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The Chinese and the Jews belong to the oldest nations 
in the world, but whilst the Chinese are the most isolated 
and self-contained of peoples, it may be said of the Jews 
that they are the most wide-spread and scattered. I pro- 
pose to give the result of some inquiries into the question 
of how the Jews have fared in the Celestial Empire. 

It is only in quite recent times that any Jewish writer 
has so much as noticed the existence of a Jewish settle- 
ment in China. Benjamin of Tudela refers to the country, 
but, well informed as he was, he makes no mention of the 
existence of a Jewish colony there. 

We owe to the Jesuits the first authenticated accounts 
we possess 2 . It was in the time of Queen Elizabeth that 
the Church of Kome sent out to China a band of mis- 
sionaries who happened to be men of the world, and withal, 
men of culture and knowledge. They were well received 
in Pekin. Several of them were even raised to the rank 
of Mandarin. As Presidents of the Tribunal of Mathematics 
they advised the Government as to the Calendar, and 
assisted the Astronomical Board. Father Kicci was one 
of the first of these missionaries, and in the report to the 
Propaganda Fide, at Borne, we are told how he came to 
know about the existence of Chinese Jews. 

One summer day, in the early part of the seventeenth 
century, Bicci received a visit from a scholar who had 
come to Pekin in order to pass his examination for a 
government appointment. The candidate was anxious to 
make the acquaintance of one who, he surmised, must be 

1 A Paper read before the Jews* College Literary Society on June 17, 1900. 
3 Trigaltius, de Christiana Expeditions apud Sinas, Aug.Vind., 1615. A.Sem- 
medo, Letters from Jesuit Missions, 1627. Id. , Further Reports, Madrid, 1642. 


a co-religionist, for it was said that he worshipped one 
God, the Lord of heaven and earth, and yet was not a 
Mohammedan. Father Kicci was struck with his visitor's 
features, so different from those of an ordinary Chinaman, 
and took him to his oratory, where he knelt before the 
picture of the Holy Family with St. John the Baptist, and 
another picture of the Evangelists. The visitor did so like- 
wise, saying, " We in China do reverence to our ancestors. 
This is Kebecca with her sons Jacob and Esau, but as to 
the other picture, why make obeisance to only four sons 
of Jacob, were there not twelve ? " Then mutual explana- 
tions were given. The visitor was an Israelite, Ngai by 
name, who had come to Pekin from Kai-fung-foo, the 
ancient capital of Ho-nan. In this city, the visitor ex- 
plained, his community had a synagogue which they had 
recently repaired, and in which there was a roll of the 
Law which was over 400 years old. "At Hang-chow-foo," 
he said, ''there was a larger congregation of Jews, who 
also had a synagogue ; Jews dwelt in other provinces also." 

Father Ricci was able to verify all these statements, and 
received visits from other native Jews. Julius Aleni, his 
successor, had a fair knowledge of Hebrew, and he paid the 
congregation a visit in 1613. Semmedo, writing in 1642, 
reports that Jews were living in four Chinese towns, and 
that they were much respected. 

At the beginning of the eighteenth century we have 
further accounts from the Jesuits. Gozani, one of them, 
wrote a letter from Kai-fung-foo, dated November 5, 1704, 
giving full details of the Jewish customs, and describing 
their synagogue. Later on Domengo sketched a plan of 
the communal buildings, and Fathers Gaubil and Cibot 
obtained copies and translations of the inscriptions on the 
walls and on certain monumental stones 1 . 

1 Lettres edijiantes et curieuses f ecrites des Missions etrangeres par quelques 
Missionaires de la Compagnie de Jesus, Paris, vol. VII, 1707. Id., Reports of 
Gaubil and Domengo, vol. XXXI, 1774. Commentatio de Iudaeis Sinensibusj an 
Appendix to Brotiers Tacitus. Paris, 17 71. 



Quite recently Pere Tobar has published, under the 
auspices of the Roman Catholic Mission at Shanghai, 
a most valuable work 1 on these inscriptions. Facsimiles 
and translations into French of the inscriptions on the 
stone tablets or steles severally dated 1489, 151 2, and 1663, 
are given along with twenty-three horizontal and seventeen 
vertical inscriptions which were found in the synagogue. 
We must indeed be thankful to the Jesuits for having 
placed within our reach these precious records of the past. 
The following are abstracts of the dated inscriptions : — 

I. Absteact of Inscription on Stone Stele of 1489. 

Abraham was the nineteenth in descent from Adam. 

The patriarchs handed down the tradition forbidding the making 
and worshipping of images and spirits, and the holding of super- 

Abraham pondered over problems of Nature and arrived at the 
belief in the one true God and became the founder of the religion 
we believe in to this day. This happened in the 146th year of the 
Tcheou dynasty. 

His belief was handed down from father to son till Moses, who, it 
is found, was alive in the 613th year of the Tcheou dynasty. He was 
endowed with wisdom and virtue. He abode forty days on the summit 
of Mount Sinai, refraining from meat and drink, and communing with 
God. The fifty-three portions of the Law had their origin with him. 
From him the Law and tradition was handed down unto Ezra, who 
was likewise a patriarch. 

Man in his daily pursuits must ever have God before him. We pray 
three times a day : morning, noon, and evening. 

