In 1940 the Chinese writer Chiang Yee arrived in Oxford as a refugee from the London Blitz, his lodgings having been bombed. He came to Oxford, he writes, "in rather a turmoil". What was meant to be a brief escape turned into a five-year stay, an affectionate relationship with the city, and the fifth in the hugely successful "Silent Traveller" series.
Looking at the city and its historic university with the curiosity and openness of a complete stranger, Chiang Yee paints a revealing picture of Oxford's particular atmosphere, its rituals and traditions. He mixes with undergraduates and dons, visits pubs and restaurants, witnesses Union debates and punting on the river, all with a gentle astonishment and perceptive eye for detail. Chiang Yee explores the colleges and other student haunts, but also the city and its surrounds, from Port Meadow to Headington and Hinksey.
First published in 1944, The Silent Traveller in Oxford evokes a wartime city of shortages and blackouts. It also captures an earlier age of university life, when students drank sherry and scaled college walls to escape prowling Bulldogs. Throughout Chiang Yee draws parallels between Oxford and his native China, comparing the seasons, architecture, and the nature of learning itself. Illustrated with the author's own sketches, this book is both an atmospheric account of 1940s Oxford and a charming "Oriental" view of one of Britain's best loved cities.
CHIANG YEE (1903-1977) was born in China and lived in London and Oxford before settling in the United States. A painter, calligrapher, poet and travel writer, he produced several volumes in the "Silent Traveller" series, including The Silent Traveller in London (Signal, 2001), as well as the classic textbook Chinese Calligraphy.