Jews in Old china: Studies by Chinese Scholars

The accidental discovery in the 17th century of a Jewish community in the city of Kaifeng, and the findings there by Jesuit missionaries, marked the beginning of widespread interest in the subject of Jews in China. In the centuries that followed, Western Sinologists arrived in China and engaged in a variety of investigations. In the 1980s, however, Sidney Shapiro, a former New York lawyer who has lived half a century in Beijing, felt that “there was a crying need to learn what the Chinese scholars themselves have to say about the history of the Jews in China”. With that in mind, he compiled the remarkable fruits of research conducted by Chinese social scientists, and edited and translated them into English.

Jews in Old China was originally published by Hippocrene Books in 1984 with considerable success. It was then translated into Hebrew and published in Israel in 1987.

This newly expanded edition offers a rich exposition, according to the Chinese investigations, on the origins of these Jewish migrants — when and why they came, the routes they followed, where they settled, and descriptions of their religious and social lives under the Hans, the Mongols and the Manchus. This book provides a wealth of information about the conflicts, contributions, adaptation and ultimate assimilation of the Jews in China. It also introduces, from the Chinese perspective, the Radanites, the great medieval Jewish mercantile traders, who provided an important link between China and the West.

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