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.
ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW PATTERN
In a bygone age a wealthy and powerful Mandarin of the Chinese Empire lived with his lovely daughter Knoon-se in a grand palace surrounded by ornate, exotic flowers and trees. Chang, a low born but intelligent and personable young man, was employed as secretary to the Mandarin and fell hopelessly in love with the exquisite and captivating Knoon-se. Reciprocating his affections, Knoon-se met with Chang each evening beneath a weeping willow tree by the river.

The Mandarin learned of their trysts and, infuriated that his adored daughter had fallen in love with a commoner, dismissed Chang, banning him from the estate, while Knoon-se was imprisoned in a pavilion overlooking the river. He surrounded the palace grounds with a crooked fence and, against her wishes, arranged for Knoon-se to marry the warrior Duke Ta-jin. With no company apart from servants, Knoon-se befriended and fed many birds and, knowing that her wedding would take place once the fruit tree outside her window was in bloom, she stared desolately into the river, contemplating her isolation and despairing of her future without Chang.

The devoted Chang, unaware of Knoon-se's approaching nuptials, also cared for and spoke with birds while dreaming of ways to contact his lost love. [Here, versions of the legend differ; as some say that] Chang sent a message to his beloved by fixing a sail to a shell and floating it down the river bearing a love poem, "As this boat sails to thee, so my thoughts tend", which Knoon-se scooped from the river with her parasol. Her spirits lifted as she read his words and knew that Chang would come for her. During the hours of darkness she replied unseen, adding a burning incense stick to the shell and warning Chang to "Gather thy blossom, 'ere it be stolen". Knoon-se watched the tiny light until it disappeared downstream and prayed for rescue. [Other versions claim that the lovesick couple communicated using their feathered friends as go-betweens.]

The tree was heavy with bud and near to blossom as the Duke Ta-jin arrived amid great fanfare, accompanied by a huge retinue of servants. He presented his betrothed Knoon-se with a casket of rare and priceless jewels, but she could think of none other than Chang and gazed at her unwanted future husband with a heart of stone, her eyes dull with despair.

Nights of celebration and sumptuous banquets followed. Chang entered the palace grounds disguised as a servant and glimpsed the Mandarin and Duke through a window, both sated and asleep. Seizing the moment, he crept to the riverside apartment where Knoon-se languished alone. The lovers embraced with tears of joy and, pausing only to grab the casket of jewels, fled across the bridge to a boat that Chang had moored nearby in readiness.

Alas, a slight noise alerted the Mandarin and he gave chase.

Knoon-se and Chang sailed to a faraway land where they sold the jewels to purchase a small pagoda and lived in bliss, sharing the life they had yearned for through many seasons. [The Willow Pattern shows their distant pagoda surrounded by lush foliage.]

In a fit of vengeful spite, the Mandarin captured and caged all the birds in his gardens, as birdsong was anathema to his ears. Relentlessly he and the Duke sent spies and warriors on long and unsuccessful quests to find the couple. Ultimately the brooding Mandarin, obsessed by his lost daughter and thwarted at every turn, chanced upon a possible solution. He released all the birds and ordered his men to follow them as they flew away. The devoted birds, who had never forgotten Knoon-se or Chang, unwittingly led the evil army straight to their far off dwelling.

At the dead of night, murderous men surrounded the pagoda, setting it alight as Knoon-se and Chang slept. Tragically, the lovers perished in the flames. Revenge and bitterness had seemingly prevailed as the fire raged and engulfed all.

Cosmic winds howled as the ever-watchful gods took pity on the doomed lovers and blessed their undying devotion by granting them immortality. From the charred ruins of their home, the souls of Knoon-se and Chang soared into the sky as turtledoves and kissed again; beyond fear, beyond danger, forever free and symbolising eternal love.




Some may be surprised to learn that our well-known rendition of the Willow Legend was invented by British porcelain manufacturers only around two hundred years ago as a clever promotional tool for the marketing of chinese tableware. Thomas Turner at the Caughley works, Shropshire was the first to reproduce blue over white Chinese Nankin patterns on British porcelain in 1779. Other potters swiftly followed, such as Thomas Minton, but it is believed to be Josiah Spode who, inspired by various Chinese porcelain designs, developed the Willow Pattern in 1790.

Whatever the case, or whoever the creator, it definate stuck as a favorite design, and was incorporated into many different items with variants on the pattern itself. 

Below we have included the different patterns and some information on each.  Enjoy!


Blue Willow Pattern Name

Characteristics

Example of Pattern

Traditional Blue Willow

This is the most common of patterns.  It has 4 figures (3 on 3arch bridge, 1 in boat), 2 birds, a tea house, the willow and orange trees, and a fence in the foreground.  Based upon the original Spode design for their Willow III.