When praying, the worshipper first bends his body ; then in silent 
devotion he offers up his prayer or raises his voice, swaying, meanwhile, 
to and fro. At the end, he retires three paces and advances five, then 
turns towards the left and right, and finally looks upwards and down- 
wards, to show his belief that God is everywhere. 

It is incumbent upon the Jew to venerate his ancestors. Twice in 
the year, in the spring and in the autumn, he offers them oxen and 
sheep together with the fruits of the season. 

1 Inscriptions Juives de iCai-fong-fou, par le P. Jerome Tobar, S. J. Varietes 
Sinologiques, No. 17, Chang- hai, 1900. 


Four days every month are devoted to purification and to stimulating 
to charitable acts. Each seventh day is devoted to rest, and a fresh 
period of good deeds then commences anew. In the fourth season of 
the year, the Jew places himself under severe restraint for seven days. 
One entire day he abstains altogether from food, devoting it to prayer 
and repentance. 

Our religion came originally from Tien-tchou (India ?). 

Seventy families, viz. Li, Yen, Kao, Tchao, and others, came to the 
Court of Song, bringing as tribute cloth of cotton from Western lands. 
The emperor said, "You have come to China. Keep and follow the 
customs of your forefathers, and settle at Peen-lang (Kai-fung-foo)." 

In the first year of Long-hing of the Song dynasty (1163), when 
Lie-wei (Levi) was the Ouseta (Rabbi), Yentula erected the synagogue. 
Under the Yuen dynasty, in the sixteenth year of the Tche-yuen 
cycle (1279) the temple structures were rebuilt. The dimensions on 
each side were thirty-five tchang (about 350 feet). 

The Emperor Tai-tsou, who founded the Ming dynasty, granted in 
1390 land to all who submitted to his authority, on which they could 
dwell peacefully and profess their religion without molestation. 
The Jews had ministers of religion who were called Man-la (Mullah) 
to rule the synagogue and to watch over the religious institutions. 

In the nineteenth year of Yong-lo (1421), Yen-Tcheng, a physician, 
received from the emperor a present of incense and permission to 
repair the synagogue. Then was received the grand tablet of the 
Ming dynasty to be placed in the synagogue. The emperor bestowed 
honours and titles upon Yen-Tcheng. 

In 1 461 there was an overflow of the Yellow River, and the foun- 
dations alone of the structure were left standing. Li-yong, having 
obtained the necessary permission from the provincial treasurer, 
rebuilt the temple and had it decorated. 

Later on, the cells at the rear of the synagogue were put up, and 
three copies of the Holy Law were placed there. A copy of the Law 
had before this been obtained from Ning-pouo ; another had been 
presented by Tchao-Yng of Ning-pouo. Various dignitaries presented 
the table of offerings, the bronze vase, the flower vases, and the candle- 
sticks. Other members of the community contributed the ark, the 
triumphal arch, the balustrades, and other furniture for Israel's 
temple called I-se-lo-nie-tien. 

All this has been recorded, to be handed down to the latest genera- 
tions by me, Kin-Tchong, literary graduate, and engraved by others on 
durable stone on this stele in the second year of Hong-Tche (1489). 


II. Inscription on Stone Stele op 1512. 

Erected by Tsouo Tang, a mandarin, and other dignitaries in the 
seventh year of Tcheng-te of the Ming dynasty, when a copy of the 
Law was presented by Kin-Pou of Wei-yang. The inscription gives 
details of the Jewish religion, its moral and other ordinances, and its 
canonical books, together with the historical incidents already referred 
to in Inscription I. The following passage is of interest : — " After the 
Creation, the Doctrine was transmitted by Adam to Noah ; thence 
unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and afterwards through the twelve 
patriarchs to Moses, Aaron, and Joshua. Ezra promulgated the Law, 
and through him the letters of the Yew-thae (Jewish) nation were 
made plain." 

III. Inscription on Stone Stele op 1663. 

In a long preamble an attempt is made to show that there is 
nothing in the Sacred Law of the Jews which is not in conformity 
with the. six canonical books of the Chinese. Then follow notices of 
the Jewish settlement and of the historical incidents already referred 
to in Inscription I. A graphic account is given of the events which 
followed the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1642. The city of Kai- 
fung-foo, then called Peen-lang, stood six-months 1 siege by the rebel 
chief Li Tse-tcheng, who eventually caused the fall of the city by 
diverting the Yellow River. The loss of life was great, and the 
synagogue was destroyed; 200 and odd Jewish families were saved, and 
took refuge on the north side of the river. The names are recorded 
of those who succeeded in saving the scrolls and other sacred books 
which were floating on the water. These, with other sacred writings 
which were rescued out of the ruins of the synagogue, were placed in 
a large house away from the city, where, for a time, the Jews assembled 
for divine service. About ten years afterwards, Tchao Yng-tcheng, a 
Jewish mandarin from the province of Chen-si, who was in command 
of a force of soldiers, came to Peen and did much to restore the city, 
the roads and the bridges. Aided by his brother, Yng-teou, he 
induced his co-religionists to return to the city and to take up their 
old habitations close to the temple which was rebuilt in the year 
1653, in the tenth year of the reign of Choen-tche. Full particulars 
are given of the work of reconstruction and of the part taken by the 
members of the seven houses. It was not possible to make up more 
than one complete scroll of the Law out of the parchments recovered 
from the waters. This task was entrusted to their religious chief. 
The scroll, much venerated by the faithful, was. placed in the middle 


of the ark. Twelve other scrolls were gradually collated and put in 
order by members of the community, whose several names are given 
on the back of the stele, and the other holy writings and prayer-books 
were repaired and revised with every care. The commandant Tchao 
Yng-tcheng, before leaving the city, wrote an account of the vicissi- 
tudes undergone by the sacred scrolls, and his brother published 
a book of ten chapters on the subject. Several high mandarins, 
whose names are given in the stele, took a part in the work of the 
restoration of the synagogue, also in the erection of the stele, which 
took place in the second year of Kang-hi of the Tsing dynasty (1663). 

