Object of the Month- December 2016

29 November 2016

With Christmas almost upon us, thoughts go to family times and the inevitable Christmas dinner. It seems to be the main occasion when most households deem it the done thing to cater for at least six times more people than are actually attending. So after putting your Brussel sprouts on a month in advance and selecting a bird that resembles an ostrich more than a turkey, mixed with as many varieties of vegetables and garnishes as the eyes and stomach can deal with the race is set to finish in time for the Queen’s speech.

With this traditional Christmas mission in mind, the December object of the month is an item of everyday use that on Christmas day takes the strain of the above mentioned meal. The object found in the Domestic Life Building is a plate, but no plain ordinary one, this plate is all about the design. Willow Pattern plates have been around since 1780s though no definite time can be found for its beginnings, Thomas Minton and Josiah Spode are connected with producing chinoiserie landscape scenes based on Chinese ceramic originals.

The story portrayed is about a Mandarin’s daughter Koong-se who is fated to marry someone chosen by her father. Inevitably her heart belongs to another, a lowly account assistant called Chang who is banished. The Mandarin builds a fence to keep the lovers apart, he also arranges Koon-se to wed a Duke, who comes by boat bearing jewels, on the day the blossom falls from the willow tree. Before the wedding the lovers elope with the jewels whilst being chased over the bridge by her father and end up living on a secluded Island. Alas the Duke wreaks his revenge and kills both the lovers, the Gods moved by their plight transform them into Doves.

The story is also conveyed in a 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.


So next time you come across a Willow Pattern plate have a good look and see the tale of Koong-se and Chang.

During December the Museum has its usual festive activities on and of course visits from Father Christmas.

All the staff, volunteers and animals at The Museum of East Anglian Life hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year and look forward to seeing you all in 2017


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