Jewish Wayfarers in Modern China: Tragedy and Splendor Matth

Time:2014-01-30 17:23 Source:Jewish book coucil Writer:Matthias Messmer read:

Jewish Wayfarers in Modern China: Tragedy and Splendor

Matthias Messmer


Lexington Books  2012
256 Pages    $65.00
ISBN: 978-0-7391-6938-4

amazon indiebound

Review by Marvin Tokayer

Readers of Jewish Wayfarers in Modern China will be amazed and astonished to learn how many Jews have influenced Chinese history. Who would believe that half the foreigners serving in the recent government of China were Jewish? Finally, within one volume, an amazing, fascinating,exciting collection of old China hands, travelers, advisers, adventurers,diplomats, explorers, physicians, refugees, and even Mao’s inner circle,will dazzle every reader. Who would believe that Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai frequently played cards with Sidney Rittenberg of Charleston, South Carolina, or Sidney Shapiro, who is the current major translator of Chinese classics into English.

The eightieth birthday of Israel Epstein was in the Great Hall of the People, in Tienanmen Square, and on national television for two hours, in the presence of the leading members of the government. At Epstein’s funeral, in the presence of 1,000 mourners, he was eulogized by the president of China. Would anyone believe that Mao’s dentist was a Jewish female, and the chief of medicine of the People’s Liberation Army was Dr. General Jakob Rosenfeld, who was also on the reviewing stand on October 1, 1949 when Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China.

The first foreigner to die on Chinese soil, fighting for China against the Japanese invaders, was Hans Shippe; Erwin Reiffler, married to the daughter of the rabbi of Shanghai, and a brilliant philologist, produced a major study of the Chinese language. Some will recognize General Two-Gun Cohen, the bodyguard, friend, and advisor to President Sun Yat-sen, but he also influenced China with its vote at the United Nations to create the State of Israel. Few will recognize Aaron Avshalomov, who composed a magnificent opera, “The Great Wall,” combining authentic Chinese music and instruments with our familiar Western music. Everyone should know of the careers of Sir Victor Sassoon, who built the waterfront of Shanghai; Emily Hahn, who introduced China to the American reader, and the Kadoories, who contributed so much to China and Hong Kong. This book is a page turner, thoroughly researched, and with the rising importance of China, it is incumbent to be knowledgeable about Jews in China. Next time you hear the national anthem of China, try to remember that it was Avshalomov who composed the orchestration, and the two oldest Hebrew documents on paper found anywhere in the world were unearthed in China, by Sir Marc Aurel Stein. Read the book.

Related: Jews in China Reading List