Summarizing the historical references in these inscrip- 
tions, and in the accounts of the Jesuit fathers and other 
reliable writers 1 , we arrive at the following results : — 
Jews had certainly settled in China some time during the 
Han dynasty, which ruled from 200 B.C. to 220 A.c. It 
is supposed that the settlement took place soon after the 
year 34 A.c, at which time terrible persecutions of the 
Jews took place in Babylon ; no less than 50,000 were then 
massacred. Others hold that the settlement took place 
thirty-five years later, after the fall of Jerusalem. It is 
quite possible that the Jewish colony in China may be of 
even older date. Having regard to the fact that the trade 
route of ancient times from China and India was not 
exclusively maritime, but crossed the steppes and high- 
lands of Central Asia, and then passed through Media, 
Mesopotamia and Syria, it is not at all impossible that 
sections of the ten tribes of Israel may have found their 
way to China, as we believe they did find their way to 
Cochin China. A passage in 2 Kings xvii. 6 is to the effect 
that Shalmaneser carried Israel away and placed them in 
Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the 
cities of the Medes. 

1 C. G. von Murr, Versuch ein&r Geschichte der Juden in Sina ; nebst P. Ignas 
Koeglers Beschreibung Hirer heiligen Bucher. Halle, 1806. Jewish Expositor, 
vol. I. London, 1815. E. C. Bridgman, The Chinese Repository. Canton, 
1834. Terrien de Lacouperie, Babylonian and Oriental Record. London, 1886, 
&c. Henri Cordier, Les Juifs en Chine. Paris, 1891. Rev. A, Kingsley 
Glover, Jewish Chinese Papers, 1894. Alexander Wylie, Chinese Researches f 
Shanghai, 1897. 


The allusion in Isa. xlix. 13, "Behold, these shall come 
from far : and, lo, these from the north and the west ; and 
these from the land of Sinim," points to China. 

In Kenaudot's translation of " Ancient accounts of India 
and China, by two Mohammedan travellers who went 
there in the ninth century Y* we read that over 100,000 
Mohammedans, Jews, Parsees, and Christians, who came to 
China for purposes of commerce, perished in the Bai-chu 
revolts. From incidental remarks in Marco Polo's Travels, 
we learn that the Jews were sufficiently numerous in his 
time (1286) to exercise political influence in China and 

Ibn Batuta, a writer of the fourteenth century, states 
that Jews then resided in China 2 . In his account of the 
city of Khansa (Hangchow), he remarks : " In the second 
division are the Jews, Christians, and the Turks; these 
are numerous, and their number is not known, and theirs 
is the most beautiful city. Their streets are well disposed, 
and their great men are wealthy." 

In those days Kai-fung-foo, called by the Tartars Peen- 
lang, was a city six leagues in circumference ; Gibbon states 
that over one million families dwelt in it. Naturally the 
Jews would flock to such a city for trading purposes, and 
so we find that in the days of the Emperor Heao-tsong 
many Jews came thither by way of Persia and Khorassan. 
They won the emperor's favour by presents of cotton or 

In course of time the city suffered from inundations of 
the Yellow River, and frequent conflagrations sadly reduced 
its importance. The Jewish quarter was not more than five 
hundred feet from the river embankment, and was specially 
prone to damage by floods. In 1642 the city was besieged ; 
the embankments were demolished, 100,000 people perished, 
and many Hebrew manuscripts were destroyed. We read of 

1 Translated from the Arabic by E. Renaudot. Paris, 1718. 
a The Travels of Ibn Batuta. Translated from the Arabic by Rev. Br. Lee. 
Issued by London Oriental Translation Fund, 1829. 


the synagogue being rebuilt 1279, and again in 1489, and 
of its restoration at the commencement of the seventeenth 
century, and again in 1653. 

Thanks to the explicit accounts of the Jesuits, we are 
in a position to give a very full description of the com- 
munal buildings as they appeared in the early and middle 
part of the eighteenth century, and these accounts tally 
with those of the Protestant Mission in 1 850, and of recent 
visitors, who, however, only saw the ruins of what must 
have been a noble cluster of buildings. 

The site covered a space of from three to four hundred 
feet by 150 feet, and there were four courts proceeding 
from east to west. The synagogue proper faced west, the 
direction in which Jerusalem lay. In the centre of the 
first court there stood a large triumphal arch, called Pai- 
leou, adorned with a Chinese inscription recording its 
dedication to the Creator and Preserver of all. There were 
bath-houses and water-chambers in the precincts of this 
court. The second court was entered by a great gate (only 
opened on great occasions), and by side doors. The walls 
were flanked north and south by dwelling-houses for care- 
takers and keepers. The third court had in its centre 
a small triumphal arch, flanked on each side by pavilions 
in which were enshrined two of the engraved stone tablets 
of which I have already given an account. On the south 
side of this court was a commemorative chapel in memory 
of a Jewish mandarin, Tchao, a mandarin of the second 
degree, who rebuilt the synagogue after its destruction by 
fire. And on the north side there was another chapel in 
memory of one who erected the edifice then standing. There 
were also reception-rooms for guests. The fourth court was 
divided by a long avenue of trees. Halfway stood a great 
brazen vase of incense, on each side of which there was 
a brazen vase containing flowers, and a marble lion upon 
a pedestal. Adjoining the northern wall was a recess in 
which the nerves and sinews of the animals slain for food 
were extracted. Some importance seems to have been 



(From designs of Fathers Domengo and Brucker.) 


