pattern (left-hand side) is an island. The three figures on the bridge are the mandarin and the lovers, the latter also being shown in a boat on the river.

The willow pattern does not illustrate any Chinese story or legend, and is not Chinese in origin, but the following is the tale that has been built round it:

A wealthy mandarin had an only daughter named Li-chi, who fell in love with Chang, a young man living on the island shown, who had been her father's secretary. The father overheard them one day making vows of love under the orange-tree, and sternly forbade the unequal match; but the lovers contrived to elope, lay concealed for a while in the gardener's cottage, and thence escaped in a boat to the island. The enraged mandarin pursued them with a whip, and would have heaten them to death had not the gods rewarded their fidelity by changing them both into turtle-doves. And all this occurred "when the willow begins to shed its leaves."

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