The Jews of Kaifeng, China: History, Culture, and Religion
From the ninth century on, there was an indigenous Jewish community in the city of Kaifeng in northeastern China. Separated by thousands of miles from the rest of the world, and largely cut off from contact with the main centers of Jewish life, the Kaifeng Jews developed a distinctive culture that was unquestionably Jewish, but progressively absorbed Chinese elements. Their greatest problem was not separation from other Jews so much as the openness and tolerance of Chinese society. Intermarriages occurred frequently, and Jews were fully accepted as merchants, government officials, and neighbors. Over time, they were so completely assimilated that few of their descendants carry any memory of Jewish ancestry and physically look much like other Chinese. The story of the Kaifeng Jews is dramatic and colorful, and offers many profound lessons. It will be indispensable to anyone interested in Jewish or Chinese history.
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