The book traces the Israelites presence in China to the earliest times. It weaves the story of the Kaifeng Israelites from original archives, memorials to the emperors, and local gazetteers with Western sources. For the first time readers are exposed to the activities of the “seventy clans” , as the Chinese Jews considered themselves “all offspring of Jacob were seventy persons” (Ex 1:5) in dynastic China. This small Israelite community believed they were the sole remnants of “all Israel” (klal Israel). They lived in the outskirts of China in administrative enclaves that encouraged sinocization. Chinese sages such as Laozi quoted them, Confucius referred to them while Mencius described them, possibly had a discourse with one of them, and later literature treated them as natives. After the 2nd century CE they settled in China proper and Chinese literature mentioned them in the Han, Sui, Wei, Tang and Song dynasties where they lived in almost anonymity. They joined the exodus from China during the Great Religious Persecution in the Tang Dynasty when all non native Chinese religions were expelled. The Israelite community returned to the Western Regions, where they lived until the Song Emperor invited them back. Despite their prolonged absence from China proper, they remained truthful to both China and to their biblical roots.
A History of the Kaifeng Israelites is an in-depth study of a small group of Israelites who migrated after the Babylonian exile from East to farther East, all the way to China. Ever since this community was discovered in 1605 in Kaifeng, it generated controversy due to lack of communication, formidable language barriers, misunderstandings and prejudiced observations. Now, for the first time people can read about the Israelites in China, from original Chinese literature translated and presented in a combined Chinese and Judaism context.
A History of the Kaifeng Israelites combines Chinese and Jewish sources, in conjunction with the stone inscriptions to present the story of the Kaifeng Israelites in a dual Jewish and Chinese settings. To that end, the author has translated texts from ancient Chinese literature that attest to the presence and activities of Jews in ancient China. The book also correlates the Chinese version of the origin of the Kaifeng community with Hebrew and Western sources, the role of the inscription in the life of the Kaifeng Israelites and analyzes the various visual accounts of Chinese travelers to Kaifeng in early 20th century.
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