Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

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How cool is this?

hatam_soferet, you're going to love this! Posting rather than emailing because I think others may be interested too.

My parents are about to go on a package tour of China, organized by a Jewish group. So they're going to do a mixture of the typical tourist stuff and the sites of Jewish interest. A good friend of Dad's, my pseudo-aunt S, just happens to have a book from 1858 by one WC Milne of the London Missionary Society, describing his 14 years spent trying to convert the Chinese to Christianity.

During Milne's sojourn in China, some missionary group discovered a Hebrew colony in the Chinese city of Kaifung (have no idea what that would be in any systematic transcription!) It's generally thought that the Jews reached China from India in around the third century. The community persisted until the Maoist era.

Milne writes (in amusingly nineteenth century style) of the Kaifung Jewish community of 1850 or so:
They now go by the name T'iau-kin-kiau, — "cutting the sinew sect..." The rite of circumcision is still practised on males... Of festivals, one is "for perambulating round the Scriptures;" this is the twenty-fourth of the eigth month. Their Sabbath is the European Saturday. They intermarry only among themselves, not with pagans or Mohammedans... They are forbidden to eat pork... During service they face the west, in the direction of Jerusalem.. In the performance of sacred worship, the priest at one time used to wear a blue head-dress and blue shoes... The people are not permitted to enter the temple with their shoes on their feet; nor the women with napkins on their heads... However, the expectation of the Messiah seems to have been entirely lost... The Rabbi was called "Mwanlah" that is Mullah. Besides him there are two officers, — the one "the sinew-extractor," the other "the preacher of doctrines." At this time, there seems to be none able to decipher Hebrew writings...

Their synagogue was not built here before the close of the twelfth century... the inscription at present over the door is "The true and pure temple."... The synagogue itself stands within a third enclosure. Here there is one large hall, eighty feet deep, and forty feet wide, the roof of which is covered with green tiles. In this stands a seat, "Moses' seat," about a foot above a wooden floor; where on grand festive seasons, the Rabbi took his seat under a large red satin umbrella... Here too was a cell for depositing "the twelve tubes containing Heaven's records," or the copies of Hebrew scriptures.

And lookie, they had chumashim: Hebrew manuscript written in China

Milne thinks the manuscripts found by the missionaries were at least several centuries old; they can't have been later than 1800 anyway as the oldest Jew interviewed in 1850 could distantly remember people talking of people who knew Hebrew, but who died before he was born.
Addendum: lethargic_man points out that there is a Wikipedia article where the information on the Kaifeng community is a bit more likely to be accurate than this random Christian missionary's speculation!
Tags: jewish

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