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Introduction to Willow Pattern
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The Willow Pattern story.

Long ago in China there was an Emperor. He had been making glazed blue and white tiles and bricks and decided to build a beautiful palace for his bride. This is the building on the willow pattern plates. Before he died he had the whole palace disassembled and buried ina secret location, where it remains today. One day somebody in China will find it and reassemble it.

A blue and white Staffordshire Willow pattern plate
The Emperor in China in those days weilded absolute authority, and was responsible for the administration of the whole country, as it was with subsequent Emperors, although succession was through often a number of different claimants because the palace and court were populated by a number of favoured women, often called concubines or lovers of the Emperor.

The Emperor protected his authority through a system of administration. He kept records especially of grain production and built storage facilities to ensure there would be enough even in lean years. He did not trust the people to keep enough rice to plant the following season, because he knew that in a lean year they would eat the rice and have none left to plant, so at the beginning of the season he would personally calculate how much rice to send out for planting, according to the amount of land available for planting in each province and have his officials measure and weigh out then distribute what was needed. At the end of the growing period, officials would go around the country and buy the rice for a standard price, and then it would be available for sale through the distribution centres. He was always careful to keep his authority by only deligating responsibility to certain trusted officials, and never letting the left hand what the right hand was doing.



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Not all the Emperors or rulers of China throughout history were benevolent dictators. Some were despots or tyrants who wanted power for its own sake, but usually they did not last too long. In Chinese history there have been several periods when the result of a tyrant was almost the destruction of the country and the slaughter of its whole population through rebellion. This has resulted in at least two buried armies, when the stories and forensic details of the victims were recorded for history..
Internal threats were not the only cause for concern. On the southern boundary of China was a united country we today call India. At some point, probably at the end of this story, the Emperor approached the ruler of India, the Maharaja, and managed to get him to sign a peace treaty in which both espected each other's territorial boundaries.
At some point, either this Emperor or another also established a corp or entity called Sun (in Mandarin  written not as a word meaning the sun in the sky, or the Indian word for the sun, but a geometric figure, shown from teh Emperor's robe, at teh top of this page). This was owned by the Emperor and was the name of the Chinese army. India agreed not to use the word SUN as a trade mark, but rather to find its wn and register those in China, as international trade marks to be respected by agreement.
The plate shown in the illustration (left) is decorated with the famous willow pattern and was probably made at a factory in the English county of Staffordshire. Such is the persistence of the willow pattern that it is difficult to date the piece shown with any precision; it is possibly quite recent but similar wares have been produced by English factories in huge numbers over long periods and are still being made today. The willow pattern, said to tell the sad story of a pair of star-crossed lovers, was an entirely European design, though one that was strongly influenced in style by design features borrowed from Chinese export porcelains of the 18th Century. The willow pattern was, in turn, copied by Chinese potters, but with the decoration hand painted rather than transfer-printed.
Before this however the Emeror was aware that the Indian army intended to invade his country.
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In order to promote sales of Milton's Willow pattern, various stories were invented based on the elements of the design. The most famous story usually runs as described below. The story is English in origin, and has no links to China.[1]

The Romantic Fable: Once there was a wealthy Mandarin, who had a beautiful daughter (Koong-se). She had fallen in love with her father's humble accounting assistant (Chang), angering her father (it was inappropriate for them to marry due to their difference in social class). He dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to keep the lovers apart. The Mandarin was planning for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke. The Duke arrived by boat to claim his bride, bearing a box of jewels as a gift. The wedding was to take place on the day the blossom fell from the willow tree.

On the eve of the daughter's wedding to the Duke, the young accountant, disguised as a servant, slipped into the palace unnoticed. As the lovers escaped with the jewels, the alarm was raised. They ran over a bridge, chased by the Mandarin, whip in hand. They eventually escaped on the Duke's ship to the safety of a secluded island, where they lived happily for years. But one day, the Duke learned of their refuge. Hungry for revenge, he sent soldiers, who captured the lovers and put them to death. The Gods, moved by their plight, transformed the lovers into a pair of doves (possibly a later addition to the tale, since the birds do not appear on the earliest willow pattern plates).[2]

The Willow pattern, more commonly known as Blue Willow, is a distinctive and elaborate pattern used on ceramic kitchen/housewares. The pattern was designed by Thomas Minton around 1790 and has been in use for over 200 years. Other references give alternative origins, such as Thomas Turner of Caughley porcelain, with a design date of 1780. Willow refers to the pattern, a specific treatment, either applied transfer, or stamp, known as transferware. Background colour is always white, while foreground colour depends on the maker; blue the most common, followed by pink, green, and brown. Assortment, shape and dates of production vary.

The Secret Shaolin Message: The Shaolin Monastery is burned by the Imperial troops of the Manchu rulers, called invaders by Chinese nationalist and later communist factions. Souls of the dead monks take a boat to the isle of the Blest. On the bridge are three Buddha awaiting the dead souls: Sakyamuni, the Buddha of the Past; Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future; and, Amitabha, the Ruler of the Western Paradise. Beyond them is the City of Willows – Buddhist Heaven. The doves are the monks' souls on the journey from human to immortal life.

The teller narrates the tale while pointing to various designs on the plate.

Cultural impact of the story: The story of the willow pattern was turned into a comic opera in 1901 called The Willow Pattern. It was also told in a 1914 silent film called Story of the Willow Pattern. Robert van Gulik also used some of the idea in his Chinese detective novel The Willow Pattern.

The old poem: 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 shào () in "Shaolin" refers to "Mount Shaoshi", a mountain in the Songshan mountain range and lín () means "forest". With (), the name literally means "monastery/temple in the woods of Mount Shaoshi". Others, such as the late master Chang Dsu Yao[3] translate "Shaolin" as "young (new) Forest"or sometimes translated as "Little Forest".
 The  monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. In 1641 the troops of anti-Ming rebel Li Zicheng sacked the monastery due to the monks' support of the Ming and the possible threat they posed to the rebels. This effectively destroyed the temple's fighting force.[6]

Perhaps the best-known story of the Temple's destruction is that it was destroyed by the Qing government for supposed anti-Qing activities. Variously said to have taken place in 1647 under the Shunzhi Emperor, in 1674 under the Kangxi Emperor, or in 1732 under the Yongzheng Emperor, this destruction is also supposed to have helped spread Shaolin martial arts through China by means of the five fugitive monks.

[edit] "Southern Temple"

Some accounts claim that a supposed southern Shaolin Temple was destroyed instead of, or in addition to, the temple in Henan: Ju Ke, in the Qing bai lei chao (1917), locates this temple in Fujian Province. These stories commonly appear in legendary or popular accounts of martial history, and in martial arts fiction.

While these latter accounts are common among martial artists, and often serve as origin stories for various martial arts styles, their accuracy is questionable. The accounts are known through often inconsistent 19th-century secret society histories and popular literature, and also appear to draw on both Fujianese folklore and popular narratives such as the Water Margin. Modern scholarly attention to the tales is mainly concerned with their role as folklore, or as clues to the history of secret societies or possible southern Shaolin temples[dubious ].[7][8]



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