Visitors from China

Wondering what the picture opposite is there for? Out of context, it may look rather insignificant. But some of our visitors may recognize this blown up fuzzy image of Causey Pike as the February page of the Larches 2012 Desk calendar, which we give to visitors and guests when they come here.

The full picture at the bottom left of the page shows the calendar in fact occupies a key position beside the computer of our Christmas visitor from Beijing last December. Heather was delighted to receive it and we have been equally pleased to receive from her a photo of the calendar in her hutong in central Beijing, where she lives.

The blurriness of the photo reminds me though of another visitor from China, who spent in the 1930s a few weeks in the Lake District. Exactly 75 years ago his experience was published in a slim 67 page volume, entitled The Silent Traveller: a Chinese Artist in Lakeland.

Chiang Yee, painter, poet and teacher had come to the area in the summer. He describes the results of his comparing ‘the different customs of various countries’ in words, poems and a deft series of delicate drawings, often a little blurred like this one below of people going to church in the Wasdale rain.

The Silent Traveller was an instant success and had been reprinted three times by 1944; and since then has been re-published many times. It was to provide too a successful format for his further Silent Traveller books, covering Paris, London. Edinburgh, Oxford, New York, San Francisco and Boston. An early version of the Lonely Planet series!

A taste of Yee’s writing can be seen in this unusual comparison he gives of Wastwater and Derwentwater after he had walked over in the rain via Taylor Gill Force to Borrowdale and jumped onto the lake steamer:

Wastwater “was somewhat like a beautiful woman bathing without much clothing on her body; and sometimes she dived into the great white mass of cloudy Nature, which made her invisible or left only a vague image. Though she was mysterious, yet she had great dignity … But Derwentwater was like a fully dressed lady in green-and-blue gown with all sorts of jewels and ornaments, who sometimes sat behind a gauze curtain which, though it might cover her face and obscure it a little, left her charm still visible.”

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