History of the Jews in China

History of the Jews in China

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Jews and Judaism in China have had a long history. Jewish settlers are documented in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 as early as the 7th or 8th century CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, but may have arrived during the mid Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, or even as early as 231 BCE. Relatively isolated communities developed through the Tang
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 and Song
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 Dynasties (7-12th cent. CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

) all the way through the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 (19th cent.), most notably in the Kaifeng Jews
Kaifeng Jews
The Kaifeng Jews are members of a small Jewish community that has existed in Kaifeng, in the Henan province of China, for hundreds of years. Jews in modern China have traditionally called themselves Youtai in Mandarin Chinese which is also the predominant contemporary Chinese language term for...

 (the term "Chinese Jews" is often used in a restricted sense to refer to these communities). By the time of the establishment of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 in 1949, few if any native Chinese Jews were known to have maintained the practice of their religion and culture. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, some international Jewish groups have helped Chinese Jews rediscover their heritage.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Jewish immigrants from around the world arrived with Western commercial influences, particularly in the commercial centers of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, which was for a time a British colony, Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 (the International Settlement
Shanghai International Settlement
The Shanghai International Settlement began originally as a purely British settlement. It was one of the original five treaty ports which were established under the terms of the Treaty of Nanking at the end of the first opium war in the year 1842...

 and French Concession), and Harbin
Harbin
Harbin ; Manchu language: , Harbin; Russian: Харби́н Kharbin ), is the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang Province in Northeast China, lying on the southern bank of the Songhua River...

 (the Trans-Siberian Railway
Trans-Siberian Railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway is a network of railways connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan. It is the longest railway in the world...

). In the first half of the 20th century, thousands of Jewish refugees escaping from the 1917 Russian Revolution
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 and the Holocaust in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 arrived in China.

Overview


China's Jewish communities have been ethnically diverse ranging from the Jews of Kaifeng and other places during the history of Imperial China, who, it is reported, came to be more or less totally assimilated into Chinese culture, to 19th and 20th century Baghdadis
Baghdadi Jews
Baghdadi Jews, also known as Iraqi Jews, are Jewish emigrants from Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, who fled religious persecution and formed immigrant communities in their new homelands...

, to Indians
Indian Jews
The history of the Jews in India reaches back to ancient times.Indian Jews are a religious minority of India. Judaism was one of the first foreign religions to arrive in India in recorded history. The better-established ancient communities have assimilated a large number of local traditions through...

, to Ashkenazi Jews from Europe.

The presence of a community of Jewish immigrants in China is consistent with the history of the Jewish people during the first and second millennia CE, which saw them disperse and settle throughout the Eurasian landmass, with an especial concentration throughout central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

.
By the ninth century, ibn Khordadbeh
Ibn Khordadbeh
Abu'l Qasim Ubaid'Allah ibn Khordadbeh , author of the earliest surviving Arabic book of administrative geography, was a Persian geographer and bureaucrat of the 9th century...

 noted the travels of Jewish merchants called Radhanite
Radhanite
The Radhanites were medieval Jewish merchants. Whether the term, which is used by only a limited number of primary sources, refers to a specific guild, or a clan, or is a generic term for Jewish merchants in the trans-Eurasian trade network is unclear...

s
, whose trade took them to China via the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 through Central Asia and India.
Jacob of Ancona
Jacob of Ancona
"Jacob of Ancona" is the name that has been given to the supposed author of a book of travels, purportedly made by a scholarly Jewish merchant who wrote in vernacular Italian, an account of a trading venture he made, in which he reached China in 1271, four years before Marco Polo...

, the supposed author of a book of travels, a scholarly Jewish merchant who wrote in vernacular Italian, had reached China in 1271, although some authors question it.

During the period of international opening and quasi-colonialism, the first group to settle in China were Jews who arrived in China under British protection following the First Opium War
First Opium War
The First Anglo-Chinese War , known popularly as the First Opium War or simply the Opium War, was fought between the United Kingdom and the Qing Dynasty of China over their conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade, and the administration of justice...

. Many of these Jews were of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n or Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

i origin, due to British colonialism in these regions, and became the largest dealers in opium. The second community came in the first decades of the 20th century when many Jews arrived in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 during those cities' periods of economic expansion.

Many more arrived as refugees from the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

. A surge of Jews and Jewish families was to arrive in the late 1930s and 1940s, for the purpose of seeking refuge from the Holocaust in Europe and were predominantly of European origin. Shanghai was notable for its volume of Jewish refugees, most of whom left after the war, the rest relocating prior to or immediately after the establishment of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

.

Over the centuries, the Kaifeng community came to be virtually indistinguishable from the Chinese population and is not recognized by the Chinese government as a separate ethnic minority. This is as a result of having adopted many Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 customs including patrilineal descent, as well as extensive intermarriage with the local population. Since their religious practices are functionally extinct, they are not eligible for expedited immigration to Israel under the Law of Return
Law of Return
The Law of Return is Israeli legislation, passed on 5 July 1950, that gives Jews the right of return and settlement in Israel and gain citizenship...

 unless they explicitly convert.

