… other traditions remained, such as the Royal Court’s enactment of “The Legend of the Blue Willow,” a romance involving a princess who drowns herself when her father forbids her from marrying her poor lover. Layne describes the story, based on a famous ceramic pattern, as an ancient Chinese myth.
In fact, according to Williams’ research, the story is not a Chinese legend at all: Both the blue willow pattern, and the story to explain it, were fabricated in the UK.
Another festival tradition puts the mayor in stereotypical Asian attire. This year Mayor Dan Cort plans to don a Chinese robe – and if he can’t find it, he says, he’ll wear a Japanese one – to kick off the July 27 street dance. “There was an uncomfortable history with our Chinese immigrants,” he admits. “We hope that celebrations like the Feast of Lanterns honor the contributions of the Chinese to Pacific Grove.”
Doctoral student Williams views the dynamic in psychological terms. “It’s an interesting juxtaposition to have this celebration of the Chinese at the same time that a legal mechanism was taken to burn them out,” he says. “There are various possibilities for why any group of people will celebrate the aesthetics of what they’re in the process of destroying.”