Pai-leou or Triumphal Arch. 

Grand Portal with side en- 

Portico with side entrances. 

Triumphal Arch. 

Stone Steles. 

Facade of Temple. 

Space for erection of Tabernacle 
on Festival. 

Two Lions on Pedestals. 

Vessel for Incense. 

Flower Vases. 

Halls for Assembly. 

Site for the Extraction of 
Nerves and Sinews. 

Hall of Ancestors. 

Tchao's Reception Room. 

Another Reception Room. 

Dwelling-Houses for Care- 


2 7 


Large Table for Incense. 

Chair of Moses or Pulpit. 

Balustrade reaching to the Bethel. 

Tablet with Prayer for Emperor. 

Arcade with Inscription. 

Bethel surmounted with a Borne. 

Cells for Scrolls. 



Repositories for Prayer Books and Bibles. 

Basin for Washing of Hands. 

Two Tablets on which the Ten Commandments were emblazoned. 

Inscription, €i Hear, O Israel/' 

Borne surmounting Chair of Moses. 


attached to this rite, and up to the present time the Jewish 
community are known under the name of "Teaou-kin- 
keaou," the sect "that pluck out the sinews." In the 
second division of the court was the hall of ancestors 
(Tsoo-tang). Here were venerated — probably at the high 
festivals in the spring and autumn — the Patriarchs of Old 
Testament history after the Chinese manner. The name 
of each was recorded on a tablet ; there were no pictures ; 
to each of them was assigned a censer for incense, the 
largest being for Abraham, others for the other patriarchs, 
Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Ezra. Then there was an open 
place where they put up every year, on the Feast of 
Tabernacles, a booth covered with boughs and ornamented 
with flowers. 

The synagogue proper was a building sixty feet by forty 
feet, to which access was gained by a portico with a double 
row of four columns. The handsome roof was supported 
by columns in the usual style of Chinese domestic archi- 

In the centre of the building was the so-called chair of 
Moses 1 , corresponding, I presume, to our platform, the 
Almemar; it was a grand seat or pulpit with an em- 
broidered cushion, on which the scrolls of the Law were 
laid when opened for reading. In front of this pulpit was 
a tablet on which the name of the emperor was emblazoned 
in golden letters with a prayer that he might live ten 
thousand myriads of years. From the dome above were 
suspended the words in Hebrew — "Hear, Israel, the 
Lord our God ! The Lord is one ! " and other appropriate 
quotations in Hebrew. On a large table by the door stood 
six candelabra, a vase for incense, and a tablet recording 
the acts of kindness of the emperors of the Ming dynasty, 
who had directed the burning of the incense. 

At the western extremity of the building, on an elevation, 

1 See correspondence in Revue des Etudes Juives, vol. XXXV, p. no. 
The Hon. Mayer Sulzberger calls attention to Matt, xxiii. 2. 


2 9 

was the so-called Teen-lang — the House of Heaven — or 
Bethel, as the Jesuits call it, to which access was gained 
by steps on both sides. Here the ministering Rabbi and 
priests only were allowed to enter. In the Teen-lang were 
placed the thirteen scrolls of the Law, each in a separate 
case, and enclosed in silk curtains. The scroll in the 
middle was the one most venerated, and it would appear 



that the other ten or all the twelve were merely copies or 
transcribed from the venerated one in the middle. At the 
western end of the building two tablets were conspicuous ; 
they were inscribed with the Ten Commandments in golden 
letters. The synagogue was known in Chinese as the 
" Li-pai-se," meaning the weekly meeting-house, because the 
principal meeting was held on the Sabbath Day. 


Father Domengo describes fully the visit he paid to the 
synagogue on Saturday, October 3, 1733. It happened 
that this was the eighth day of the festival of Tabernacles, 
and the visitor comments upon the fact that the portion 
of the Law that was read upon that day was not the 
festival portion, but the Song of Moses, Deut. xxxi-xxxii. 
The following day was the Rejoicing of the Law; which 
the congregants celebrated, as we do, by making circuits 
with the scrolls around the synagogue. 

As in most Eastern countries, worshippers used to take 
off their shoes when they entered the house of God, and 
they put on a blue head-dress in contradistinction to the 
Mohammedans in China, who used a white head-dress. 
Whilst reciting the Law the reader covered his face with 
a transparent veil of gauze, and wore a red silk scarf 
dependent from the right shoulder and tied under the 
left arm; by his side stood a monitor to correct him if 
necessary. The Hebrew books were kept in repositories at 
the synagogue, and they were rarety allowed to be taken 
home. This may account for the ignorance of their litera- 
ture shown by the Chinese Jews. The missionaries give 
full information as to the mode in which the Jews pro- 
nounced tlm Hebrew. The calendar and the mode in which 
the festivals were fixed were identical with our own, and 
resemble in many respects the calendar of the Chinese 
themselves, who, like the Jews, regulate the year by the 
moon, the ordinary year consisting of twelve lunar months, 
every second or third year being a leap year consisting 
of thirteen months. The Sabbath they observed with great 
strictness ; the food was prepared on the day preceding. 
Their customs and observances accorded entirely with 
those of the Rabbinitic Jews of the present day with the 
one exception that they regarded the New Moon as a 

In 1723 the efforts of the missionaries were put a stop to 
by the Chinese Government. 