Today, some descendants of Jews still live in the Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 and Hui
Hui people
The Hui people are an ethnic group in China, defined as Chinese speaking people descended from foreign Muslims. They are typically distinguished by their practice of Islam, however some also practice other religions, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers.In modern People's...

 population. Some of them, as well as international Jewish communities, are beginning to revive their interest in this heritage. This is especially important in modern China because belonging to any minority group includes a variety of benefits including reduced restrictions on the number of children
One-child policy
The one-child policy refers to the one-child limitation applying to a minority of families in the population control policy of the People's Republic of China . The Chinese government refers to it under the official translation of family planning policy...

 and easier admission standards to tertiary education
Tertiary education
Tertiary education, also referred to as third stage, third level, and post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, university-preparatory school...

.

The study of Judaism in China has been, like other Abrahamic religions, a subject of interest to some Westerners, and has achieved moderate success compared to other western studies in China.

History


It has been asserted by some that the Jews who have historically resided in various places in China originated with the Lost Ten Tribes of the exiled ancient Kingdom of Israel who relocated to the areas of present-day China. Traces of some ancient Jewish rituals
613 mitzvot
The 613 commandments is a numbering of the statements and principles of law, ethics, and spiritual practice contained in the Torah or Five Books of Moses...

 have been observed in some places.(need citation)

One well-known group was the Kaifeng Jews
Kaifeng Jews
The Kaifeng Jews are members of a small Jewish community that has existed in Kaifeng, in the Henan province of China, for hundreds of years. Jews in modern China have traditionally called themselves Youtai in Mandarin Chinese which is also the predominant contemporary Chinese language term for...

, who are purported to have traveled from Persia to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 during the mid-Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 and later migrated from the Muslim-inhabited regions of northwestern China (modern day Gansu
Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

 province) to Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

 province during the early Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

A massacre of Jews in Canton
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

, China occurred during the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the 9th century during the Huang Chao Rebellion
Huang Chao
Huang Chao was the leader of the Huang Chao Rebellion , known in mainland China as the Huang Chao Revolution in China that seriously weakened the once mighty Tang Dynasty of China...

.

Origins



There is an oral tradition that the first Jews immigrated to China through Persia following the Roman Emperor Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

's capture of Jerusalem in 70 CE. A large number of Jews emigrated from Persia during the reign of Emperor Ming of Han
Emperor Ming of Han
Emperor Ming of Han, , was second emperor of the Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty.He was the second son of Emperor Guangwu. It was during Emperor Ming's reign that Buddhism began to spread into China. One night, he is said to have dreamed of a golden man or golden men...

 (58-75 CE).
Writing in 1900, Father Joseph Brucker hypothesized that Jews came to China from India by a sea route during the Song dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 between 960 and 1126.

Three stele
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

s with inscriptions found at Kaifeng bear some historical suggestions. The oldest, dating from 1489, commemorates the construction of a synagogue (1163) (bearing the name Qīngzhēn
Qingzhen
Qingzhen is a county-level city under the administration of Guiyang in Guizhou province of the People's Republic of China.-External links:*...

 Sì
, a term often used for mosque in Chinese), states the Jews entered China from India in the Later Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 (25–220 CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

), the Jews' 70 Chinese surnames, their audience with an "un-named" Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 Emperor, and finally lists the transmission of their religion from Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 down to the prophet Ezra
Ezra
Ezra , also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra. According to the Hebrew Bible he returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem...

. The second table, dated 1512 (found in the synagogue Xuanzhang Daojing Si) details the Jews' religious practices. The third is dated 1663 and commemorates the re-rebuilding of the Qingzhen si synagogue and recaps the information from the other two steles.

Two of the stelae
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

 refer to a famous tattoo written on the back of Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 General Yue Fei
Yue Fei
Yue Fei , style name Pengju, was a military general of the Southern Song Dynasty. His ancestral home was in Xiaoti, Yonghe Village, Tangyin, Xiangzhou, Henan...

. The tattoo, which reads jìn zhōng bào guó ( "Boundless loyalty to the country"), first appeared in a section of the 1489 stele talking about the Jews’ “Boundless loyalty to the country and Prince”. The second appeared in a section of the 1512 stele talking about how Jewish soldiers and officers in the Chinese armies were “Boundlessly loyal to the country.” One source even claims that Israelites served as soldiers in the armies of Yue Fei.

Father Joseph Brucker believed Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci, SJ was an Italian Jesuit priest, and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China Mission, as it existed in the 17th-18th centuries. His current title is Servant of God....

's manuscripts indicate there were only approximately ten or twelve Jewish families in Kaifeng in the late 16–early 17th century, and that they had reportedly resided there for five or six hundred years. It was also stated in the manuscripts that there was a greater number of Jews in Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

. This could be taken to suggest that loyal Jews fled south along with the soon-to-be crowned Emperor Gaozong to Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

. In fact, the 1489 stele mentions how the Jews "abandoned Bianliang" (Kaifeng
Kaifeng
Kaifeng , known previously by several names , is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, Central China. Nearly 5 million people live in the metropolitan area...

