Other tidbits I discovered when researching willow ware:
-"Blue Willow" is an animated short film made by New Zealand filmaker Veialu Aila-Unsworth, based on the old chinese fairy tale of Blue Willow. (See the beautiful trailer here). Go here, if you'd like a link to a slideshow made from movie stills that you can use to tell the class the story.
-Art, if you are looking, is all over the place. Have any of you children ever seen a plate like this? Have you ever noticed the designs and decorations that are a part of the every day objects that you use? (Examples could be skateboards, quilts, fabric on cushions, clothing, etc.)
-The blue willow design was said to be used as secret propaganda - a way for the Hung society to defy the Manchu leaders who were in charge. The bad people in the story were a symbol for the bullying Manchus, but it took awhile for the Manchu leaders to notice that a story was being told and given that meaning on plates. Once they figured it out, it is claimed that they tried to destroy all of the dishes with this pattern, but somehow one got smuggled into England during the 1700's and the design became immortalized.
Art can be a powerful way for even weak and unrepresented people to have a voice in their societies.