It was only gradually that the fact of the existence of 


a Jewish colony in China came to the knowledge of the 
Jews in Europe. I found among the MSS. in the British 
Museum an elaborate letter written in elegant Hebrew 
by the Haham Isaac, the son of the well-known David 
Nieto, dated Adar 1, 5530, that is the year 176c) 1 , in which, in 
the name of the London Jewish Community, he affection- 
ately addressed his brethren dwelling in the furthermost 
East, and implores them to tell him as to their con- 
dition and their origin. He subjoins a list of questions 
which he asks them to answer. Appended to this docu- 
ment is a letter, unsigned, addressed by the writer at the 
request of his friend, Mr. David Salamons, to a member 
of the East India Company, asking him for his good offices 
in getting the letter delivered to the Jewish community 
in China. 

My brother, Elkan Adler, has called my attention to a 
book written originally in Hebrew by a Morocco Rabbi — 
Moses Edrehi by name — which was translated into English 
and published in 1836. Nieto's letter is given in full, and 
Edrehi states "an answer to the letter was received, and 
it was couched in the Chinese and Hebrew languages." 
The original was placed in the museum at the India House. 
Edrehi says he could not find it. I regret to say I have had 
no better success. 

In the year 18 15 some English Jews sent a letter by way 
of Canton, and a travelling bookseller is reported to have 
delivered it. But no reply was received. 

In 1842 the Treaty of Nankin was concluded, under 
which five treaty ports were opened to commerce. It was 
at that time that Mr. James Finn, who subsequently became 
British Consul at Jerusalem, began to interest himself in 
the Chinese Jews 2 . In a little book entitled The Orphan 
Colony of Jetus in China, published in 1872, he gives the 
text of a letter composed both in Chinese and Hebrew, 

1 B. M. additional MSS. 29868. 

5 James Finn, The Jews in China. London, 1843. Id., The Orphan Colony 
of Jews in China. London, 1872. 


of which the British Consul at Amoy took charge. This 
reached the hands of the Jews, and the reply, which 
Mr. Finn did not receive till the year 1870, was very 
pathetic. The colony seems to have been rapidly declining, 
their teachers had all died, and there was no one left who 
could read Hebrew. " Daily with tears in our eyes we 
call on the Holy Name ; if we could but again procure 
ministers and put our house of prayer in order, our religion 
would have a firm support." 

In the year 1850 a Bishopric was established at Hong- 
kong, and it was in consequence of a visit which the 
Rt. Rev. Dr. Smith, Bishop of Victoria, paid to Shanghai, 
where the London Missionary Society had a branch, that 
it was decided to send some missionaries to inquire as to 
the condition of the Jews at Kai-fung-foo. Two Chinese 
Christians were selected, and, with a view to obtain a ready 
hearing from the Jews, letters of introduction, drawn up 
in Hebrew, were obtained from some Jewish Bagdad 
merchants at Shanghai. The messengers started from 
Shanghai on November 15, 1850, and travelled by way 
of the Grand Canal and the Yellow River. I will quote 
the very words of the Bishop 1 . "Here in the midst of 
the surrounding population, two-thirds of whom were 
Mohammedans, close to a heathen temple dedicated to the 
god of fire, were found a few Jewish families, sunk in the 
lowest poverty and destitution — their religion scarcely 
more than a name, and yet sufficient to separate them from 
the multitude around. Exposed to trial, reproach, and the 
pain of long-deferred hope, they remained the anxious reposi- 
tories of the Oracle of God, and survived as the solitary 
witnesses of departed glory. Not one could read Hebrew — 
their Rabbi had died fifty years ago ; the synagogue tottering 
in ruins, they had petitioned the Chinese Emperor to have 
pity on their poverty and to rebuild their temple. No 
reply had been received from Pekin, but to this feeble hope 

1 The Jews atKae-fung-foo, London Missionary Society's Press. Shang-hae, 
1 85 1. Jewish Intelligence. London, 1853, &c. 


they still clung. Out of seventy clans only seven remained, 
numbering about 200 persons. A few were shopkeepers 
in the city, others were agriculturists on land a little 
distance from the suburbs, whilst a few lived in the temple 
precincts almost destitute of raiment and shelter." 

The Jews had no hesitation in trusting the messengers, 
for in comparing the Hebrew writing of the letter of intro- 
duction with their own Holy Writings they saw that the 
style of writing was similar. The men left after a short 
stay, taking with them eight small books, containing each 
one of the Sabbath sections of the Law in Hebrew, fac- 
similes of which have been published. 