) after the Jingkang Incident
Jingkang Incident
The Jingkang Incident , the Humiliation of Jingkang , or The Disorders of the Jingkang Period took place in 1127 when invading Jurchen soldiers from the Jin Dynasty besieged and sacked Bianjing , the capital of the Song Dynasty of China...

.
Many Jewish communities were established in China in the Middle Ages. However, not all left evidence of their existence. The following are those known today: Kaifeng
Kaifeng
Kaifeng , known previously by several names , is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, Central China. Nearly 5 million people live in the metropolitan area...

, Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

, Ningbo
Ningbo
Ningbo is a seaport city of northeastern Zhejiang province, Eastern China. Holding sub-provincial administrative status, the municipality has a population of 7,605,700 inhabitants at the 2010 census whom 3,089,180 in the built up area made of 6 urban districts. It lies south of the Hangzhou Bay,...

, Yangzhou
Yangzhou
Yangzhou is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. Sitting on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the southwest, Huai'an to the north, Yancheng to the northeast, Taizhou to the east, and Zhenjiang across...

, and Ningxia
Ningxia
Ningxia, formerly transliterated as Ningsia, is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. Located in Northwest China, on the Loess Plateau, the Yellow River flows through this vast area of land. The Great Wall of China runs along its northeastern boundary...

.

Names


The contemporary term for Jews in use among Chinese today is Youtairen in Mandarin
Standard Mandarin
Standard Chinese or Modern Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin or Putonghua, is the official language of the People's Republic of China and Republic of China , and is one of the four official languages of Singapore....

 Chinese. The term Youtai has similar phonetic sound of Yehudai, the Aramaic word for Jew, as well as Greek terms Jude
Jude
Jude may refer to:* Jude the Apostle, an apostle also called Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus, the patron saint of lost causes in the Catholic Church* Epistle of Jude, a book of the New Testament of the Bible...

or Judah.

It has been recorded that the Chinese historically called the Jews Tiao jin jiao (挑筋教), loosely, "the religion which removes the sinew," probably referring to the Jewish dietary prohibition
Kashrut
Kashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...

 against eating the sciatic nerve
Sciatic nerve
The sciatic nerve is a large nerve fiber in humans and other animals. It begins in the lower back and runs through the buttock and down the lower limb...

 (from Genesis 32:32).

Jewish dietary law (kashruth), which forbids the eating of, among other foods, non-ruminant
Ruminant
A ruminant is a mammal of the order Artiodactyla that digests plant-based food by initially softening it within the animal's first compartment of the stomach, principally through bacterial actions, then regurgitating the semi-digested mass, now known as cud, and chewing it again...

 mammals, shellfish
Shellfish
Shellfish is a culinary and fisheries term for exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates used as food, including various species of molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. Although most kinds of shellfish are harvested from saltwater environments, some kinds are found only in freshwater...

 and reptiles, would have most likely caused Jewish communities to stand out from the surrounding mainstream Chinese population, as Chinese culture is typically very free in the range of items it deems suitable for food.

Jews have also been called the Blue-Hat Hui
Hui people
The Hui people are an ethnic group in China, defined as Chinese speaking people descended from foreign Muslims. They are typically distinguished by their practice of Islam, however some also practice other religions, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers.In modern People's...

 , in contrast to other populations of Hui people, who have identified with hats of other colors. The distinction between Muslim and Jewish Hui is not, and historically has not been, well recognised by the dominant Han population.

A modern translation of the "Kaifeng Steles" has shown the Jews referred to their synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

 as "The Pure and Truth", which is essentially the same as the term used in modern China to refer to Muslim mosque
Mosque
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

s (清真寺).

According to an oral tradition dictated by Xu Xin
Xu Xin
Xu Xin is a Chinese table tennis player.-Equipment:He uses a blade Stiga Offensive Wood NCT, and in his forehand a Hurricane III and a Stiga Boost TX in his backhand.-Career records:Singles...

, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Nanjing University
Nanjing University
Nanjing University , or Nanking University, is one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning in China...

, in his book Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, the Kaifeng Jews called Judaism Yīcìlèyè jiào (一賜樂業教), lit. the religion of Israel. Yīcìlèyè is a transliteration and partial translation of "Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

". Xu Xin translates this phrase as "Chosen people, endowed by God, and contented with their lives and work".

Early record



The earliest evidence showing the presence of Jews in China is from the beginning of the eighth century: a business letter written in the Judeo-Persian language, discovered by Marc Aurel Stein
Marc Aurel Stein
Sir Marc Aurel Stein KCIE, FBA was a Hungarian archaeologist, primarily known for his explorations and archaeological discoveries in Central Asia. He was also a professor at various Indian universities.-Early life:Stein was born in Budapest into a Jewish family...

