Jews settled in Kaifeng, Henan Province in 960 A.D. after arriving along the Silk Road. These Jews were welcomed by the Song Dynasty and encouraged to retain their cultural identity by building a synagogue that was finished in 1163 A.D.
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 descendants of the Kaifeng Jewish community, who want to reclaim their Jewish tradition.
“Jews were not newcomers to China. Some had lived under Chinese rule from sometime after 92 CE, during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE- 220 CE), when they resided in what at the time was called the Western Region (roughly Xinjiang Province today) in special enclaves that were set aside by the Chinese for foreigners.” — The Sino-Judaic Institute
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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