Bringing the Chinese connection of the Nilgiris to the forefront can be expected to boost the tourism prospect for the area. Although the European heritage of the region is widely known, the involvement of Chinese prisoners in the region’s economy and culture is relatively unfamiliar.
It was in the 1850s, soon after the Second Opium War that a troop of Chinese prisoners first landed in the Nilgiris. This proficient group helped build the Lawrence School at Lovedale and contributed in cinchona cultivation development and the establishment of the very first tea estate. These prisoners were kept in the Naduvattam jail, which is still preserved by the Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation. On being freed, the Chinese married local women and settled down in the region.
The year 2014 is the ‘India-China Year of Friendly Exchanges’ and as such it is the perfect timing for rediscovering such a historical past, according to Dharmalingam Venugopal, Director, Nilgiri Documentation Centre. This announcement came in on World Heritage Day and the need for efforts in promoting Nilgiris’ tourism potential through public-private partnership was stated as being essential for the development of the region.