. The letter (now housed in the British Museum) was found in Danfan Uiliq, an important post along the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 in northwest China during the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 (618-907). The text is thirty-seven lines in length and was written on paper, a product then manufactured only in China. It was identified, by David Samuel Margoliouth
David Samuel Margoliouth
David Samuel Margoliouth was an orientalist. He was briefly active as a priest in the Church of England...

, as dating from 718 C.E. Ibn Zeyd al Hassan of Siraf, a 9th century Arabian
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 traveler, reports that in 878 followers of the Chinese rebel leader Huang Chao
Huang Chao
Huang Chao was the leader of the Huang Chao Rebellion , known in mainland China as the Huang Chao Revolution in China that seriously weakened the once mighty Tang Dynasty of China...

 besieged Canton (Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

) and killed a large number of foreign merchants, Arabs, Persians, Christians, and Jews, resident there.

Sources indicate that Jews in China were often mistaken for Muslims
Islam in China
Throughout the history of Islam in China, Chinese Muslims have influenced the course of Chinese history. Chinese Muslims have been in China for the last 1,400 years of continuous interaction with Chinese society...

 by other Chinese. The first plausible recorded written Chinese mention of Jews uses the term Zhu-hu, or Zhu-hu-du (perhaps from Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 Yehoud, or from Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 Yehudim, "Jews") found in the Annals of the Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

in 1329 and 1354. The text spoke of the reinforcement of a tax levied on "dissenters" and of a government decree that the Jews come en-masse to Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

, the capital
Capital City
Capital City was a television show produced by Euston Films which focused on the lives of investment bankers in London living and working on the corporate trading floor for the fictional international bank Shane-Longman....

.

Famous Venetian
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 traveler Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

, who visited China, then under the Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

, in the late 13th century, described the prominence of Jewish traders in Beijing. Similar references can be found in the notes of the Franciscan John of Montecorvino
John of Montecorvino
John of Montecorvino or Giovanni da Montecorvino in Italian was an Italian Franciscan missionary, traveler and statesman, founder of the earliest Roman Catholic missions in India and China, and archbishop of Peking, and Latin Patriarch of the Orient.-Biography:John was born at Montecorvino...

, first archbishop of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing is an archdiocese located in the city of Beijing in China.-History:* 1307: Established as Archdiocese of Khanbalik* 1375: Suppressed...

 at the early of 14th century, and the writings of Ibn Batuta, an Arabian envoy to the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

 in the middle of 14th century.

Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....

 called both Jews and Muslims "Hui Hui", calling the Jews "Zhu hu Hui Hui", when he forbade Jews and Muslims from practicing Kosher and Halal
Halal
Halal is a term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. The term is used to designate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law...

 preparation of their food, calling both of them "slaves" and forcing them to eat Mongol food
Mongolian cuisine
Mongolian cuisine refers to the local culinary traditions of Mongolia and Mongolian styled dishes. The extreme continental climate has affected the traditional diet, so the Mongolian cuisine primarily consists of dairy products, meat, and animal fats. Use of vegetables and spices is limited...

, and banned them from practicing circumcision
Circumcision
Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin and ....

.


Among all the [subject] alien peoples only the Hui-hui say “we do not eat Mongol food”. [Cinggis Qa’an replied:] “By the aid of heaven we have pacified you; you are our slaves. Yet you do not eat our food or drink. How can this be right?” He thereupon made them eat. “If you slaughter sheep, you will be considered guilty of a crime.” He issued a regulation to that effect ... [In 1279/1280 under Qubilai] all the Muslims say: “if someone else slaughters [the animal] we do not eat”. Because the poor people are upset by this, from now on, Musuluman [Muslim] Huihui and Zhuhu [Jewish] Huihui, no matter who kills [the animal] will eat [it] and must cease slaughtering sheep themselves, and cease the rite of circumcision.


During the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 (1368–1644), a Ming emperor conferred seven surnames upon the Jews, by which they are identifiable today: Ai (艾), Shi (石), Gao (高), Jin (金), Li (李), Zhang (張), and Zhao (趙); sinofications of the original seven Jewish clan's family names: Ezra, Shimon, Cohen, Gilbert, Levy, Joshua, and Jonathan, respectively.
Interestingly, two of these: Jin and Shi are the equivalent of common Jewish names in the west: Gold and Stone.

The first modern Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 record of Jews residing in China is found in the records of the seventeenth century Jesuit
Jesuit China missions
The history of the missions of the Jesuits in China is part of the history of relations between China and the Western world. The missionary efforts and other work of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, between the 16th and 17th century played a significant role in continuing the transmission of...

 missionaries in Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

. The prominent Jesuit Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci, SJ was an Italian Jesuit priest, and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China Mission, as it existed in the 17th-18th centuries. His current title is Servant of God....

