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Legend of the Willow Pattern

koong-shee, chang, house, people and temple

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LEGEND OF THE WILLOW PATTERN (From" How to Know Old China") Koong-Shee was the daughter of a wealthy man darin, and loved Chang, her father's secretary. The mandarin, who wished his daughter to marry a wealthy suitor, forbade the marriage, and shut his daughter in an apartment on the terrace of the house which is seen in the pattern to the left of the temple. From her prison Koong-Shee watched the willow-tree blossom,' and wrote poems in which she expressed her ardent longings to be free ere the peach bloomed. Chang managed to communicate with her by means of a writing enclosed in a small cocoanut-shell, which was attached to a tiny sail, and Koong-Shee replied in these words, Do not wise husbandmen gather the fruits they fear will be stolen ? ' and sent them in a boat to her lover.

Chang, by means of a disguise, entered the man darin's garden and succeeded in carrying off Koong-Shee. The three figures on the bridge represent Koong-Shee with a distaff, Chang carrying a box of jewels, and the mandarin following with a whip.

The lovers escaped, and lived happily ever after' inChang's house on a distant island until, after many years, the outraged wealthy suitor found them out, and burnt their house, when, from the ashes of the bamboo grove, their two spirits rose, phoenix-like, in the form of two doves.

These bridges are lined with people in indolent atti tudes sunning themselves, many of them having birds in cages, or tethered to sticks or their wrists. How the Chinaman loves a bird I and how keen is the competition to obtain good songsters, which fetch high prices ! To this quaint and beautiful place he brings his pets, and stands with one, two, or even three cages, holding them in turn out over the water in the sunshine ; listening intently, and with evident delight, to their music. The " yellow eye brow " thrush is the chief favourite : it has a low and mellow note and fetches $1 or $1.50, cage and all ; larks also are sometimes on sale. The scene inside the Old Tea House is a busy one; crowds drinking tea, smoking, gossip ing, and transacting business. It seems to me that from this little spot alone, one could form a tolerably correct conception of the Chinese character — lovers of peace and beauty, and withal industrious and keen in business.

Such in a nutshell is my estimate of the qualities pos sessed by the Chinese, qualities indeed of which any nation might be proud, and without which any people must soon degenerate.

With its great roofs turned up at the corners, the Piece-Goods Temple " (so called because it is largely used by the Chinese merchants who deal in Manchester piece goods) on the City Wall is a fine specimen of the archi tecture of Southern China. It also has oyster-shell windows and woodwork framing of most quaint design, the centre of each casement having a small square of glass, thus increasing the dim light admitted by the oyster shells.

I have heard travellers say that there is nothing to see in the Native City of Shanghai. All I can say is that such people must be entirely lacking in appreciation of things quaint and beautiful. The few streets and build ings in the Native City which I have mentioned are in themselves worth a long journey, so intensely interesting and peculiarly characteristic are they.

My readers can well imagine that it was not an easy task to paint in such surroundings, and at the outset I must own that I met with considerable difficulty. With the aid of my friends I had a Sedan chair, so constructed that I could get shelter from the sun and at the same time light for my work. It was raised so that I could, from my seat, see over the heads of the people who were sure to gather round. I had this conveyed to the New Maloo, and arranged for it to be stored in a temple near by when I was not at work.

No sooner had I started painting than my troubles began. The crowd collected ; and, in spite of the efforts of my boy and various followers to keep them at a distance, their curiosity was too great to be restrained. " What is this foreign devil doing ? Why does he sit in a chair draped in white?" (the colour of mourning). I had all unconsciously used white calico to drape my chair, for getting that, here, white was a sign of mourning ; but, if they supposed there was a corpse inside, they must soon have found it was a fairly lively one.

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