A few months later the envoys came again, provided 
this time with some hundreds of pounds, part of the 
proceeds of a legacy left by Miss Cook to the Missionary 
Society. This time they secured six copy scrolls, thirty 
of the weekly portions of the Law, and over thirty quarto 
books on Chinese paper, containing in more or less complete 
form the prayers for everyday use, and for Sabbaths and 
festivals. Dr. Neubauer of Oxford has given a full 
description of these in the eighth volume of the Jewish 
Quakteely Review 1 , an article which Mr. Elkan Adler 
supplemented in 1898 2 . They are deposited at the museum 
at Lincoln's Inn of the London Society for Promoting 
Christianity among the Jews. 

One point is quite clear, that the ritual used by the 
Chinese Jews is identical with that laid down by Mai- 
monides in the Yad-hachazaka, which is also followed by 
the Yemen Jews. The Jewish colony may have followed 
a different ritual in olden times, but the ritual we find 
established during the last 300 years clearly came by 
way of Persia; all the rubrics, as Dr. Neubauer has 
clearly put it, are in the modern Persian language; 
and the few hymns and poetical additions in the Prayer- 
book are the same as are found in the old Persian MS. 
rituals which my brother, Elkan Adler, lately brought 

1 J. 0. R., VIII, 123. 2 J. Q. R., X, 584. 



over from Persia and Bokhara. The Jesuit Fathers 
stated that the Chinese Jews had most of the twenty- 
four books of the Old Testament more or less complete. 
No part of the Scriptures beyond the Pentateuch has 
found its way to Europe. It was stated also that the Jews 
were in possession of some commentaries called by them 
Kiangtschang, also of the first and second Books of the 
Maccabees. The Jesuits tried in vain to obtain a sight 
of these. To many it will be a surprise to hear that a 
Hebrew-Syriac version of the second Book of Maccabees 

I have examined the scrolls of the Law in possession 
of the Society, also the scroll presented by the Society 
to the British Museum. I might add that both the 
Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have been presented 
with similar copies. One copy was retained at Hongkong. 
Dr. Martin has supplied Yale College and the Lennox 
Library at New York each with a scroll. The Hon. Mayer 
Sulzberger possesses another 1 . Dr. Scherzer of the Novara 
Mission obtained a Roll for the Vienna Library, and we 
learn that quite recently a Roll has been sent on to Paris. 
In my opinion they are all executed by ignorant scribes. 
In fact they are " Chinese " copies of the faulty old copy 
which was so much venerated by the Jews at Kai-fung-foo, 
under circumstances referred to in the inscription on 
Tablet III. 

It is strange that most of the scrolls and fragments 
which have come under my view have the first letter of 
each column commencing with the letter 1 vau. This was 
a practice of comparatively recent introduction. Not all 
the instructions of the Sopherim have been complied with, 
but this seems to arise merely from the ignorance or 
neglect of the scribes who did the work. There are no 

1 My friend writes to me as follows : " If I should live long enough to 
see the Chinese troubles settled, and a new Synagogue dedicated at 
Kai-fung-foo, it would give me great pleasure to contribute the roll for 
the edification of the descendants and successors of the original owners." 


pan Tagin, no majuscular or minuscular letters. The HIDiriD 
and mmna are done in haphazard fashion. The four blank 
lines between each of the books are not attended to. In 
one instance they are found between N")p s 1 and IV instead 
of heading tnpV. 

The names of the scribes of the weekly portions of the 
Law in quarto books on Chinese paper are given in several 
cases. One of these, at the end of the portion of Genesis, 
writes as follows : — " In the city originally called Peen-lang, 
the Holy City by the help of Heaven, the Law with its 
sections was copied in this year 1935 ; in the month of Ab, 
the first day of the week and the third day of the month, 
the writing of the Law, the entire Law, was finished in 
the year 1937 ; in the month of Iyar, the fourth day of the 
week, the twelfth day of the month, our teacher and master 
Kabbi Jacob, the son of Eabbi Abishai, grandson of Eabbi 
Eldad, the Scribe and Teacher, completed it/' &c. It should 
be mentioned that the years here quoted are years of the 
Seleucid era, and 1935 is equivalent, according to our 
common reckoning, to 1623. 

I have already pronounced my opinion that there is 
nothing to show that the ancient congregations in China 
were not descended from the ten lost tribes. But no remains 
of an archaic literature, such as they should have possessed, 
have as yet been found. 

The reports as to the discovery of the colony at Kai- 
fung-foo by the Protestant missionaries, and the acquisition 
by them of a portion of their literature, excited some 

When my lamented father, the late Chief Rabbi, became 
aware of the condition of the colony, he addressed himself 
to the Board of Deputies with a view to their taking up 

1 As regards the headings of the columns in the six notable instances 

Instead of yn> nn« rrnrp they have d-ii ion *\yww* Gen. xlix. 14. 

,, „ -j*? id© „ „ aniDittn uwtsw Deut. xvi. 18. 

„ „ ^hn "qtd no „ „ *rc>rcn -pnaiB *reno Deut. xxiii. 24. 
D 2 


the cause of our forlorn brethren. I imagine that the Tai- 
ping rebellion was the cause of the Board not taking any- 
active steps in the matter. 

A Jewish association was formed in 1852 in the United 
States for the encouragement of Jewish missions to distant 
and neglected settlements. Funds were collected, and it 
was stated that Judah Touro left a legacy of $5,000 to the 
Society. Subsequently the Rev. Dr. Gutheim felt inclined 
to send out a mission, but the Civil War in the United 
States stopped the enterprise. 