, received a visit from a young Jewish Chinese man in 1605. Ricci mentioned this man's name as Ngai, who has since been identified by the French sinologist Paul Pelliot
Paul Pelliot
Paul Pelliot was a French sinologist and explorer of Central Asia. Initially intending to enter the foreign service, Pelliot took up the study of Chinese and became a pupil of Sylvain Lévi and Édouard Chavannes....

 as a Jew named Ai T'ien, who explained that the community he belonged to was monotheistic, or believing in only one God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

. It is recorded that when he saw a Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 image of Mary with the child Jesus, he took it to be a picture of Rebecca with Esau
Esau
Esau , in the Hebrew Bible, is the oldest son of Isaac. He is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, and by the minor prophets, Obadiah and Malachi. The New Testament later references him in the Book of Romans and the Book of Hebrews....

 or Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

, figures from Hebrew Scripture. Ngai (Ai Tian, Ai T'ien) declared that he had come from Kaifeng
Kaifeng
Kaifeng , known previously by several names , is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, Central China. Nearly 5 million people live in the metropolitan area...

, and stated that this was the site of a large Jewish population. Ricci sent an ethnic Chinese Jesuit Lay Brother to visit Kaifeng; later, other Jesuits (mostly European) also visited the city. It was later discovered that the Jewish community had a synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

 (Libai si), which was constructed facing the west
West
West is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.West is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of east and is perpendicular to north and south.By convention, the left side of a map is west....

, and housed a number of written materials and books.

The Jews who managed the synagogue were called "Mullah
Mullah
Mullah is generally used to refer to a Muslim man, educated in Islamic theology and sacred law. The title, given to some Islamic clergy, is derived from the Arabic word مَوْلَى mawlā , meaning "vicar", "master" and "guardian"...

s". Floods and Fire repeatedly destroyed the books of the Kaifeng synagogue, they obtained some from Ningxia and Ningbo to replace them, another Hebrew roll of law was bought from a Muslim in Ning-keang-chow in Shen-se (Shanxi), who acquired it from a dying Jew at Canton.

The Chinese called Muslims, Jews, and Christians in ancient times by the same name, "Hui Hui" (Hwuy-hwuy). Crossworshipers (Christians) were called "Hwuy who abstain from animals without the cloven foot", Muslims were called "Hwuy who abstain from pork", Jews were called "Hwuy who extract the sinews". Hwuy-tsze (Hui zi) or Hwuy-hwuy (Hui Hui) is presently used almost exclusively for Muslims, but Jews were still called Lan Maou Hwuy tsze (Lan mao Hui zi) which means "Blue cap Hui zi". At Kaifeng, Jews were called "Teaou kin keaou "extract sinew religion". Jews and Muslims in China shared the same name for synagogue and mosque, which were both called "Tsing-chin sze" (Qingzhen si) "Temple of Purity and Truth", the name dated to the thirteenth century. The synagogue and mosquers were also known as Le-pae sze (Libai si). A tablet indicated that Judaism was once known as "Yih-tsze-lo-nee-keaou" (israelitish religion) and synagogues known as Yih-tsze lo nee leen (Israelitish Temple), but it faded out of use.

A Muslim in Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 told Semedo that four famimlies of Jews converted to Islam since they were the last Jews in the area, their numbers diminishing.

Employment


The Jews worked in government service and owned big properties in China in the 17th century.

19th century


During the Taiping rebellion
Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion was a widespread civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, led by heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, who, having received visions, maintained that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty...

 of the 1850s, the Jews of Kaifeng
Kaifeng
Kaifeng , known previously by several names , is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, Central China. Nearly 5 million people live in the metropolitan area...

 apparently suffered a great deal and were dispersed. Following this dislocation, they returned to Kaifeng, yet continued to be small in number and to face hardships, as is recorded in the early 20th century.

Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

's first wave of Jews came in the second half of the 19th century, many being Mizrahi Jews from Iraq. The first Jew who arrived there was Elias David Sassoon
Elias David Sassoon
Elias David Sassoon was a businessman involved in trade in India and the Far East....

, who, about the year 1850, opened a branch in connection with his father's Bombay house. Since that period Jews gradually migrated from India to Shanghai, most of them being engaged from Bombay as clerks by the firm of David Sassoon & Co. The community was composed mainly of "Asian," (Sephardi) German, and Russian Jews, though there were a few of Austrian, French, and Italian origin among them. Jews took a considerable part in developing trade in China, and several served on the municipal councils, among them being Silas Aaron Hardoon
Silas Aaron Hardoon
Silas Aaron Hardoon was a wealthy businessman and well-known public figure in the city of Shanghai in the early 20th century.-Biography:Silas was born Sileh Hardoon into a poor Jewish family in Baghdad...

, partner in the firm of E. D. Sassoon & Co., who served on the French and English councils at the same time. During the early days of Jewish settlement in Shanghai the trade in opium and Bombay cotton yarn was mainly in Jewish hands.

Modern times



Contemporaneous sources estimated the Jewish population in China in 1940 — including Manchukuo
Manchukuo
Manchukuo or Manshū-koku was a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia, governed under a form of constitutional monarchy. The region was the historical homeland of the Manchus, who founded the Qing Empire in China...

