From Indian Chinese cuisine and Chinese embroidery in Gara sarees to China town in Kolkata and opium and leather trade, India's connection with China runs much deeper than the Indo-China War. By Raunak Sharma
The antique silk Gara sarees with Chinese embroidery on it are the traditional Parsis sarees, comes with a higher price tag. It was at the end of 19th century and the early 20th century when the Parsi tradesmen travelled to China and fell in love with the Chinese embroidery and ultimately began to have sarees embroidered there. They brought those sarees back to India and sold them to wealthy Parsi women.
The base fabric chosen for the embroidery is traditionally Chinese hand woven silk called 'Gajja' which makes it clear that how the 'Gara' name might have evolved.
The machine woven saree cost from Rs 24,000 to Rs 40,000 where a hand weaved saree may cost in lakhs.
So, this is how Chinese inspired Gara saree has bound the cultural aspects of Parsis of India and Chinese together.
The Tiretta Bazar is the Chinese residing place in Kolkata which today is famous for its Chinese restaurants, street foods and Indian Chinese cuisine.
This place once homed around 20,000 Chinese but at the time of Sino-Indian war in 1962 most of these people escaped from the Indian boundaries. And, today there are around 2000 Chinese are left in Kolkata.
Nam Soon Church, the oldest Chinese church in Kolkata was built in 1820. It is the oldest of the six Chinese Temples of Tiretta Bazar. It houses the idol of Kwan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of war, mercy and love. The temple also houses a set of weapons, wall & roof hanging and numerous images & statues of Chinese Gods & Goddesses.
The Lion Dance is a traditional form of dance in Chinese culture. Every year, the Chinese community-based in India perform this dance to mark the celebration of Chinese New Year.
This dance form is the Chinese tradition dating back over 2000 years and, as Lions are not native to China, is thought to have originated in India.
In the photo, performers are performing the lion dance on the streets of old china town, Kolkata.
With the settlement of Chinese into the country, especially in Kolkata, came forth the influence of their Chinese cuisine into our desi Indian dishes. Chinatown in Kolkata still boasts a number of Chinese restaurants specialising in Hakka cuisine and Indian Chinese variants. Some popular dishes are Manchow soup, Hakka noodles and alike.
In the photo are the Chinese street speciality - Chinese pork sausages and pork rolls.
When the Chinese began to enter the Kolkata city, some of them settled in the Tangra region of the city where they started their lives with the profession of a tannery, shoemaking and restaurants.
Running tanneries and working with leather were traditionally not considered 'respectable' professions among upper-caste Hindus, and work was relegated to the so-called 'lower caste'. Nevertheless, there was a significant demand, for high-quality leather goods in colonial India, which Chinese Indians were able to fulfil.
The Hakka Chinese specialised in the manufacture of leather and turned it into one of the major industries of West Bengal, providing employment to tens of thousands of local inhabitants.
Mazagaon is Mumbai's China town which has a small ethnic Chinese population of 400 families. The place also has an ancient Chinese Temple which was built by the Chinese merchants and ship hands who came to Mumbai docks in the early 20th century. Today the temple is maintained by a Chinese family.
Opium was a huge and highly lucrative multi-national industry for much of the nineteenth century and was dominated by the British: the farms and opium processing plants in India and the presence ships that helped bring the product to the China market, by the heavily-guarded opium storage hulks which moored off the coast where local smugglers could pick up supplies.
Many Indian business communities tried their hands at the opium trade but it was only the Parsis who really flourished.
China, on the other hand, developed millions of addicts. When the Chinese government banned the import of opium, the traders continued to smuggle it. And by 1890, it is estimated that about 10 per cent of China's total population were opium smokers.