web analytics
September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Sections » Books »

Review: The Jews Of Kaifeng, China ? History, Culture, and Religion

Title: The Jews Of Kaifeng, China – History, Culture, and Religion
Author: Xu Xin (pronounced ‘Chu-Chin’),
Publisher: Ktav Publishing,
Jersey City, NJ

My cousin Phil, of Los Angeles, once told me – what I consider an apocryphal story – that during the Korean War, when he was stationed in Hong Kong, he was seeking a synagogue for Friday evening services and was told to go to a small shul atop a hill.

Sure enough he found it - the door was open and the lights were lit and inviting - so he entered and found himself alone. He seated himself, and before long a congregation of men came and all took their positions - the Rabbi, the Chazan, the congregants, and all began davening. My cousin’s jaw dropped – every other person in the shul was an ethnic Chinese, and they were all davening in Hebrew, exactly as in his own synagogue back home.

All the while, one elderly congregant was intently staring at my cousin, and after services, when everyone queued up to have their hand shaken by the Rabbi, this man came over to Phil and asked in perfect Yiddish: “Are you Jewish?”

My cousin replied: “Of course I’m Jewish – didn’t you see me daven together with everyone else?”

To which the old gentleman replied: “Funny – you don’t look Jewish.”

This story captures the essence of this book, which is a scholarly work of research written by a Chinese scholar of ethnography, was researched and written in New York and Cambridge, Mass., courtesy of a grant from The Simon and Helen Scheuer Family Foundation. Ktav publishing house, which has been formerly renowned for their publication of Jewish children’s literature, has, of recent, gone far afield with their publication of many important new titles for adult consumption.

It has been known for many years that Jews settled in parts of China, quite ‘off the beaten path.’ The Polos – Marco and family – alluded to them, and many Christian missionaries, including Jesuits, who were well versed at languages, encountered Jewish communities during their travels.

A famous Nobel Prize winning American author - Pearl Buck – herself the daughter of American missionaries in China, wrote ‘Peony,’ in 1948 (republished as a Bloch/Biblio Press book in 1990), a novel about Jewish life in Kaifeng, which is in the Chinese province of Honan. Ms. Buck’s characters, while Jews, are all ethnic Chinese, as are the people about whom Prof. Xin, of Nanjing University, has written.

From about the ninth century c.e. there has been an indigenous Jewish community almost continuously resident in Kaifeng in northeastern China, as well as other Jewish communities in other places from time to time. Separated as they were by thousands of miles from the rest of the Jewish world and largely cut off from contact with the main centers of Jewish life, the Jews of Kaifeng developed a distinctive culture that was unquestionably Jewish but progressively absorbed Chinese elements.

As our American experience has also shown, their greatest problem was not separation from other Jews, so much as the openness and tolerance of the greater Chinese society. Intermarriage was a frequent occurrence and Jews entered Chinese society will full acceptance as merchants, government officials and neighbors. After a period of time they were so completely assimilated that few of their descendents carry any memory of Jewish ancestry and have assumed the physical appearance of all other ethnic Chinese.

This is a fascinating look into the past, very well researched, that sheds much light on what may have happened to some of the members of our ‘Lost Tribes.’ We would also encourage the inquisitive reader to obtain a copy of Pearl Buck’s ‘Peony,’ to further explore our Jewish heritage among one of the world’s oldest cultures.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Review: The Jews Of Kaifeng, China ? History, Culture, and Religion”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh (in blue shirt, center), benefitted politically - and in a dramatic fashion - from this summer's war.  Photo from Hamas victory rally, Aug. 27, 2014.
Gazan Deaths and Destruction Dramatically Drives Popularity for Hamas
Latest Sections Stories
LBJ-082914

What better proof do we need than the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” that transformed the pain and suffering of three families into a sense of unparalleled unity and outpouring of love of the entire nation of Israel?

Katzman-082914

So many families are mourning, and all along we mourned with them.

Astaire-082914

In addition to his great erudition, Rabi Akiva was known for his optimism.

Kupfer-082914-Chuppah

She told me that she was busy and that he could sit in his wet clothes for the rest of the day. It would teach him to be more careful.

What can we do to help him stop feeling so sad all the time?

Children with dyslexia or dysgraphia frequently have problems in social relationships.

Israel’s neighbors engaged in hostilities from the onset. The War of Independence was a hard-won battle. Aggression and enmity has followed for 66 years.

The contest will include student-created sculpture, computer graphic design, collage, videography, PowerPoint and painting.

David, an 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, recently attended a Friendship Circle event. As he entered he told his Dad, “I love coming to the FC programs ‘cause everyone loves each other.”

Goldsmith himself went on his own “voyage of discovery” to the places where his grandfather and uncle landed and were sent.

Frank proclaimed himself Zvi’s successor and the reincarnation of King David.

You’re probably wondering why the greatest advocate of fast and easy preps in the kitchen is talking about layer cakes, right?

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

More Articles from Aharon Ben Anshel
book-alex's-wake

Goldsmith himself went on his own “voyage of discovery” to the places where his grandfather and uncle landed and were sent.

book-The-Last-Commission

Green was an American volunteer in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, but something happened In Israel that has haunted him ever since.

Witnessed by Theodore Herzl, who was a journalist for a Viennese newspaper covering the trial, the cause célèbre became the spark that eventually caused the rise of the State of Israel in modern times.

These eleven nursing home residents and their accompanying staff from the Connecticut nursing home could represent any of us or our own loved ones…

There are three kinds of travelers: there are tourists, there are businesspeople, and then there are historians like Ben G. Frank.

The last kind doesn’t simply go from here to there. They try to relive history and find the real meaning behind what they experience.

Behind “the news” there’s almost always a story that isn’t being reported, and certain kinds of phenomenon occur almost simultaneously all over the world in almost every era.

Whether this is a memoir or autobiography or whether this book was written as an article of regional diplomacy, King Abdullah does come across in this book as a quite sincere person making a valiant effort at regional diplomacy, who is trying to quell terrorism in the Mideast and raise the social and economic levels of his countrymen.

As any psychologist can tell you – no two people who see an event come away with the very same experience. Criminologists and detectives who question people who may have witnessed a crime experience the fact that several different people will report various versions of the event.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/review-the-jews-of-kaifeng-china-history-culture-and-religion/2003/10/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: