What the Chinese Know about the Jews / DR.Rivka Shpak Lissak

The economic growth and the military strengthening of China during the last decades turned it into a rising power in international relations. It economic growth raised its demand for oil from Iran and Arab countries. In light of these two developments the Jews and Israel have an interest to get to know China and find ways to strengthen their ties with her.
Dr. Shalom Salomon Wald studied the relationship between China and the Jewish people, and his study was published by the "The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute," in Jerusalem, founded by the Jewish Agency.
This article presents a chapter on "What the Chinese know about the Jewish people.
Until the 19th century there were only a few encounters between Jews and Chinese. In the Chinese town Kaifeng a community of descendants of the 10 tribes existed since the Han Dynasty, which ruled China between the 3rd century BCE and the 3rd century BE. But, they were called Israelis, not Jews and until recently they have not been identified as Jews. Chinese scholars discovered the existence of this community in the 19th century, but did not connect between Israelis and Jews.
The first encounter between Jews and Chinese began in Shanghai, in the 19th century when a Jewish community was established in Shanghai, by Iraqi Jewish traders. At about the same time an extensive missionary effort began throughout China by Protestant Christians. Protestant missionaries translated the Bible into Chinese, as part of their missionary work, and Chinese who came into contact with missionaries learned, for the first time, about the Bible, and the existence of an ancient people, called Jews. But, the first book in Chinese on Jewish history was first published in 1850.
Chinese began to learn more about Jews and Judaism when Chinese students began to study in Western universities and Chinese scholars began to visit Europe and the United States, after the middle of the 19th century. The image that crystallized on Jews at the time among the Chinese was that Jews are rich and talented, especially in business, but, they are not honest. Also, Chinese came to believe that the Jews are extremely powerful, financially and otherwise in the U.S. A.
Between the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, Chinese have learned more about the Jewish people and a new image began to take shape. They learned about the long history of the persecution of the Jews in Europe and the pogroms and came to the conclusion that the Jews were "the white man's victims." Since the Chinese considered themselves "the White man's victims" too, they found similarity between the Jewish and the Chinese fate. The two peoples were, in their eyes, victims of the white man. The white man took over China in the 19th century, exploited it economically, and crushed the dignity and self-respect of the Chinese people. The Chinese rebelled twice against the white man's control: The so called, "Opium War" (1839 – 1842), and the "The Boxer Rebellion"(1900 – 1901). The two uprisings were brutally suppressed by the white man, and as a result of the victory of the Western imperialism, the Western involvement in China's affairs deepened.
In 1903 another Jewish community was founded in Harbin, Manchuria. The Community was founded by Russian Jews, who received permission from the Russian Czar, to settle there, after the Russian conquest of Manchuria from China in the end of the 19th century. Between the years 1905 -1917 Jewish refugees from the Russian pogroms and from the war zone of First World War fled from Russia and joined the Jewish community in Harbin.
Toward the end of the 19th century a group of 4.500 Jewish refugees fled from the pogroms in Russia and settled in Shanghai. The Russian – Jewish community greatly enhanced the image of the Jews in China. Russian-Jewish doctors established the Sinai Hospital, and Russian-Jewish musicians opened a music school in the city. Both, the hospital and the music school still exist today.
The positive image of the Jews had been even strengthened after the first president of the Republic of China (established in 1911), Sun Yat Tsen, supported in his statement the Zionist Movement:
"Chinese Nationalism disappeared when China was occupied by strangers. But China was not the only nation under occupation. The Jewish people had lost its country. Although their country was destroyed, the Jewish people survived to this day ... Zionism is one of the most important movements of the new era. All lovers of democracy should support of Zionism,.. This is a movement to rehabilitate this ancient wonderful people, which have contributed so much to the world's civilization and rightly deserve to find their place among the family of nations. "
But, since the 1920's-1930's Chinese became acquainted with Eropean ant-Semitism The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other anti-Semitic articles were translated into Chinese. The second President of the Republic of China, Zhang Kai-shek and his wife were anti-Semites and their views on Jews had an impact on Chinese view of Jews.
During Second World War between 18,000 - 20,000 Jewish refugees from the Holocaust found refuge in Shanghai. Some of them came by sea from Italy and some via Russia. Their arrival strengthened the image of the Jew as a victim.
In fact, Chinese developed two approaches towards the Jewish people: a positive and a negative view. Part of the Chinese elite argued that Zionism is an imperialist capitalist movement, and the Jewish religion is a religion as old-fashioned religion as Confucius. The other part had a much more positive attitude. They translated into Chinese over forty short stories from Yiddish, and defined the Yiddish language as "the language of simple people that become the language of great literature." Chinese scholars have conducted research in which they found comparisons between biblical texts and ancient Chinese texts. Others found too many similarities between the destruction of both nations. One of the greatest Chinese writers, Dan Mao, published in 1942 a book called "The Revenge of Samson." Samson, that brought down the temple on his tormentors turned in the eyes of the author into a symbol of China groaning under foreign occupation (from 1931 to 1945 China was under Japanese occupation). Another well-known Chinese writer, Lynn Yotang wrote in 1938 in the preface to his book "sayings", that there is a similarity between the laws of Moses and the Confucian thought.
During the Communist regime of Mao Tze-dong ( 1949 – 1976), the Chinese government's policy towards Judaism and Israel was negative. The Communist regime was anti-religious in general and condemned Zionism and as an ally of U.S. imperialism.
During the 1980's , after the Chinese Communist government became more pragmatic, Chines renewed their interest in the Jewish people. Chinese writers translated the works of Jewish writers - Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevitz – Singer- into Chinese. China established diplomatic relations with Israel and Israelis and Jewish tourists, businessmen and diplomats, began to visit China, and Chinese businessmen and diplomats visited Israel. These visits raised awareness of the importance of the Jewish communities of Shanghai and Harbin which long go ceased to exist, in tourist terms. As a result, the Chinese government initiated the rehabilitation of the Jewish quarter and Jewish public institutions in both cities. The government also, encouraged studies, and initiated seminars on the history of the Jewish communities and organized commemorative events of the tow communities.
But, most important thing is the interest of the Chinese Academy of Jewish history and culture. Today in Jewish studies and Israel - 8 to 10 academic centers. Between 15 - 20 full-time Chinese researchers engage in research and teaching, and - 200 researchers working part-time. There are a large number of undergraduate students between 30 - 40 graduate students. Chinese students come to Israel to study at university and a growing number of books in a variety of topics: Jewish history, Holocaust pursuit of Nazi criminals, modernization of Judaism from the century - 18, the birth of Israel, the Israeli - Arab philosophy, Jewish literature and religion. Chinese researchers have advantages and disadvantages in their approach to study the Jewish people and its culture. On the one hand, they have no prior knowledge, but on the other hand, they have no background of Christian, Muslim, anti-Semitic or communist - Soviet.
Dr. Wald found that you can get information on what know about Jews and Judaism in Chinese thin layer was introduced for Jews and Judaism, out of 4 sources: the written literature, interviews with Chinese experts, meetings with Chinese students survey the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences "Bbeing Beijing .
Apparently the interest and knowledge are concentrated on four themes: the Jew as a model of sophistication and success of Jewish contributions to civilization and modernizing of the world, longevity of the Jewish Holocaust.
Jewish as a model of sophistication and success
China admired the Jews for economic success and strength. The Chinese ascribe to the Jews control businesses, stock exchange, banks in the global economy. Admiration is related to economic liberalization and economic growth that created possibilities to get rich, young Chinese people recognize the Jews with their dream to get rich, find a good job in general, to succeed in life. But, admiration for wealth and success is in keeping with Chinese traditions. Unlike the Christian moral reservations about negative connotations Jewish success in business in the West, China does not have negative connotations. Of course, Chinese people exaggerate assessing economic and political power of the Jews.
Contributions to civilization and modernizing the world
Jews have admiration for China on the contributions of religious ideas, philosophical and political economic and scientific progress that changed the face of the world. Most admired figures are Manstein, Marx and Freud and Jesus. In 1995, China published a book entitled "History of the lives of famous Jewish intellectuals." The book contains over ninety biographies and starts Baruch Spinoza, who lived century - 17th. The book creates the impression that most of the Jewish contribution made century - 20th. Book includes biographies of 23 writers, 12 musicians and filmmakers, 5 artists, scientists Umtimtikaim 17, 17 economists, 6 humanist scholars in the field, and - 2 statesmen (Trotsky Kissinger).
Chinese ask how the Jews, so few are so high contribution to global culture, relative to their numbers, while the Chinese people, numbering over a billion is not good at all. The Chinese believe that Jewish education is the source of excellence Jews and attach great importance to education. One of the problems that concern them is how the Jews carried out the transition to modernization, old and new. It is very topical subject in China. Chinese modernization requires asking whether "Westernization". Against this background, there is interest in China Haskalah century - 18th. In 2003 an article appeared in China about Moses Mendelssohn, the founder of Reform Judaism stream, a Chinese magazine. Also translated into Chinese books of Martin Buber, Leo Baeck, Cecil Roth and Mordecai Kaplan by Fro"f Fu Yu - thank Shandong University.
Longevity of the Jewish people
Languages historic central place in Chinese culture, Chinese compare the longevity of their lives longevity of the Jewish people. When negotiations between the Chinese and Israeli delegation on the establishment of diplomatic relations, the Chinese delegation stressed Slsinim Jews two ancient civilizations in the world. In 2003 a book appeared in China, "Jerusalem - 3000 years of history and art." Unlike the West where there are circles deny Jewish history and include the right of a Jewish state, the Chinese stock admiration how the Jews managed to survive so long without their own country. But, the Chinese see longevity for granted and are not aware of the existential fears of the Jews role they play Jewish and Israeli politics.
Identification of the Chinese with the suffering of Jews throughout the generations much interest due to their sense of being Holocaust victim of the white man, like the Jews, but it is also their challenge against the West's presumption of moral superiority.
You can illustrate the extent of their interest in the Holocaust from the fact that among the 214 students surveyed Academy, 188 knew about the Holocaust. China started film exhibitions were held on the Holocaust. Films about the Holocaust there were particular interest "Schindler's List and The Pianist."
The Chinese also compare the Jewish Holocaust and the destruction Chinese under Japanese occupation Haczi from 1931 to 1945 and they even imitated the Yad Vashem on this subject already established memorial Activities prohibited Khan Nanjing "by the Japanese.
Reunion awakening the Chinese are aware of anti-Semitism in Europe, but are unaware of the connection that has been made in Europe between anti-Semitism - Zionism, and are unaware of the phenomenon of Islamic anti-Semitism.
Intifada Western accusations that Israel conducts war crimes and the Jews are the killers not gone unnoticed by the Chinese.
The question is how the image of Jews and Israel will be dominant. This is a very important question in light of the rising demand of the Chinese economy China's oil connections with Iran and the Gulf states.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters (without spaces) shown in the image.