Coventry to Changsha

Coventry School of Art and Design 2012 exchange visit to Central South University (China).

Lisa Webb | Phil Perry (CSAD)
Professor Sun | Mao Han (CSU)

Abigail Ashcroft | Ellen Covey | Alexander Davis | Thomas Fitzmaurice | Paul Harris | Sophia Karvounis | Joseph Marshall | Siti Mohamad | David Morris | Feride Seferaj | Stephanie Sekula | Richard Sharpe | Henry Thomson | Craig Townsend | Melanie Walton | Sean Williams
Posts I Like


The parking sign doesn’t refer to the parked traffic. Saturday night rush hour (and hours and hours!).

Visiting the ethnic minority group up in the mountains near the town of Fenghuang will an experience I shall never forget. Not to mention their local traditions and superstitions. I was forewarned that stepping on a ladies toes meant that I was deeply in love with them and that a possible marriage was in order. Other folklore included never to put an umbrella up in their presence. This would mean that the daughter of the family could no longer be married. It was also forbidden to whistle. I suddenly found myself looking around in paranoia at the locals at lunch that day, when this rule had slipped my mind. Thank goodness they did not hear my poor whistling at the table!


"I’m safe!"  i said to myself, just after managing to negotiate a difficult crossing near the city centre. The roads may be manic but at least i can find some sort of sanctuary on the pavements i told myself. Wrong! Sometimes the pavements were just as dangerous. It is impossible to walk down a single street in Changsha without a moped brushing past your waist, the rider frantically beeping his horn at every civilian in his busy rush through. I found this to be a very strange experience in our first settling days of the visit. There seemed to be no boundaries between road and pavement. However, I think we all became accustomed to this towards the middle of a our visit. 

Bei and Tom, walking across the busy Xiangjiang river bridge toward the city centre of Changsha. There was barely enough room for pedestrians, let alone bikes.

Even more mopeds… It seems these guys have no fear the way they weave in and out of oncoming traffic at a heavy intersection. 

My favourite method of transport seen during the visit!


During our incredible two weeks in China, it’s safe to say we had our fair share of group photos, Here’s a selection of my favourites!

In the hotel restaurant.

On the bridge at Central South University, first day.

The art and design building.

The stairs leading to Lushan temple at Yuelu mountain.

Taking a break!

Outside Lushan temple with one of the Monks.

At the head of Orange Island located on the Xiangjiang River, lies the head of Chairman Mao.

Outside the enormous Hunan Provincial Museum.

With the artist’s from the Hunan Design Association.

The opening ceremony of our Social Posters exhibition.

OK so it’s not a group photo but I just had to add it!!

Outside Changsha Zoo.

In the beautiful village of Fenghuang, easily the most exciting and interesting place I have ever visited.

My two weeks in Changsha were, without a doubt, two of the best weeks of my life. I thoroughly relished every aspect of the trip, and am immensely grateful for the opportunity to be part of the whole experience. 
To sum it up with a few words on a blog seems somewhat of an injustice, but I’ll have a go. 

The people:

From students to strangers, one of the things that really stood out for me was the friendliness, warmth, and welcoming we received with everyone we seemed to encounter. Pleasant people made for a pleasant trip - Helpful, hospitable, and incredibly patient with our lack of Chinese. Even when there were language barriers, there were enough smiles to be able to communicate…

Artist at the Hunan Design Association, what seemed to be the Chinese equivalent of the Custard Factory in Birmingham - a vibrant collection of studios, work spaces and galleries. A very interesting trip, with some very impressive artwork.

Lunch with the artists of the Design Association. A very friendly bunch of people. Gan Bei! 

A Monk at Yunlu Temple.

Bonnie, student at CSU.

A spot of shopping after an amazing ‘hot pot’ dinner in the city.

Different side of the world, same interests - Joe with a local skater, Taiping street.

Happy student on our visit to Changsha University.

A random person particularly amused by Richard’s pose, Juzi island.

Smiles all round, Fenghuang.

The Places:

From the narrow crooked streets of Fenghuang to the bright lights of Changsha city, we were lucky enough to see a fairly broad spectrum of China - places of the world I wouldn’t else have had the opportunity to see anytime soon. 


Yunlu Buddhist Temple, Yuelu Mountain.

A giant sculpture of a youthful Mao Zedong, Juzi Zhou island on Xiangjiang river.

Changsha city. There’s no escaping the golden arches…

Fenghuang, one of the most beautiful and intriguing places I’ve ever visited. I would love to return here.

Scenery, Xiangjiang river.

The Food:

Frog, Donkey, Chicken’s feet and Pig brain - it’s safe to say I tried a fair few new things in the fortnight we spent there. 
The food was all delicious, interestingly new, plentiful and remarkably cheap. Quite the contrast to the UK. If we weren’t sat round a large revolving table with a dozen different dishes to share and chose from, we were sampling various street vendor delicacies. My personal favourite has to be the spicy fried squid with spring onion & chilli tofu - absolutely delicous. At 20p and 10p respectively, you can hardly complain. Amazing.

A brief overview of my take on our trip to China. There’s so much more to say about the culture, the experiences, the people and the way of life there. It was amazing, and I genuinely didn’t want to come home.


(Above) Hope and good fortune on Yuelu Mountain

Up near the Temples on Yuelu Mountain there was several trees made up of bark and China red ribbon. On each piece of ribbon was handwritten messages in Chinese - A student informed me that people write their prayers, in hope that they will come true. I found each tree and each individual piece of hope mesmerizing as they dangled delicately from the branches.


(Above) Typical traffic in Changsha

Horns, no indicating and streets packed with cars, vans buses and swarms of mopeds. Traffic got so busy and was often an adventure in itself counting all of the near collisions but despite how frantic it appeared, the traffic was always safe.


(Above) Giving a speech in Chinglish

On the day of the exhibition, two students said a few words regarding the stay in Changsha and how they believed they had benefitted from the experience. I was one of those students and I was foolishly asked to say mine in Chinese. Cracking my knuckles and remembering nothing from those 6 weeks of languages lessons, I managed to string together something legible which garnered a few laughs from our Chinese friends. I enjoyed the opportunity to try and speak to them in their language after they had made so much effort speaking english with us over the two weeks.


(Above) Phil Perry working his magic on western typography