Project Description

Kolkata, India: From the first man…

It all started with Atchew. Around 1778, he left China for Achipur (Kolkata) with a dream to set up a sugar mill. He brought along 110 Chinese workers, mostly contracted servants or former sailors, and initially things went well. But a lack of financing and skilled labor eventually saw the business fail and Atchew died only five years later. Nevertheless, many of his workers stayed in Kolkata and established the first small settlement of Chinese in India.

KolkataChinaTownOld…to the first wave…
In the following decades, an increasing number of Chinese sailors would pass through the Kolkata port. Sometimes they had to wait for months for their next ship and so they would look for jobs in the meantime. The first larger wave of Chinese to settle in India were fleeing the First Opium War halfway through the 19th century.

…to the rise of Kolkata’s Chinatown
The second wave arrived around the Xinhai revolution of 1911, pushing the expanding Chinese community in Kolkata to the eastern edge of the city. Here, an exclusive Chinese settlement was formed, which became known as Tangra or Dhapa. The sights and smells of this new Chinatown were dominated by the tanning industry. Myriad leather workshops and shoe factories were virtually all run by Hakka. There were also carpenters and restaurants, typically owned by Cantonese, while the Shanghainese set up laundries.

The Chinese mostly remained an insular community. In the 1930s, workers started bringing their families from China, increasing the number of women and children in the Tangra settlement. Today, its population numbers around 4,000, the largest Chinese community in India.

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