 — at 36,000 (source: Catholic Encyclopedia).

Jewish life in Shanghai had really taken off with the arrival of the British. Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East came as traders via India and Hong Kong and established some of the leading trading companies in the second half of the 19th century. Later, after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, many Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 came from Europe. Rebbe
Rebbe
Rebbe , which means master, teacher, or mentor, is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word Rabbi. It often refers to the leader of a Hasidic Jewish movement...

 Meir Ashkenazi (Chabad-Lubavitch
Chabad
Chabad or Chabad-Lubavitch is a major branch of Hasidic Judaism.Chabad may also refer to:*Chabad-Strashelye, a defunct branch of the Chabad school of Hasidic Judaism*Chabad-Kapust or Kapust, a defunct branch of the Chabad school of Hasidic Judaism...

) was the Chief Rabbi of Shanghai (1926–1949).

At the early 20th century many Russian Jews fleeing pogroms in several towns in Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 decided to move to northeast China for permanent settlement (Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 Aaron Kiselev served in Harbin
Harbin
Harbin ; Manchu language: , Harbin; Russian: Харби́н Kharbin ), is the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang Province in Northeast China, lying on the southern bank of the Songhua River...

 from 1913 until his death in 1949). After the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

, a lot of White Russians
White Emigre
A white émigré was a Russian who emigrated from Russia in the wake of the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War, and who was in opposition to the contemporary Russian political climate....

, fled to Harbin (former Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

). These included, among others, Dr. Abraham Kaufman
Abraham Kaufman
Dr. Abraham Josevich Kaufman was a Russian-born medical doctor, community organizer and Zionist who helped protect some tens of thousands of Jews seeking safe-haven in East Asia from Nazi atrocities during World War II.As a consequence of his contacts with Japanese authorities during World War II...

, who played a leading role in the Harbin Jewish community after 1919, the parents of future Israeli Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

 Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

, and Teodor Parnicki
Teodor Parnicki
Teodor Parnicki was a Polish writer, notable for his historical novels. He is especially renowned for works related to the early medieval Middle East, the late Roman and the Byzantine empires....

 at the age of 12.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese doctor, revolutionary and political leader. As the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China, Sun is frequently referred to as the "Father of the Nation" , a view agreed upon by both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China...

, founder of the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

, held admirations for the Jewish people and Zionism
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

, and saw parallels between the presecution of Jews and the domination of China by the Western powers. He stated, "Though their country was destroyed, the Jewish nation has existed to this day... [Zionism] is one of the greatest movements of the present time. All lovers of
democracy cannot help but support wholeheartedly and welcome with enthusiasm the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation, which has contributed so much to the civilization of the world and which rightfully deserve [sic] an honorable place in the family of nations."

The Japanese occupation of northeast China in 1931 and the establishment of Manchukuo in 1932 had a negative impact on the Harbin Jewish community (13,000 in 1929). Most of those Jews left Harbin for Tianjin
Tianjin
' is a metropolis in northern China and one of the five national central cities of the People's Republic of China. It is governed as a direct-controlled municipality, one of four such designations, and is, thus, under direct administration of the central government...

, Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

, and British Mandate of Palestine. Until 1939, the Russian Jews were about 5,000 in Shanghai.

World War II



Another wave of 18,000 Jews from Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 immigrated to Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 at the end of 1930s and the early of 1940s. Shanghai at the time was an open city and did not have restrictions on immigration, and some Chinese diplomats such as Ho Feng Shan
Ho Feng Shan
Dr. Ho Feng-Shan born September 10, 1901, Yiyang, Hunan, China—died September 28, 1997, San Francisco, California, USA) was a Chinese diplomat in Vienna who saved more than one thousand Jews, risking his own life and his career. Ho's actions were recognized posthumously when he was awarded the...

 issued "protective" passports. In 1943, the occupying Japanese army required these 18,000 Jews, formally known as "stateless refugees," to relocate to an area of 0.75 square miles (1.9 km²) in Shanghai's Hongkew district (today known as Hongkou District
Hongkou District
Hongkou District is a northern district of Shanghai proper, People's Republic of China. It has a land area of and population of 799,700 as of 2001.It is the location of the Astor House Hotel, Broadway Mansions, Lu Xun Park and the Lu Xun memorial....

) where many lived in group homes called "Heime". The total number of Jews entering Shanghai during this period equaled the number of Jews fleeing to Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 combined. Many of the Jews in China later moved to found modern Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

.

Shanghai was an important safe-haven for Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, since it was one of the few places in the world where one didn't need a visa. However, it was not easy to get there. The Japanese, who controlled the city, preferred in effect to look the other way. Some corrupt officials however, also exploited the plight of the Jews. By 1941 nearly 20,000 European Jews had found shelter there.


Notable Jews during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 include Hans Shippe, Dr. Jakob Rosenfeld
Jakob Rosenfeld
Jakob Rosenfeld , more commonly known as General Luo, served as the Minister of Health in the 1947 Provisional Communist Military Government of China under Mao Zedong....

