Kaifeng Jews of China
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05-11-2016, 01:44 PM
Kaifeng Jews of China
I know we have a few members with a Jewish background, so I figured they may find the Kaifeng Jews of China an interesting subject. I've written about them before ...

(12-06-2011 03:10 PM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  Here is a bit of info on the Jews for those who might of never heard of them. (Those interested in Christian hypocrisy might want to skip to the italicized paragraph.) Most scholars believe they arrived in China from Persia sometime before 1127 CE during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). The reason they are believed to have come from Persia is because their liturgical texts were written in Judeo-Persian, an offshoot of the New Persian language using Hebrew characters. Western Jesuit missionaries visiting the community during the 18th century noted they continued to speak a few recognizable words of Persian. As for the date, the notion that they arrived during the Song Dynasty comes from the first of four stone inscriptions erected by the community in 1489, 1512, 1663 (sides A and B), and 1679. The 1489 inscription has a rather ambiguous entry which reads: “They entered to bring a tribute of western cloth to the Song." No date is mentioned, nor the name of the Emperor who was given the tribute. A lot of sources quote 960 as the exact year they arrived, but, as I mentioned, there is no date provided. I believe the authors of these works use this date because this was the year the Song Dynasty was founded. The closest scholars can get is sometime before 1127 because this was the year the foreign Jurchen armies invaded China and drove the monarchy south. They believe that the Jews would not have settled in China during a time of war.

They were most likely merchants of some kind. Researchers believe the “western cloth” they brought as tribute was cotton. Some have made the bold statement that the Jews were cotton farmers who introduced the plant to China, but this is total conjecture. Others have stated cotton had not yet been cultivated in the Song Dynasty, which is not true. There is over 2,000 years of documented cotton cultivation in China. It was hard to produce, and hard to weave, so it never gained the popularity of silk during the first millennia of its cultivation. It wasn’t until the 12th or 13th century when a new form of cotton made its way to China via India, and new weaving techniques were created. Cotton was still rare during the Northern Song, so it would have been a good tribute item. The Jews probably dealt in more items than just textiles. A Judeo-Persian letter from the later 8th century found in Xinjiang mentions a Jew selling textiles, sheep, and possibly even slaves. The Radhinite Jews from Europe sold the Chinese everything from spices to swords during the 9th century. Selling more than one item would insure the Jews made maximum profit.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, religious scholars in Europe believed the original Hebrew version of the Old Testament appearing in the Bible had purposely been defaced by Jews because of their hatred for Christianity. They claimed the Jews had to have redacted the Old Testament since it did not specifically refer to the birth, ministry, crucifixion, and ascension to heaven of Jesus Christ. And because they could not find any pre-Christian versions of the Old Testament left untouched, they believed all Jews were involved in a conspiracy to either hide or destroy all traces of the incriminating evidence. When they learned about the Kaifeng Jews, they theorized the Jews were one of the "Lost 10 Tribes of Israel" that surely had uncorrupted, pre-Christian editions of the Old Testament. So they sent Church officials to China in order to acquire one of their holy books. The westerners ultimately planned to openly compare the two in front of Europe's Jews so they would see that their doubts about Jesus as the Messiah were wrong. This would cause all the Jews worldwide to mass convert to Christianity and bring about the Second Coming of Christ. However, when they compared the two, they were exactly the same. So the Jews did not redact the Old Testament like they claimed. This did not stop them, though, from sending wave after wave of Jesuits to Kaifeng in an attempt to convert the Jews to Christianity. That didn’t work either.

The Jews prospered during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) as government officials, merchants, and soldiers. Just like their Chinese neighbors, many of the Jews studied the Confucian classics in order to pass the government examinations and advance their family’s social status. But this meant that these enterprising young men had to give up the study of Hebrew. More and more people did this until only a select few had knowledge of the language of their forefathers. In 1800, the last Rabbi died, leaving no one with knowledge of Hebrew. Following the Christian-based Taiping Rebellion and, later, the peasant Boxer Rebellion, the community was pretty much religiously extinct. It was also during this time that the last incarnation of their synagogue finally disappeared. The Jews were so poor at this point that they literally sold the synagogue piece-by-piece in order to make money. They even sold the very dirt on which the synagogue had once stood. Growing anti-foreign sentiment at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century forced the Jews to forsake the Jewish faith. Many of them became Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, etc.

I wrote a rather lengthy two-part article on the Jews' reason for coming to China. If you are interested, you can see it here.

Anyway, I have uploaded a few books on the subject to one of my history blogs. The one I'm posting here is considered the most detailed treatise on the subject. The PDFs were created from smartphone photographs (a method much quicker than traditional scanning). The image plates in the back of the book were scanned to retain their quality, however. The program I used to make the PDFs turned most of the images to the left, so all one needs to do is right click and press “rotate clockwise” while reading.

Part 1: https://historyofthekaifengjews.files.wo...ressed.pdf

Part 2: https://historyofthekaifengjews.files.wo...ressed.pdf
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12-11-2016, 08:34 AM
RE: Kaifeng Jews of China
This is an interesting topic. I've seen several references to this work on the web but, so far, no online copies. Too bad you weren't able to scan the whole thing instead of taking photos. It really is hard to read.
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12-11-2016, 01:39 PM
RE: Kaifeng Jews of China
(12-11-2016 08:34 AM)Warts And All Wrote:  This is an interesting topic. I've seen several references to this work on the web but, so far, no online copies. Too bad you weren't able to scan the whole thing instead of taking photos. It really is hard to read.

It would have taken waaaaay too long to scan all of it. But the pictures are readable; you just have to zoom in and rotate the page.
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12-11-2016, 05:12 PM
RE: Kaifeng Jews of China
(12-11-2016 01:39 PM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  But the pictures are readable; you just have to zoom in and rotate the page.

That's my everyday life! Smile

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I will call him a liar and a dog here and now.
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