The Chinese Jews of Kaifeng
A Millennium of Adaptation and Endurance
Publication date:21 July 2017
Length of book:290 pages
This scholarly collection examines the origins, history, and contemporary nature of Chinese Judaism in the community of Kaifeng. These essays, written by a diverse, international team of contributors, explore the culture and history of this thousand-year-old Jewish community, whose synthesis of Chinese and Jewish cultures helped guarantee its survival. Part I of this study analyzes the origin and historical development of the Kaifeng community, as well as the unique cultural synthesis it engendered. Part II explores the contemporary nature of this Chinese Jewish community, particularly examining the community’s relationship to Jewish organizations outside of China, the impact of Western Jewish contact, and the tenuous nature of Jewish identity in Kaifeng.
"Never has so much been written about so few," the editors of this diverse collection of articles concerning the Kaifeng (China) Jewish community concede. The 12 chapters (some by specialists, others by amateurs; some original, others reprinted; some new, others dated) range from antiquity to the present and vary greatly in quality. Most were previously delivered at conferences of the Sino-Judaic Institute. Valuable recent scholarship by Xu Xin and Lihong Song, among others, receives little notice here, while a "fictionalized" biography of Zhao Yingcheng and a political screed against supposed "right-wing messianic Zionist organizations" currently operating in China are printed in full. Still, the best articles—the discussion of recent interactions with Western Jews (including Israelis)—and the recommended reading list make this volume a useful addition to the already considerable literature on the subject. For specialized collections. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.