, Stanisław Flato
Stanisław Flato
Stanisław Flato was a Polish army intelligence officer and diplomat.Born into a Jewish family, he graduated from gymnasium "Ascola" in Warsaw and entered the Warsaw University but finally left for a medical study in Paris. He became a member of French Communist Party in 1932. Dr...

, Eva Sandberg
Eva Sandberg
Eva Sandberg was a Jewish German photographer who took Soviet citizenship. In Moscow she met and married the Chinese communist poet Xiao San. In 1939, after twelve years in Moscow, Xiao was ordered to the revolutionary base at Yan'an; Sandberg was allowed to accompany him.-Only White Woman at...

, Ruth Weiss
Ruth Weiss
Ruth F. Weiss, also known as Wèi Lùshī 魏璐诗, was a Jewish-born Austrian-Chinese educator, journalist, and lecturer...

, photographer and wife of Communist leader Xiao San, and Morris Abraham Cohen
Morris Cohen (adventurer)
Morris Abraham "Two-Gun" Cohen was a British mercenary of Jewish origin who became aide-de-camp to the Chinese leader Sun Yat-sen and a major-general in the Chinese army.-Early years:...

.

Late in the War, Nazi representatives pressured the Japanese army to devise a plan to exterminate Shanghai's Jewish population, and this pressure eventually became known to the Jewish community's leadership. However, the Japanese had no intention of further provoking the anger of the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 after their already notorious invasion of China and a number of other Asian nations, and thus delayed the German request until the War ended. With the intercession of the Amshenower Rebbe and the translation skills of Leo (Ariyeh) Hanin
Leo Hanin
Leo Hanin was a Zionist activist.Born into a Jewish family in Vilna , then in Russian Empire, he and his family left for Harbin, Manchuria , in 1916. There Leo joined a Zionist group and studied Jewish history at a Jewish primary school, and then studied at a Russian secondary school...

, the Japanese ultimately kept the Jews of Shanghai safe.

The relative safety of the Jews during the period, in contrast to the Japanese treatment of Chinese during the war, was linked to an appreciation of Jewish culture and history by the Japanese and to the connections that many Jews had in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Nevertheless, conditions in the Designated Area were unpleasant, particularly during the summer months.

In general, in the period of 1845 to 1945 more than 40,000 Jews came to China for business development or for a safe haven.

Late 20th century


After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the establishment of the PRC in 1949, most of these Jews emigrated to Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 or the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, although a few remained. Two prominent non-Chinese lived in China from the establishment of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 to the contemporary period: Sidney Shapiro
Sidney Shapiro
Sidney Shapiro is an American-born author and translator who has lived in China since 1947. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he is of Jewish ethnicity. He resides in Beijing, and is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Council...

 and Israel Epstein
Israel Epstein
Israel Epstein was a naturalized Chinese journalist and author...

, two American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 emigres, are of Jewish descent. Another Jewish-American, Sidney Rittenberg
Sidney Rittenberg
Sidney Rittenberg is an American journalist, interpreter and scholar who lived in China from 1944 to 1979. He worked closely with People's Republic of China founder Mao Zedong, military leader Zhu De, statesman Zhou Enlai, and other leaders of the Chinese Communist Party during the war, and was...

 served as interpreter to many top Chinese officials.

Sara Imas, the Shanghai-born daughter of Shanghai's Jewish Club president, Leiwi Imas, became the first Jewish-Chinese immigrant to Israel after the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1992. Leiwi Imas, who had to leave Germany for Poland in 1939, arrived in Shanghai the same year. He spent his final years in Shanghai until 1962, prior to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Although Sara Imas's non-Chinese appearance and family background brought her much trouble during the Cultural Revolution when she was accused of being a foreign capitalist and spy, today Sara Imas has returned to Shanghai, working as the Chinese representative of an Israeli diamond company.

The Institute of Jewish Studies
Institute of Jewish Studies (Nanjing)
The Institute of Jewish Studies in Nanjing, China is associated with the Department of Religious Studies in Nanjing UniversityIt was founded in January, 1992, after the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and the People's Republic of China...

 was established at Nanjing University
Nanjing University
Nanjing University , or Nanking University, is one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning in China...

 in 1992.

Since the 1990s, the Shanghai municipal government has taken the initiative to preserve historical Western architectures that were constructed during Shanghai's colonial past. Many formerly Jewish-owned hotels and private residence have been included in the preservation project. In 1997, the Kadoorie
Kadoorie
The Kadoorie family were originally Mizrahi Jews from Baghdad who in the mid-18th century migrated to Bombay India and later to British Hong Kong and Shanghai, China.It includes a number of notable individuals:...

-residence-turned Shanghai Children's Palace, had their spacious front garden largely removed in order to make room for the city's overpass system under construction. A One Day Tour of the history of Jewish presence in Shanghai can be arranged through the Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai
Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai
The Center for Jewish Studies Shanghai was established in 1988. It is a department of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Under the leadership of Dean Pan Guang CJSS has become the most influential research institute in China studying Judaism and Israeli affairs.The Center focuses its...

