Anyone who collects china has encountered the ubiquitous Blue Willow china pattern. Versions of this pattern have appeared on plates, platters, teapots and other china from all sorts of manufacturers for over 200 years and continue to pop up regularly. In fact, Blue Willow is the most popular pattern to ever appear on china.
In the 1770s the design was first adapted from a Chinese pattern for a set of china made by the Staffordshire company Coalport Pottery Works. At the time Chinese themed objects were the trend and the pattern became instantly popular and was copied by other potteries in the region.
The pattern is said to hail originally from China and usually includes images of a willow tree, an apple tree, a pagoda, a bridge, a cottage, a man and woman, and two birds. It tells a love story. There are a few different versions of the story, but it basically goes like this: There once was a wealthy man who lived in a grand pagoda. This man had a beautiful daughter and had arranged a marriage for her to another older, wealthy man. However, the daughter fell in love with her father’s clerk, a good but poor man. The two lovers eloped, escaping across a bridge, across the sea and settling in a small cottage on a remote island. Enraged, the woman’s father pursued them and finally caught up with them. He was about to have them killed for their betrayal of him, but the gods took pity on them and turned them into two birds, and they flew away, soaring high above their pursuers into the sky, together forever.