In 1864 the Jewish traveller, Benjamin II, visited England, 
and he expressed his readiness to visit the settlement *. I 
had the honour of being chosen hon. secretary of a Society 
formed to carry out the scheme. Mr. S. D. Sassoon was 
appointed the president of this Society, and the late Mr. L. L. 
Cohen accepted the treasurership. On the committee were 
Mr. F. D. Mocatta, Dr. Kalisch, Messrs. L. M. Rothschild 
and Maurice Beddington. The appeal we then issued will 
be found in the Jewish Chronicle, April 29, 1864. 

Unfortunately Benjamin caught a chill in London — it 
was in the month of March, 1864 — and died. My father 
then addressed himself to a branch of the firm of David 
Sassoon and Co. at Shanghai, and suggested that some 
youths from the colony might be taken in hand by them 
and, after preliminary training, be sent to Europe to be 
educated, and to return to the colony to take up the 
position of Jewish ministers. But this attempt too proved 
abortive. Two young men were actually selected and 
brought to Shanghai, but they soon became homesick and 
returned to their native place. 

The next information about the colony reached us through 
the medium of the New York Times, which published the 
Journal of Dr. A. P. Martin, in which he gives an account 
of his journey to the colony. It took him nearly a month 
to cover the 470 miles, the distance from Pekin to Kai- 

1 J. J. Benjamin II, Eight Years in Asia and Africa. Hanover, 1863. 


fung-foo. The article has been republished in his book 
called A Cycle of Cathay 1 . 

His adventures on the way make interesting reading. 
Arrived at Kai-fung-foo at last, he came to an open square, 
in the centre of which stood a solitary stone. On one side 
was an inscription commemorating the erection of the 
synagogue. On the other, a record of its rebuilding ; but 
the ruins round about told a sad tale of decay and ruin. 
The representatives of six out of the surviving seven clans 
came round him, and with shame and grief confessed that 
their beautiful house had been demolished by their own 
hands. They had yielded to necessity, and disposed of the 
timbers and stones to obtain relief for their bodily wants. 
No doubt the Tai-ping rebellion had told sadly upon the 
town of Kai-fung-foo, and the Jews, owing to the nature 
of their occupations, had been the greatest sufferers. Many 
of them had moved away to other places. 

In July, 1867, a Jew named J. L. Liebermann visited the 
city. He wrote a long Hebrew letter of what he saw to 
his father in Bielitz. This letter was translated by Dr. 
Lowy, and appeared in the report of the Anglo-Jewish 
Association for 1879. It was republished in the Jewish 
Chronicle of July 11, 1879. Another letter appeared in 
the same journal from a correspondent, dated Kai-fung-foo, 
May, 1888. It had taken the traveller five weeks on foot 
to get thither from Pekin. In vain he tried to gain ad- 
mission into the city. He found the inhabitants of the 
district exceedingly fanatic, and, as now, showed hatred 
of strangers; his Manchu fellow traveller, however, was 
able to visit the city. He, as well as Mr. Dennis J. Mills, 
who visited the spot in 1891, give the same sad tale about 
the state of the Jews 2 . 

More recent information is that derived from an article 
which appeared on January 12 last in the American 
Hebrew , taken from the Chicago Inter -Ocean of December 3 1 . 

1 Edinburgh and London, 1896. 

2 China's MillionSj vol. XVI, No. 4. London, 1891. 


The article is written by an officer in the German army 
stationed at Kiatschau, of the name of Herr Lehmann — not 
Herr J. J. Liebermann, as wrongly given. 

On June 10 last my brother, the Chief Rabbi, received 
two interesting communications with regard to the Chinese 
Jews, the one from Mr. Lewis Moore and the other from 
Mr. S. J. Solomon, both merchants at Shanghai. It 
appears that the Shanghai community had been stirred to 
action by the fact that the Jesuits in Zikawei had brought 
a scroll of the Law from the Jews of Kai-fung-foo, which 
was exhibited at Shanghai, and subsequently sent on to 
Paris. Soon after a letter reached the community, which 
I had addressed to Sir Edward Sassoon on February 9 last, 
invoking his aid and that of his firm towards the rescuing 
of the Orphan Colony from total extinction. Meetings 
were held and it was decided to collect reliable information 
from friends in the interior of China. By this means it 
was ascertained that a few hundred Jews still exist at 
Kai-fung-foo and the surrounding districts, but that they 
are Jews in name alone. They cannot read a word of 
Hebrew, do not keep the Sabbath, or indeed observe any of 
our Laws ; they have no teacher and no synagogue, and 
they intermarry with Mohammedans and heathens. A 
correspondent from Honan wrote: — 

I learn that on the Jews coming over here, many hundreds of 
years ago, there were eight houses or branches bearing the names 
Li, Chang, Ai, Chao, Tuh, Shih, Kao. 

Two of the families bore the name of Li. 

These clans still exist, numbering about forty houses and about 
140 persons. These are all in Kai-fung-foo. There are also scattered 
about in some parts a few, but not very many; their condition, 
socially, is not very high. Once they were the richest and most 
influential people in the place, but through internal dissension they 
have dwindled down until now they are very poor, and, I am sorry 
to add, have not a very good reputation. One of them is a Buddhist 
priest, and is in the position of a small mandarin— that is, he manages 
the affairs of all the other priests ; it was his brother who came to 
see me. 

