The design of Peasholm Island was inspired by the scene depicted on the willow pattern plate.
The romantic legend that surrounds the plate is well known, but how many of us assume it to be a traditional Chinese tale? In fact, the legend is as English as the plate design and was invented by a pottery manufacturer to stimulate sales!
But, despite its origins and like all good tales, the willow pattern has a magical power all of its own and has woven itself into the imaginations of many for generations.
There are several variations on the legend, but the essence of the tale is this:
Once there lived a wealthy Mandarin who had a beautiful daughter, Koong-se. He also had a secretary named Chang. Chang and Koong-se fell in love and met secretly each evening beneath a weeping willow tree by the river.
The Mandarin was enraged when he found out. A mere secretary could never be worthy of his daughter! He banished Chang forever and ordered a huge fence to be built round his grounds to ensure the two could never meet again.
Soon afterwards, the Mandarin told Koong-se she was now betrothed to a rich warrior duke by the name of Ta-jin. Koong-se spent the following days walking in the gardens, staring at the river and thinking of Chang.
But one day, she spied on the water a tiny boat made out of a coconut shell. In it was a note from Chang! Koong-se sent a message back in the boat telling him of her forthcoming marriage.
The night came of the great banquet to celebrate the betrothal and the duke arrived with a box of precious jewels for his future wife. Koong-se was in despair. She thought Chang would have rescued her by now.
But Chang was on his way.
Disguised as a servant, he passed through the guests unseen and came to Koong-se's room. They embraced and decided to run away together immediately.
Taking Koong-se's new jewels with them, the couple began to creep past the guests who by now were in a drunken sleep. But at the last minute, the Mandarin awoke and saw them! With a loud cry he began to give chase across the bridge.
This is the scene shown on the willow pattern plate with the three figures running across the bridge. Koong-se is first, behind her is Chang with the jewels and last is the Mandarin with a whip in his hand!
The couple escaped by boat and travelled to a distant island where they lived happily together in a beautiful pagoda. This pagoda with its lush foliage is another feature you can see on the plate.
But the Mandarin and the Duke wanted Chang dead and planned to use the taking of the jewels as an excuse for killing him. Their spies never stopped searching the land and eventually tracked the couple down.
With the spies surrounding the house, preparing to murder Chang, Koong-se set their home on fire so they would die together.
But the gods, touched by their undying love, granted the couple immortality. Their souls soared into the sky as two doves, forever free and symbolising eternal love.
Now you're familiar with the story, maybe you can imagine it coming to life as you stroll around the park it inspired.