Visiting student’s photographs capture solo adventure around China

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Shankar Sannthakumar, a visiting student to Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University from the University of Liverpool, has travelled all over China, documenting his adventures on Instagram.

Having visited Xi’an, Hangzhou and Guilin on previous trips, he undertook a journey that took him to the farthest reaches of the country.

Shankar's trip began in Shanghai, from where he travelled north to Beijing and then on to Dandong and the North Korean border.

"I travelled by myself," he says. "I wanted to see if I could survive with my minimal Chinese."

And survive he did, taking in nine provinces over 6,000km. From Dandong he made his way further north to Harbin, then east to Ordos in Inner Mongolia, where he witnessed the province’s abundant construction projects and ‘ghost cities’.

"It used to just be desert, but then they discovered a lot of coal and became very rich very quickly," he explains. "The immediate reaction was to build lots of extravagant buildings hoping people would migrate there from across China, but so far progress on this has been slow."

From Inner Mongolia he went west to Chengdu, then south to Kunming, concluding his trip with a 45-hour train back to Suzhou, on a standing only ticket.

"The first night I shared a row with three others, with our feet up across the aisle,” he recalls. “The next day I just sat on a little stool. It was an experience!"

Shankar, from Kingston-upon-Thames in the United Kingdom, has nearly completed his year of study in the Department of Architecture at XJTLU and will be returning to the UK to complete his studies.

While a number of the photographs on his Instagram page were taken on his adventures across China, many depict Shankar’s experiences closer to home in Suzhou, including on an architecture field trip to factories in the old part of the city.


"This guy was doing some metalwork, but was intrigued by 50 students passing by" says Shankar of a photograph he took of a worker in one of the factories.

Shankar recently contributed a photo series to the Department of Architecture's online magazine Master Planning The Future, which reports on Chinese architecture and culture in English.

He has plans to visit Ningbo, in Zhejiang province, in the near future and is considering returning to China to study Mandarin full-time for a year after completing his undergraduate degree in Liverpool.

Find out more about the opportunities available to visiting students at XJTLU.

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