Sikhs Had Influence in Shanghai for Nearly a Half Century

SHANGHAI, China—Following the Anglo-Sikh wars from 1845-1849, the Sikhs had created quite an impact on the British and were further to be classed by them as a martial race. Joseph Cunningham, an eye witness historian, accounts that the Sikh defeat was a product of poor leadership and traitors who betrayed the Sikh army—in his words, the British were very fortunate in this case as they were almost defeated by the Sikhs.

The British started a partnership that lasted 200 years, and the engaging of war with China had resulted in the Opium wars of 1842. The Chinese had been beaten by the British, therefore having to hand over special trading and residential rights to them. Shanghai thus became part of the British influence, with the English having full authority over the city.

The Shanghai police force, officered entirely by English officers, was set up by the British. After the Boxer rebellion in Peking, the British realised that using the Sikhs in China could be advantageous to their purpose; thus recruitment was opened for Sikh policemen for the Shanghai police. Lower positions were offered to the Sikhs, who were to travel from Punjab to China, and their relations with China were to continue for almost 4 decades until the invasion by Japan.

A vast collection of photographs now at the Shanghai Museum in China show the Sikhs, whose distinctive appearances and imposing figures, caused astonishment amongst the Chinese and compliance from the population. It is thought that a Gurdwara existed in Shanghai until the invasion of the Japanese, after which there is no further record.


  1. This is awesome. I was in Shanghai for a day but didn’t know about this museum. Later I will surely go to this museum and try to take photographs.


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