Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Willows

When we moved into our house it had no name, only a confusing number – 1A.
Confusing because 1A would normally come after no 1.  Ours is the first house in th road and therefore comes before no 1.  And on the electoral register it comes after all the other numbers, right at the other end of the road, so no one can ever find it.

So we gave it a name.  There was a medium sized (now huge) Weeping Willow in the front garden and we planted another there and a Corkscrew Willow in the back garden.  And we called the house The Willows.

What we did not know was that in Chinese a ‘House of Willow’ is a brothel.  I wonder what our Chinese neighbours thought of the name?  Perhaps we should have put up a notice like this one that I found on the Internet!

In traditional Chinese symbolism, a young girl is a 'Tender willow and fresh flower'.  

And there are lots of traditions concerning the ability of the willow to repel ghosts and the giving of a willow branch to encourage someone to stay.

The Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought (Routledge) also informs one that “The willow, much valued as firewood, is a symbol of spring.  As spring is the season of erotic awakenings, the phrase ‘Willow feelings and flower wishes’ means sexual desire;  Looking for flowers and buying willows’ means visiting a prostitute; ‘Flowers and willows by the wayside’ are prostitutes; and ‘Sleeping among flowers and reposing beneath willows’ is a term for visiting a brothel.  

My Facebook friend, author Ann Chin, points out that since we are not in China it doesn’t matter that we live at The Willows but I still find it most amusing!


  1. This is exactly the sort of thing I needed to refresh my mind and restore my sense of humor. The news over here has been just ghastly of late, and I find myself sinking under the depressive cloud. Now I find out you've named your house a brothel, and I am happy again!

  2. It's the amazing the places I have stayed.

  3. Well, of course, I wondered immediately what Chinese would make of that favourite book "The Wind in the Willows" ?! :)

    1. The title, translated: "The Wayward Girl Sans Fards"...

    2. Sans Fards = When a woman, who usually is masked in layers of make-up, is caught with out any on, usually in public. I'd never heard the expression.

  4. At least talking to the Chinese neighbors about this might spark a discussion about cultural differences.

    Congratulations on settling on a name for the house!

  5. I know what you mean about confusing house numbers! I live at No. 1, and next door is No. 3. But approaching our front doors from the road, No. 3 is first, and then No. 1, not the other way round as one would expect.
    House names are not so common in Germany as in England. Usually only houses that are pensions, B&Bs and so on have a name, often after the female head of household.

  6. Ha, that is funny to me! (I will have to send you a card and write" Glad you're not in China! HA HA)

  7. No.16a is four away from no.58 up here. Even the postman gets confused!

  8. My parents' house in the countryside had a name (given it by my grandfather who built it) and in that area the house names are also the address (while the road leading to those houses has no name!) In towns, it is rare for houses to have a name, at least not used in the address. I once lived in a Willow Street (or the Swedish equivalent). It was a short cross-street near the river and at one end of it there was a large willow tree leaning out over the river. As it wasn't in China, never any trouble with the name!!! When I revisited many years later, the old tree was no longer there, though. So people who come there now might wonder about the name, because no other streets in the area has tree names.

  9. I thought the name was quite sweet! Do you notice more visitors than when it was just 1A?


Hello - thanks for dropping by to leave a comment. Your comments are much appreciated even if I don't always reply. They will appear as soon as they have been moderated.

Blog Archive