. Rabbi Shalom Greenberg from Chabad-Lubavitch
Chabad
Chabad or Chabad-Lubavitch is a major branch of Hasidic Judaism.Chabad may also refer to:*Chabad-Strashelye, a defunct branch of the Chabad school of Hasidic Judaism*Chabad-Kapust or Kapust, a defunct branch of the Chabad school of Hasidic Judaism...

 in New York arrived in Shanghai to serve this community in August 1998. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation of New York, donated a Torah to the community that same year. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah , , is the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im which occur in the autumn...

, in September 1999, a Jewish New Year service was held at the Ohel Rachel Synagogue for first time since 1952.

21st century


While the Chinese government maintained their support for Arab states, a general pro-Jewish outlook has been observed amongst China's urban populace. These attitudes arose largely due to an admiration of Jewish business skills, as well as a fear of home grown Islamic terrorism. In particular, books on Jews and their proported connection to financial successes are best-sellers in China.

Synagogues are found in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong today, serving both international Jews and native Jews. In 2001, Rabbi Shimon Freundlich from the Chabad
Chabad
Chabad or Chabad-Lubavitch is a major branch of Hasidic Judaism.Chabad may also refer to:*Chabad-Strashelye, a defunct branch of the Chabad school of Hasidic Judaism*Chabad-Kapust or Kapust, a defunct branch of the Chabad school of Hasidic Judaism...

 came and settled in Beijing with the mission of building and leading the center of Chabad-Lubavitch of Beijing, an Orthodox congregation.

In 2005, the Israeli embassy to China held their Hanukkah
Hanukkah
Hanukkah , also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE...

 celebrations at the Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups...

.

In 2007, the Sephardic community of Shanghai opened a synagogue, study hall, kosher kitchen, and educational classes for children and adults. The community has its own Hacham, who functions as a teacher and chazan, in addition to Rabbi Ephraim Bezalel, who manages local community affairs and kashrut
Kashrut
Kashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...

 needs.

As of 2010, it is estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 Jews lived in Shanghai. In May 2010, the Ohel Rachel Synagogue in Shanghai was temporarily reopened to the local Jewish community for weekend services.

See also

  • Kaifeng Jews
    Kaifeng Jews
    The Kaifeng Jews are members of a small Jewish community that has existed in Kaifeng, in the Henan province of China, for hundreds of years. Jews in modern China have traditionally called themselves Youtai in Mandarin Chinese which is also the predominant contemporary Chinese language term for...

  • Shanghai Ghetto
    Shanghai ghetto
    The Shanghai ghetto, formally known as the , was an area of approximately one square mile in the Hongkou District of Japanese-occupied Shanghai, to which about 20,000 Jewish refugees were relocated by the Japanese-issued Proclamation Concerning Restriction of Residence and Business of Stateless...

  • History of the Jews in Hong Kong
    History of the Jews in Hong Kong
    The Jews have been present in Hong Kong since the mid-19th century. As a major financial centre, much of Hong Kong's Jewish community is temporary in nature, largely consisting of expatriates from countries with much larger Jewish populations, such as the United States, Israel, and certain European...

  • History of the Jews in Taiwan
    History of the Jews in Taiwan
    Unlike mainland China, the Jewish presence in Taiwan is relatively young, and was never numerous. The first sizable presence began in the 1950s, when religious services were held in the United States military chapel, to which civilians also had access....

  • History of the Jews in Japan
    History of the Jews in Japan
    The history of the Jews in Japan is well documented in modern times with various traditions relating to much earlier eras.-Status of Jews in Japan:...

  • Jewish settlement in Imperial Japan
  • Fugu Plan
    Fugu Plan
    The Jewish settlement in Imperial Japan involved the movement of Jews to and through Japan to its occupied areas of China shortly prior to and during World War II, coinciding with the Second Sino-Japanese War...

  • Jewish ethnic divisions
    Jewish ethnic divisions
    Jewish ethnic divisions refers to a number of distinct communities within the world's ethnically Jewish population. Although considered one single self-identifying ethnicity, there are distinct ethnic divisions among Jews, most of which are primarily the result of geographic branching from an...

  • Lost Ten Tribes
  • Religion in China
    Religion in China
    Religion in China has been characterized by pluralism since the beginning of Chinese history. The Chinese religions are family-oriented and do not demand the exclusive adherence of members. Some scholars doubt the use of the term "religion" in reference to Buddhism and Taoism, and suggest "cultural...

  • History of Islam in China
    History of Islam in China
    The History of Islam in China began when four Sahabas- Sa'ad ibn abi Waqqas , Wahb Abu Kabcha, Jafar ibn Abu Talib and Jahsh preached in 616/17 and onwards in China after coming from Chittagong-Kamrup-Manipur route after sailing from Abyssinia in 615/16...


External links