The precise origin of the Willow Pattern legend is unknown, but it is said to have been told in various forms in Ancient China 2,000 years ago and brought back to England by the Crusaders.
Around 1785 the legend became the basis of the design that has appeared ever since on china tableware worldwide. That traditional pattern is still popular today, and tableware decorated with its iconic willow tree, small bridge and figures, pagoda terrace, little boat and more is in everyday use all over the world.
The design has completely overshadowed its legend however, which as a result has remained little-known and therefore little-told despite being an important classical legend. Whilst other legends, fables and folk-tales have found wider appreciation and have been presented in many ways that have made their stories well known and much loved, the beautiful story of eternal Love told by the Willow Pattern's legend has had very few outings at all across the Centuries.
Believed to be the first time published, The Story of the Common Willow Pattern Plate appeared in The Family Friend magazine in 1849.
Beyond that it appeared very little until much later, though was visible as an influence in some other writings. For the most part however it would occasionally appear as a folk tale or on occasion a childrens' story, right up to the present day.
In the continuation of the Savoy Operas, a name later becoming synonymous with the work of Gilbert and Sullivan at London's The Savoy Theatre at the end of the 1800s, a comic opera The Willow Pattern was presented as a short companion piece to a main Work Ib and Little Christina from November 14th to 29th 1901.
In more-familiar terms it was the B-movie to a main feature and would have been seen only by early comers, playing to a gradually-filling House arriving for the main Work.
With revisions to reduce it for the longer main-Work, it also ran as a companion piece to Iolanthe from December 1901 to March 1902.
FROM THE 1901 SAVOY PROGRAMME
A short black and white silent film Story Of The Willow Pattern, a US 35mm one-reeler, The Edison Company.
The Legend of the Willow Pattern Plate, a British production by Gaumont, sponsored by British American Tobacco, with an all-Chinese cast. Premiered in Shanghai and attended by Queen Mary.
STILL - Princess Koong-Se DIALOGUE CARD - for her Father the Powerful Mandarin
Animation Screen Play by international award-winning animator Barry Purves, the Chinese story adjusted to a Japanese interpretation and culture. Still studied in Universities for its multiple approaches to storyteling in a single Piece, its tag line was "An elderly man becomes too emotionally involved as he recollects an earlier romance". A Bare Boards Film for Channel Four television 1992.
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Blue Willow, a short animated film with New Zealand Film Commission by writer/producer/director Veialu Aila-Unsworth. Screened in over 25 film festivals around the World including the Berlin Film Festival.
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Veialu's charming film was also part of 6 concerts in 2012/2013 by Swedish vocal quartet Ensemble Fleder for Arioso Productions (Sweden), performed in Stockholm, Sweden (March 2012), Shanghai, Hangzhou & Wenzhou, China (March 2013) and Estoril & Alcobaça, Portugal (July 2013).
HE LUTING HALL, SHANGHAI CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC