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By now you already realize that Shanghai  has  tumultuous past. Well – that was the inevitable outcome once the small treaty port  ‘decided’ to open its ‘door’ to – pretty much – anyone who dared to visit. Plus, it was split into foreign enclaves, each with their own judicial, economic and political laws, and postal systems. Chaos guaranteed. Yet – the International Settlement’s administrative body – the Shanghai Municipal Council – was unstoppable in providing security measures. Their major goal : tame the disordered traffic intersections. Therefore, in line with the British policy of Divide and Rule which had met with resounding success in British India, the SMC recruited Sikhs (North Indian policemen, mainly from the then-British Indian state of Punjab) to patrol its traffic from 1884-1885. And that’s how small, but thriving Indian community appeared in Shanghai.


1. The Shanghai Municipal Police Sikh contingent totaled to 524 in 1940.

2.Sikh policemen used to be dressed in khakis in summers and heavy dark coats in winter, and always carried a stippled baton.

Picture source:

3. Their statuesque  yet imposing appearance : bushy beards and  fine, red  turbans never ceased to amaze the foreigners & natives alike, and added the picturesque element to the city.


4. In the eyes of Chinese, the Sikh policeman represented the humiliating British imperialism and thus earned the very derogatory sobriquet of Hong-Tou-A-san – turbaned number three, referring to their lowly placement in the social hierarchy of that era.

5. Although majority worked as policemen, Sikhs also worked as watchmen, earning money on the side as moneylenders.

Picture source:

6. Indian Sikhs were also recruited for the British police force in Tientsin (Tianjin), Amoy (Xiamen) and Hankow (Hankou, Wuhan).

7. During that time, Shanghai’s Sikhs were enthusiastic supporters of the Ghadr Party’s fight of Indian freedom, as also for Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army.

Picture; Shanghai Race Course 1944

8. Apart from Sikhs, there were the Parsees, like the Tatas, who established successful businesses in China.

9. The Indian Police unit was disbanded in 1945, after Japanese surrender and by 1949 most Indians left China.

Picture source:historic -; Shanghai Sikh Gurdwara

10.The dilapidated Gurdwara – more than a century old - ( a place of worship for Sikhs) in  DongBaoXing Road survived WWII bombing and Cultural Revolution. It is the only testimony to their presence here.

Picture source:; Shanghai Dong Baoxing Road Gurdwara
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