The first known printing of the Willow Pattern Legend goes back to the mid-1800s. Since then and in countless forms, the Willow Pattern Legend, or Story, has been told and retold from generation to generation. Many individuals remember their mother or grandmother telling them the story on the blue willow plate as they ate dinner. Perhaps one of these legends will bring back great memories, or provide you with a story you didn’t know existed.

Willow Plate Story, 1

Two pigeons flying high,
Chinese vessels sailing by.
Weeping willow hanging o'er,
Bridge with three men - if not four.
Chinese temple, there it stands,
Seems to cover all the land.
Apple tree with apples on,
A pretty fence to end my song.

Willow Plate Story, 2

'Two birds flying high,
A Chinese vessel, sailing by.
A bridge with three men, sometimes four,
A willow tree, hanging o'er.
A Chinese temple, there it stands,
Built upon the river sands.
An apple tree, with apples on,
A crooked fence to end my song.

The Legend of the Willow Plate

My Willow ware plate has a story,
Pictorial, painted in blue
From the land of the tea and the tea plant
And the little brown man with a queue.
What ever the food you serve, daughter
Romance enters into the feast,
If you only pay heed to the legend,
On the old china ware plate from the East.
Koong Shee was a mandarin's daughter
And Chang was her lover, ah me,
For surely her father's accountant
Might never wed pretty Koong Shee
So Chang was expelled from the compound,
The lovers' 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.
For years had great artists been stitching
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 dance 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 Yangtse Kiang,
I wouldn't be one to deny it,
For the little blue dove and her mate
Forever are flying together
Across my Willow ware plate.

The Willow Legend

There was once a Mandarin who had a beautiful daughter, Koong-se. He employed a secretary, Chang who, while he was attending to his master's accounts, fell in love with Koong-se, much to the anger of the Mandarin, who regarded the secretary as unworthy of his daughter.

The secretary was banished and a fence constructed around the gardens of the Mandarin's estate so that Chang could not see his daughter and Koong-se could only walk in the gardens and to the water's edge. One day a shell fitted with sails containing a poem, and a bead which Koong-se had given to Chang, floated to the water's edge. Koong-se knew that her lover was not far away.

She was soon dismayed to learn that she had been betrothed to Ta-jin, a noble warrior Duke. She was full of despair when it was announced that her future husband, the noble Duke, was arriving, bearing a gift of jewels to celebrate his betrothal.

However, after the banquet, borrowing the robes of a servant, Chang passed through the guests unseen and came to Koong-se's room. They embraced and vowed to run away together. The Mandarin, the Duke, the guests, and all the servants had drunk so much wine that the couple almost got away without detection, but Koong-se's father saw her at the last minute and gave chase across the bridge.

The couple escaped and stayed with the maid that Koong-se's father had dismissed for conspiring with the lovers. Koong-se had given the casket of jewels to Chang and the Mandarin, who was also a magistrate, swore that he would use the jewels as a pretext to execute Chang when he caught him.

One night the Mandarin's spies reported that a man was hiding in a house by the river and the Mandarin's guards raided the house. But Chang had jumped into the ragging torrent and Koong-se thought that he had drowned. Some days later the guards returned to search the house again. While Koong-se's maid talked to them, Chang came by boat to the window and took Koong-se away to safety.

They settled on a distant island, and over the years Chang became famous for his writings. This was to prove his undoing. The Mandarin heard about him and sent guards to destroy him. Chang was put to the sword and Koong-se set fire to the house while she was still inside.

Thus they both perished and the gods, touched by their love, immortalised them as two doves, eternally flying together in the sky.

The Willow Pattern
by B. L. Bowers

Whilst we sit around the table,
Please allow me to relate,
The entrancing ancient fable
Of "The Willow Pattern Plate."

Every picture tells a story,
Like the Willow Pattern Plate,
Where two lovers dwelt in glory,
And defied paternal hate.

By elopement from the castle
You observe upon the ridge,
Where the violent old rascal
Chases them across the bridge.

Tries to catch the rogue and whip him,
'Ere he steals the daughter fair;
But the loving pair outstrip him,
Let him languish in despair.

Thrown upon their own resources,
In a junk they emigrate,
To a splendid little oasis,
Near the margin of the plate.

Dwell in peace, whilst unmolested,
In most perfect harmony;
Till at length they are arrested,
by his Nibs' gendarmerie.

Then the tyrant lord appeals to
Law and lucre, with their pow'r;
Caught, confined, they have their meals too,
In that horrid little tow'r.

When the pair are executed,
To appease their lord irate,
To a pair of doves transmuted,
Still they fly upon the plate.

Every picture tells a story,
Like the Willow Pattern blue,
And true love will reign in glory,
To infinity! Adieu

 
 
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