Willow Pattern China

Many of us have Willow pattern pottery, but did you know that it tells a beautiful story? The first English version of Willow pattern china was made by Josiah S Spode around 1790. Blue was chosen to add to the Eastern influence. By the early 1900s the pattern was so popular that over 200 English potteries were making their own versions - and each was slightly different. Although blue is the most popular colour for this design, it was also created in many other colours, green, pink and brown being the most common.

The story is based on the Japanese tale of 'The Green Willow'...

There are a number of versions of this story, each states a different way of why and how two lovers were separated.

One version states that a rich father was angry at his daughter for wanting to marry a commoner (this seems to be the most common theme).

Another story claims that the gods were jealous of how deeply the two lovers loved each other.

The most enchanting story is the following:

'In a far flung area of China, the name of which has been lost to history, there was a small town, ruled by a selfish king. He raised prices and taxed people harshly, charging to poor people higher taxes than the rich.

The king had a daughter named Mai, she was beautiful and could have chosen any man that she wished - but she fell in love with the king's gardener. The king became aware of this and locked Mai up in a tower at the entrance to his garden to keep her from running away. Every night, the lovers would use two doves to carry messages between them.

The king was a greedy man and decided to sell Mai's hand in marriage to an ancient and ugly, but very rich man named


On the day of the wedding, the gardener, who Mai was in love with, dressed as a servant. He entered the tower unnoticed and collected Mai, they ran away together and married - intending to live happily ever after. The king searched for them for years, eventually finding them. The king punished them by having them both thrown into a huge labyrinth, where they eventually starved to death, dying in each other's arms.

Thankfully the gods were watching over them and saw how they had risked everything to be together. They raised them up in the form of immortal doves so that they could live together for all eternity.'

This leaves various part of the Willow pattern unmentioned, the reason for this is that they were added in later by English designers. The hut, orange tree, fence, river, boat and willow tree were placed to set an 'eastern looking scene'..and the story altered to tell these additions were a representation of the king's abode. The bridge was added to be the place where the lovers crossed the river to get into the boat to flee to the small island where they would live..and were eventually caught by the king. In the English version of the story the gods changed the lovers to doves before they were beaten to death.

So go and have another look at your Willow pattern china...and follow the story as it unfolds on each piece.

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