I carried out some of my own research into the history behind the blue and white pattern found on pottery/porcelain that was popular in the 18th century and is experiencing a comeback in modern times.
The design originated in the far east and I found this wonderful poem which helped inspire my own cross stitch design:
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.
But what struck me most was the story of the legend of the Willow. So, if you're ready, here is that story (hankies at the ready!):
The Willow Legend
Once upon a time there was a Mandarin who had a beautiful daughter named Koong-se and they lived in a palace with a beautiful garden.
The Mandarin employed a secretary, named Chang, who fell in love with Koong-se, much to the anger of the Mandarin. Chang was considered to be unworthy of the Mandarin's daughter and was banished from the palace. The Mandarin built a fence around the gardens so that Koong-se and Chang could not meet.
Koong-se was soon dismayed to learn that her father had announced she was to be married to a nobel warrior called Ta-jin. She was full of despair when she heard that Ta-jin was arriving, for she did not love Ta-jin. Her love was only for Chang.
Chang heard of the engagement and he stole into the palace during a banquet, dressed as a servant and made his way to Koong-se's room. They embraced and vowed to run away together. The couple ran from the palace but as they were crossing the bridge, Koong-se's father saw her at the last minute and gave chase.
The couple escaped and hid in the house of Koong-se's maid, but the Mandarin's spies had followed them. The spies reported to the Mandarin that a man was hiding in the house by the river and the Mandarin ordered his guards to raid the house. During the raid, Chang had jumped into the raging torrent and Koong-se thought her one true love had drowned. But Chang was to return, bringing a boat to the window and he took Koong-se away to safety.
The couple settled on a distant island and over the years Chang became a famous writer. This was to be their undoing however, as the Mandarin heard of Chang's success and sent his guards to kill him. Chang was put to the sword and a heartbroken Koong-se set fire to their house while she remained inside.
The gods, touched by their love, felt sorry for their plight and immortalised them as two doves to fly in the sky together forever.
So if you want to cross stitch the story of lovers Chang and Koong-se, here is the link to my mini cushion kit: http://www.sheenarogersdesigns.co.uk/epages/es121892.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es121892/Products/CC118