Chang managed to communicate with her by means of a scroll enclosed in a cocoanut shell, to which was attached a tiny sail. Koong-shee replied in these words, scratched upon a tablet: "Do not wise husbandmen gather the fruits they fear will be stolen?"
Thus encouraged, Chang, by means of a disguise, entered the garden and succeeded in carrying off the maiden. On the plate the pair are hurrying over the bridge - Koong-shee with a distaff, Chang carrying a box of jewels, while the enraged mandarin follows hard after them armed with a whip.
One day the discarded wealthy suitor arrived upon the scene, and set fire to their dwelling. Thus the lovers perished. But from the ashes of their home their spirits rose phoenix-like in the form of two doves.
The origin of the story and pattern is not known. It may have been English, and it was certainly inspired, like all early designs found upon our pottery and porcelain, by the Chinese. However this may be, it is certain that no pattern took a greater hold upon the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century potter than did this willow pattern; and perhaps in the ranks of the average collector it has been more sought after than anv other.
The reasons for this are not far to seek. In the first place, there is association. An old willow-pattern dinner-service or a few plates and dishes have a nook in the memory of most people. Then the pattern was so largely used that there is still much to be picked up, and that at a moderate price. The collector of this ware, therefore, has good reason for her partiality.
Some charming specimens of Turner's porcelain decorated with the willow pattern
The pattern was designed by Thomas Minton, for Thomas Turner, manager of the pottery works at Caughley, in Shropshire. These works were established in 1751, and the pattern first used in 1780.
For some time it was applied to pottery only, principally for dinner-services, but later it was used upon porcelain. As time went on the willow pattern became so popular that Thomas Minton supplied a variation of the design to many of the Staffordshire potters, including Wedgwood, Adams, Spode, Clews, Riley, and Davenport.
In the original design - a replica of which will be seen in the first illustration - there are three people upon the bridge, thirty-two apples on the tree, and five different kinds of trees surround the temple, which stands on the right side. The fence extends from the border of the plate to the water's edge, and is longer than that of some other designs.
Wedgwood's rendering of the pattern, however, has thirty-four apples, and there are four distinct frets in his fence.
An Adams plate has thirty-two apples, and his dishes fifty, while on a Clews plate will be found thirty-four, and on that of Davenport only twenty-five.
This pattern also was used at Swansea upon a very fine earthenware with a brilliant glaze, and"in it will be seen two figures on the bridge and two in the boat. This factory did not confine itself to dark blue as a colouring, but used black, brown, and two shades of blue.
About 1785 Spode began to use another rendering of the willow pattern designed by Minton, called the Pagoda pattern. In this the temple stands on the left, with the bridge upon the right, connecting the garden and bank. On the bridge stand two figures, and upon the bank an apple and a peach tree.
Thomas Turner used a rendering of the willow pattern to decorate some fine tea-services. This was a Pagoda pattern, and may be seen in the second illustration. These services are porcelain of good quality, and the cobalt blue with which they are decorated is remarkable for its fine deep colour. They are marked in blue, with imitation Arabic numerals, and sometimes with the letter "C" for Caughley.
The collector will find an interest also in the designs used as borders. These also are of Chinese origin. Amongst them is the Butterfly Border, in which the outstretched wings are separated by Joce's - a Chinese sceptre of conventional scroll design - and filled in with diaper and trellis work.
An inner bordering of dagger pattern frequently occurs. The patterns used between the flat part of the dish or plate and the rim will also be found to vary, though these generally take the form of rice diaper.
In addition to plates and dishes, covered tureens for soup, vegetables, and sauce may still be picked up at a moderate cost. Small oblong pickle-dishes with handles at each end are sometimes found, and small leaf-shaped dishes which were used for the same purpose.
Basket and platter of fine earthenware Spode, showing a rendering of the willow pattern
These last, however, have attracted the attention of the forger, and should be carefully bought.
The same warning applies also to sauce-ladles. The willow pattern was made for such a great number of years that the age of a piece may be put at a hundred years or at forty. The older pieces were of lighter weight than those of more recent date, and the dishes and plates had no rings, but were perfectly flat at the bottom. Marked pieces are of more value than those which have no mark. This generally takes the form of the name of the maker, but sometimes only the Staffordshire kind will be found.
As an article for decorative purposes the willow-pattern plate is seen to advantage in the hall or in rooms which have dark or heavy furniture. For the country cottage it forms an ideal decoration upon an old oak dresser.
Distinctive marks found with the willow pattern