The Kaifeng Jews (960 AD)

The Jews settled in Kaifeng, Henan Province in 960 AD after arriving along the Silk Road.  The Jews who first arrived in China were welcomed by the  Imperial government, which encouraged them to retain their cultural identity by building a synagogue, which was finished in 1163 AD.

The Kaifeng Synagogue had a Torah written on sheepskin. The architecture of the buildings reflects Jewish culture. Evidence indicates that  the Kaifeng Jews were very traditional and obeyed Kosher dietary laws and practiced circumcision for males.

The Jewish community in China thrived for centuries before it was assimilated into Chinese culture through intermarriage. By the middle of the 18th century, little survived of the Jewish community.

In 1849, the Yellow River flooded causing what was left of the Jewish community to break apart. Today there are about 500 descendents of the Kaifeng Jewish community who hope to reclaim their Jewish tradition.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This post first appeared July 2010

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