Nestled along the serene banks of the Hooghly River, just 33 kilometres away from the bustling metropolis of Kolkata, lies the quaint and charming village of Achipur. More than being just a state of tranquillity, it is also home to the Chinese community in Kolkata, living there for ages now. They have a rich history and heritage dating back over a couple of centuries. The place is also the abode of the resting place of Tong Atchew, the earliest known Chinese immigrant to settle in India.
The Origins Of Tong Atchew
Achipur a sleepy hamlet just south of #Kolkata is namded after a Tong Achew a #Chinese trader. This place is the first official Chinese settlement of #India. A Chinese temple and the grave of Achew is all that remains of Achipur's Chinese legacy. https://t.co/cWmAFGyojr pic.twitter.com/yNc8asHkVI
— Rangan Datta (@rangan_datta) May 5, 2020
The story of Tong Atchew traces back to the late 18th century when a wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, seeking new opportunities. The British had also granted land to Atchew to set up sugar mills around 1778.
Since local people referred to Atchew as Achi, the place came to be known as Achipur where he built his sugar mills. These migrants hailed primarily from the Hakka region of Southern China and brought with them their traditions, customs, and skills. Legend has it that the Bengali term for refined sugar, chini, owes its roots to the Chinese who introduced table sugar to the subcontinent.
The Tong Atchew community played a vital role in shaping Kolkata’s cultural landscape. They brought with them expertise in various industries, including leather tanning, carpentry, sugar milling, and the restaurant business. Their skills and entrepreneurial spirit led to the establishment of successful enterprises that thrived and contributed to the city’s economic growth.
After Atchew’s death, as late as the 1950s, fresh waves of Chinese immigrants continued to arrive in Kolkata, ensuring that the community would continue to flourish. For history enthusiasts, Achipur offers glimpses into the past through its colonial-era buildings and monuments.
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What To Do In Achipur?
Achipur Chinese Temple. #shootdaytwo #SutanutiDiaries #ChinatownEpisode #HeritageWalkCalcutta #explorekolkata #experiencecalcutta #AchipurChineseTemple pic.twitter.com/bk9911d4ZN
— Immersive Trails Global (@immersivetrails) February 25, 2018
Over the years, these Chinese settlers established a thriving community, and their cultural influence is still palpable in Achipur today.
One of the highlights of Achipur is the iconic Chinese temple, also known as the Tong Ling Temple, which stands as a testament to the enduring Chinese heritage of the village. This beautiful temple, adorned with intricate woodwork and vibrant colours, is dedicated to the deity Kali and serves as a place of worship for both the Chinese and local Indian communities. The annual Chinese New Year celebrations attract visitors from far and wide, who come to witness the traditional lion and dragon dances, indulge in delectable Chinese cuisine, and soak in the festive atmosphere.
Achipur is also famous for its delicious Chinese food. The small eateries and roadside stalls in the village offer a gastronomic delight. The blend of Chinese flavours with local Indian spices creates a unique culinary experience that is sure to tantalise your taste buds.
Achipur is a hidden treasure in Kolkata that offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.
When are you visiting Achipur?
Cover image credits: Wikimedia Commons