A silent traveller in the Yorkshire Dales
Close and personal
For a few years I thought that I must have been the only person in the world who owned this exquisite book. The Internet ruined this illusion for me, but also showed that this book, and the other books in this series are still to be found, and strangely enough, not too expensive.
Chiang Yee wrote this book during the 2nd World War, while he was confined to a flat in London, and the paintings are largely from memory.
I found this book in a 2nd hand book shop in , South Africa, in 1980, while I myself lived in the mountains. The “Silent Traveller” became a very real person to me in the way he walked through and described the TzaneenYorkshire Dales. I think by “silent” he meant that he himself tried to be unobserved, and tried not to disturb or influence his surroundings in any way: whether it be rabbits, humans, sheep or horses. When he did, that was also done in a “silent” way, not intruding.
That was also how I was trying to live, although I did not have the powerful gift of painting that he used so well. He portrayed the history of the different features of the Dales, including legends and stories, and depicted what he saw in a magical way. I thought of myself as a silent traveller in the The Downs and sometimes thought I could see through his eyes. In the forest, where it is often misty, the green moss are draped around the trees, and I could very well picture a Chinese painting of these scenes. I would even have painted in the sound of the Knysna Lourie, even though I did not see them often, as he painted himself in a place where he has not been before:
“Having the spirit of a hermit in me, though no scholar, I told myself that someday I must sit on that rock and meditate. Meanwhile, as a beginning, I made a painting of the Force with myself seated on the rock I have not yet reached”
This poem I almost knew by heart, so much did I associate with it:
Staying at Appletrewick
In the morning I go out with the clouds;
In the evening I bring back the rain.
Day after day I wander among the hills,
The lovely wind occasionally on me.
Flowers and birds compete for my acquaintance;
Cows and sheep become my old friends.
No one can live a hundred years-
To have such days is enough.
Involuntarily I think of the water in the stream;
Like it, al will pass
Chiang died in China after spending more than four decades away from his home, in October 1977. His grave is on the hill of Lu-Shan above his home town.
Silent Traveller Series
Other works in the Silent Traveller Series include:
- The Silent Traveller: A Chinese Artist in Lakeland (London: Country Life, 1937 reprinted Mercat, 2004) ISBN 1-84183-067-4
- The Silent Traveller in London (London: Country Life, 1938 reprinted Signal, 2001) 6 impressions by 1945.
- The Silent Traveller in the Yorkshire Dales (London: Methuen 1941) at least 3 editions by 1942. Not known if re-printed
- The Silent Traveller in Oxford (London: Methuen, 1944 reprinted Signal, 2003)
- The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh (London: Methuen, 1948 reprinted Mercat, 2003) ISBN 1-84183-048-8
- The Silent Traveller in New York, (London: Methuen, 1950)
- The Silent Traveller in Dublin, (London: Methuen, 1953)
- The Silent Traveller in Paris (New York: W. W. Norton, 1956)
- The Silent Traveller in Boston (New York: W. W. Norton, 1959)
- The Silent Traveller in San Francisco (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963) ISBN 0-393-08422-1
- The Silent Traveller in Japan (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972) ISBN 0-393-08642-9
- The Silent Traveller’s Hong Kong Zhuzhi Poems (1972)