Of the knowledge of their religion, I think they have not very 


much ; I do not think the majority of them know the origin of their 

The people belong to the " Teaou-kin-keaou," i. e. the " Pick-out- 
sinew " religion, after the incident mentioned in Genesis, chap, xxxii, 
verses 24 to 32. When I turned up the Bible and showed him the 
account, and explained the origin of their name, he was much 

I went and saw the place where once a beautiful synagogue stood, 
but now it is a water-hole with a stone standing alongside, a solitary 
witness to the one true God ; on this stone the names of Abraham, 
Moses, Adam, &c, are mentioned, with an account of their religion. 
This man who came to see me promised to get me an impression of it, 
and if I do get it I could send you a copy. This, it is believed, is not 
the original stone, but one which has been put up some 200 years 
ago ; the other one is built into the wall of some house— this man 
knows where it is. 

They do not observe any of the ordinances of their religion, neither 
do they, with the exception of the Buddhist priest, observe the 
idolatrous practice of the heathen; they do, however, intermarry 
with them. 

As to whether any of them could be induced to go down to 
Shanghai, I am unable to form an opinion, but one could find out by 
inquiries. With regard to your going out to Kai-fung-foo on a 
mission of investigation, I think it could be managed, provided you 
did so under " native conditions''! 

Mr. S. J. Solomon further states that he had been in- 
formed that a certain Colonel Lehmann who is in the 
German army, and who was in Kiatschau, had been a few 
months ago in a place about 100 miles south-west of Kai- 
fung-foo, where there were about 500 native Jews, most 
of whom were engaged in the silk piece goods trade. 

This information is confirmed by a letter received from 
the secretary of the Shanghai branch of the Royal Asiatic 
Society. Under date November 18, 1899, he writes: — 

The Jewish colony has spread to other towns. Their occupation 
as silk weavers took some of them to a distance. Some families were 
well-to-do through connexion with this trade. One of the moderately 
large towns near Kai-fung-foo, where there is a colony of Jews, is 
called Tang-chwang. It is a mile and a half long, and is about 100 
miles south-west of Kai-fung-foo. The Jews are all people well to-do. 


They weave the silk fabric called ling, and take it or send it to 

On March 13 this year the following letter was written 
in Hebrew and dispatched, together with a Chinese trans- 
lation (made by Dr. Jedkins of the I. M. Customs), through 
the channel of certain trustworthy agents residing in the 
interior of China : — 

To the remnant of the Jewish community of Kai-fung-foo by 
the members of the Jewish congregation in Shanghai. 

We address you, brethren in faith, having heard that in days 
gone by you had a synagogue at Kai-fung-foo, and ministers who 
taught you the ordinances and laws, how to worship the Lord God of 
Israel. We now learn that your House of Worship is destroyed, and 
that you have no Rabbi or teacher to instruct you, and to show you 
the way wherein you should walk as prescribed by the law of Moses, 
and as we are exhorted by the prophets and Ezra the scribe. 

We are told that you have forgotten everything, and have gone so 
far as, three or four months ago, to have sold a scroll of the Law, which 
our own eyes have seen in the hands of those that are not of the seed 
of Israel. And we are further told that you are about to dispose of 
three or four more scrolls because you are in dire distress, and urge 
as your excuse that you and your children cannot read. 

Now, verily, sorrow and anxiety filled our hearts when we heard 
these evil tidings, that affliction and want have brought you to this 
pass, so that Sabbath and festivals are forgotten, and that you are 
becoming mixed up with the heathen around you, and that you 
forsake the covenant, and the way your forefathers have walked for 
2000 years in this land of your settlement. Tidings such as these 
caused the ears of every one of us that heard to tingle, and we have 
roused ourselves to come to your help. 

Some of us were willing to come to you to find out wherefore all 
this evil has befallen you, and to see what we could do to heal the 
breach. But we are told that there would be danger to us on the 
way, and that if we did come in your midst, our presence would rouse 
anger and excite the Gentiles among whom you dwell, therefore we 
decided to write to you this epistle, and to ask you to send us an 
answer, either by letter or by word of mouth, through a member of 
your community. 

Now, we assure you that we are eager to help you according to our 
ability, so that you may walk again in the footsteps of your fore- 
fathers. If you desire to rebuild the House of God, which is now 


become a waste place, we will collect money and send it to you ; if 
you want a teacher to instruct you, we will send you one ; if it should 
please you to come hither and settle here in the city of Shanghai, we 
will help you to do so, and put you in the way to earn a livelihood by 
starting you in trade, and all that you may require we will endeavour 
to supply you with, for there are in this city men of our faith — great 
and wealthy, men of affairs and business, who can help you to maintain 
yourselves and your sons and daughters. 

Therefore we beg you not to part with the scrolls still left to you. 
On this letter reaching you, send two or three men to us whom we 
may question, and from whom we can find out what we can do for 
you. We will pay all the expenses of the messengers ; we will give 
them their sustenance, and pay them their expenses until they reach 
again your city. 

Signed in the city of Shanghai this 3rd day of the week, the 
12th day of Adar 11, 5660 A. M. 

Signed by S. J. Solomon, 

David Ezekiel Abraham, 

And forty-four other members of the Jewish community in 

I have now brought the matter up to the position in 
which it stands to-day. We can but hope that this letter, 
with its generous offer, will reach its destination, and that, 
despite the present gloomy outlook of Chinese affairs, the 
Orphan Colony may yet at the eleventh hour be saved 
from assimilation or extinction. 

Marcus N. Adler.