Blue willow traditional pattern, plate by Spode.  This pattern is denoted by the 2 birds, the willow tree, a temple, and the bridge, and boat.  Please read beside me, and you'll know why.

Booths Blue Willow

Used by Booths Co. in England.  No fence.  Willow tree has 6 branches on left and 3 on right.  Gold trim and gold design on inner border.  Bow Knot border pattern.

Booths Blue Willow China Pattern.  Click to enlarge.

Burleigh Blue Willow

Produced by Burgess & Leigh of England.  5 people and no orange tree.  Border is scroll and flower design.

Blue Willow Burleigh Pattern

Canton Blue Willow

Includes the early hand painted Chinese patterns and the England & USA copies.  Wide blue outer border and an inner blue border.

CANTON BLUE WILLOW

Mandarin Blue Willow

No bridge & one person in boat.  Dagger border.

MANDARIN BLUE WILLOW CHINA PATTERN

Polychrome Willow (multicolored)

Denotes any multi-colored variant pattern.

Blue willow variant polychrome pattern.  Click to enlarge.

Simplified Or Variant

Shows only a part of the pattern, or features of the pattern.   May have floral, pictorial,  or simple line border, if any border at all.

Variant blue willow pattern with floral border.  Click to enlarge.

Turner Blue Willow

Named for John Turner, an English potter who originated this design. 2 figures on bridge, no birds. Outer border of scroll & flower, w/inner border of circle shapes.

TURNER BLUE WILLOW PATTERN

Two Temples Blue Willow

2 overlapping temples on left side. 4 figures: 2 people on bridge, 1 temple door, and 1 on rocks.  No birds.  Willow is below the bridge.  Butterfly border.

TWO TEMPLES I BLUE WILLOW PATTERN

Two Temples II Blue Willow

Similar to above except  3 figures (2 on bridge, 1 @ temple door).  Willow tree is above bridge.  Butterfly border, but not the same as above.

TWO TEMPLES II BLUE WILLOW PATTERN

Worcester

3 figures and 3 boats.  Scroll & flower border

BLUE WILLOW WORCESTER PATTERN

 

Blue Willow Border Patterns

Traditional

This is the Spode border design shown at very top of page.  A wheel or circular design is the main characteristic.

Butterfly or Insect or Fitzhugh

This border is named for the winged antennaed designs in the pattern, or called Fitzhugh for a person by that name who supposedly commissioned a set of china to be made with this particular style of border. (Two Temples I & II)

Bow Knot

Four-section loop shapes. (Booths Pattern)

Dagger or Fleur-de-Lis

Tiny pointed designs are on the inside of the border pointed toward the center pattern.  (Mandarin Pattern)

Scroll & Flower

Fancy curved designs are combined with floral pattern.  (Worcester Pattern)

Floral

This type of border is composed chiefly of floral designs which vary in composition and are found with various center patterns.  (Simplified)

Pictorial

Miniature or cameo Willow pattern designs compose the outer border.  This border is found with various center patterns.

Simple Line

Only one or two solid colored ring type lines or a series of short lines form the border.  Found with various center patterns

Borderless

Center patterns which have no border.

* Our thanks to Mary Frank Gaston and her book "Gaston's Blue Willow Identification & Value Guide" 3rd Ed., 2004, for all the valuable information she has shared with us.

The promise with collecting antique blue willow in all its variations, is that you will end up with an extensive collection of fine china, porcelain, iron stone, tin, enamelware, hand painted and custom china from numerous famous potteries and glass makers worldwide!


Japanese Porcelain & Pottery Marks

Below we have provided a copy of text from "Handbook of Old Pottery & Porcelain Marks" page 106, copyright 1947, by Tudor Publishing.  It has the old Japanese marks from 1370-1868.  As well as, the most common mark for "Nippon" china, which means "Japan" in Japanese.

Characters and age for old Japanese marks from 1370-1868.  Click to enlarge and view Japanese characters in large size.

Did you ever wonder how to decipher the English Registry Marks?  Well, here is some help...

Britains' marks.  Click to enlarge.  "Handbook of Old Pottery & Porcelain Marks" by Thorne, Tudor Publishing, 1947.  Page 2 of "Handbook of Old Pottery & Porcelain Marks" by Thorne, showing the Great Britain years for marks.

We have provided this information, as it has become very useful to our webmaster, and it is often referred to in determining the age of some of the Casa de Oro Antiques..  

We hope you find it as useful as we do!

ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW PATTERN
ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW FOR THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR OF FINE CHINA!ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW FOR THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR OF FINE CHINA!
ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW FOR THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR OF FINE CHINA!ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW FOR THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR OF FINE CHINA!ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW FOR THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR OF FINE CHINA!
ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW FOR THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR OF FINE CHINA!ANTIQUE BLUE WILLOW FOR THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR OF FINE CHINA!