CHINESE TEMPLES OF TIRETTA BAZAR
Chinese Temple of Old Chinatown
~ Tiretta Bazar, Calcutta (Kolkata) ~
The Chinese settlement of Calcutta dates back to the late 18th century when a Chinese trader, Tong Achew settled near present day Budge Budge.
The then Governor General of India Warren Hastings offered Achew land and he set up a sugar mill complete with a sugar plantation. Achew soon brought a band of Chinese workers for his sugar project. But Achew died soon after & his mill was soon abandoned. The Chinese also deserted the place, which later came to be known as Achipur, after Achew.
The Chinese moved to the centre of Calcutta, where they settled in Tiretta Bazar. A market place designed by the disposed Italian architect and town planner Edward Tiretta. It was at this very place Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) first China Town came up.
Later on a large section of Calcutta (Kolkata) Chinese moved to the Eastern part of Calcutta (Kolkata) in Tangra, to form the New China Town.
In spite of all odds Tiretta Bazar has a significant Chinese population and still has a feel of China Town. The Chinese breakfast is still available for the early-birds in the Chatawala Guli. But the star attraction of Tiretta Bazar are the six Chinese Temples (or Churches, as the Chinese calls it) hidden in the remotest o lanes of China Town.
The map (not to scale) above shows the approximate location of the six Chinese Temples of Tiretta Bazar including the site of the Chinese breakfast of Chatawalla Guli.
Sea Ip Church
Located on the Indian Exchange Place (Extension) and at the corner of Kolkata Improvement Trust the Sea Ip Church is the most accessible of the six Chinese Temples of Tiretta Bazar and the only one located on the main road.
Built in 1905 the Sea Ip Church is located at the centre of a truck yard and is perennially ssurround by trucks. In spite of all the chaos the temple with with red sloped roof topped with inverted porcelain fishes is bound to attract once attention.
The temple is located on the first floor of the two storied building and is dedicated to the Kwan Yin, the 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.
Toong On Church
Located just off the Indian Exchange Place (Extension) and dwarfed by the towering Kolkata Telephone Kendra the beautiful two storied building once housed the Toong On Church in its first floor, while the ground floor was occupied by the famous Nanking Restaurant. Nanking Restaurant established in 1924, is considered as the oldest Chinese Restaurant in Calcutta (Kolkata).
In 1980s the Nanking Restaurant along with the Toong On Church closed its door to public due to property dispute, which continues to this day. The court order has kept the building under lock & key.
The Toong On Church today operates at Bow Street in Bou Bazar but the Nanking remains closed depriving the Calcuttans of the taste of the finest authentic Chinese food of the city.
The photo shows the Nanking & Toong On building shot from a under construction multi storied opposite it.
In July 2012 the case was settled and the building was handed over to the temple trust. For details also see: Toong On Church, Rebirth of A Chinese Temple
Gee Hing Church
Gee Hing Church is located at the entry of Blackburn Lane from the India Exchange Place Extension. Located above the Chen’s Carpenterey Shop, this Chinese Temple is also very difficult to find. Also the Gee Hing Church remains closed for most of the day making it difficult to get inside.
Originally built in 1888 it was shifted to the present location of 13 Blackburn Lane in 1920. The Gee Hing Church house a framed painting of Kwan Kun, the Chinese God of the Sea. Its quiet likely that the ancient Calcutta Chinese, who reached Calcutta after a rough sea ride, worshiped the God of Sea.
The two roomed Gee Hing Church comes with the Gee Hing Club. Both the rooms are decorated with beautiful wood curved furnitures. Sadly every thing is in a run down state.
The photo shows the decorated main alter of Gee Hing Church, with beautiful metal and wood work complete with Chinese inscriptions contains the framed photo of Kwan Kun, the Chinese God of Sea.
Sea Voi Yune Leong Futh Church
Sea Voi Leong Futh Church is located in the Blackburn Lane. Built in 1908 it is the smallest but most elegant of the six Chinese Temples of Tiretta Bazar.
Although Chinese refer to Lord Buddha as Futh but the alter houses the twin Idols of some ancient Chinese Gods. The temple also houses a set of weapons, wall & roof hanging and numerous images & statues of Chinese Gods & Goddesses.
The photo shows the main alter where candles are lit by devotees.
Choonghee Dong Thien Haue Church
Built in 1859 the Choonghee Dong Thien Haue Church located at the crossing of Damzen & Blackburn Lane. Choonghee Dong Thien Haue Church is located on the first floor of a shaby building and is extremely difficult to find.
It houses the idol of Kwan Kun, the Chinese God of the Fortune. Its quiet likely that the ancient Calcutta Chinese, who reached Calcutta after a rough sea ride, worshiped the God of Sea.
The Chonghee Dong Thien Haue Church has two rooms housing several idols and artifacts, but sadly it is not well maintained. The beautiful Islamic styled mosaic floor has almosrt faded away.
The photos shows the entrance and themain hall of Chonghee Dong Thien Haue Church.
Nam Soon Church
Built in 1820 the Nam Soon Church is the oldest of the six Chinese Temples of Tiretta Bazar. Located at the end of Damzen Lane it is difficult to spot. The Nam Soon Church is also the most spacious of the Chinese Temples and contains a large courtyard.
It is hard to believe how the narrow, winding Damzen Lane opens up into a huge courtyard housing the Nam Soon Church. The Chinese temple acts as an “Oasis of Peace” in the most chaotic areas of Calcutta (Kolkata).
It house 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 photo shows the spacious interior of Nam Soon Church with a beautiful roof hanging. At the far end the alter at the centre house the idol of Kwan Yin. The two alters on the side houses the idols of Kwan In’s war companions.
Jaywalkers Guide to Calcutta by Soumitra Das
Related links from my website:
- Words of appreciation from the best selling author Amitav Ghosh
List of my Blog entries on Calcutta (Kolkata)