chapter  5
15 Pages

China and Israel: the Jewish presence in China

The presence of Jewish communities in China is reported as early as the midseventh century, along with Persian, Arab and Central Asian immigrants and traders. ‘Foreign religions, including Islam, Judaism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism and Nestorian Christianity were practiced among the thousands of foreign merchant residents there, though none of these religions spread into the Chinese population the way Buddhism had centuries earlier.’1 There were four major Jewish communities in China. Jewish merchants resided within the Hui community and were viewed as Hui. Historians recorded no violence carried out against them in comparison with major violent confrontations reported against the Hui Muslims by the Han majority since the ninth century. Historians, travellers and contemporary researchers have also reported ‘the extraordinary story of the Jews of Kaifeng, long lost descendants of the Israelites who somehow found their way to Hunan in the twelfth century, or before.’2