Welcome to the China Orientations Newsletter‏

Time:2020-05-27 19:56 Source:www.chinaorientations.com Writer:cjss read:

China Orientations

Talks on the Jews of China

Welcome to our first Newsletter!

China Orientations was created to educate, entertain and inspire people of all backgrounds with informative talks on the fascinating, centuries-old connection between the Chinese and the Jewish people. 

Chinese-Jewish history is rich in stories of surviving and thriving in a foreign land. 
From the earliest Jews who traveled along the Silk Road to China in the 8th century
, later settling in Kaifeng, to the 19th century scions of Sephardi families from Baghdad and Bombay who came to Shanghai and built great architectural landmarks still seen along the Bund today, the early history of the Jews in China is filled with adventure, cultural discovery and unparalleled religious tolerance by the emperors of China.

Russian Jews fleeing pogroms trekked across Siberia in the 1920s and settled in the northern Chinese cities of Harbin and Tianjin before they, too, moved south to Shanghai.  Barely a decade later they were joined by thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi Europe in the 1930s and 40s and soon interned in the Hongkew Ghetto set up by the Japanese forces occupying Shanghai.

The history of the Jews in China is one of the most intriguing in the annals of the Jewish Diaspora, with many questions still to ask and many stories still to be told.



Give the members of your group the educational treat they've been waiting for all year.  Schedule a talk or a mini-course on Chinese-Jewish history for your synagogue, university, Hillel, interfaith group, cultural organization, adoption support group or Home for the Aged by award-winning Sino-Judaic scholar (and author of Chinese for Dummies) Dr. Wendy Abraham today.

Planning a trip to China?  Schedule a pre-departure, member outreach or fundraising event before the Year of the Sheep rolls around.   



The "Who is a Jew?" controversy just might date back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when the Yongle Emperor 永乐王 bestowed upon the Jews of Kaifeng seven particular Chinese surnames, forever binding them to the Chinese custom of patrilineal descent.

Which seven surnames were given to the Chinese Jews?

Yongle Emperor
(Answer appears at the end of this Newsletter.)


Dr. Wendy Abraham has lived, studied and worked in the People's Republic of China and Taiwan since the 1980s.  She conducted post-graduate research on Shang Dynasty oracle bones and bronze inscriptions in Taiwan, directed Chinese language programs in Beijing and Shanghai, taught courses on Chinese language, literature, history and culture at universities throughout the United States, and was Associate Director of the Asian Religions & Cultures Initiative at Stanford University.  In 1985 she gathered oral histories of the oldest generation of Chinese Jewish descendants in Kaifeng, recording memories dating to the early 20th century, which she recently donated to the Hoover Archives at Stanford University.  Her doctoral dissertation was on the role of Confucian and Jewish educational values in the assimilation of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng.  Dr. Abraham has offered educational and inspirational talks on the Chinese Jews for over 25 years. Creator of Jewish Historical Tours of China (1997-2001), she is also the proud author of Chinese for Dummies.



Ai 艾, Gao 高, Jin 金, Li 李, Shi 石, Zhang 张 and Zhao 赵.  


Some of the seven surnames are actually transliterations of Hebrew pronunciations: Ai for Ezra, Li for Levy and Shi for Samuel.  Two of the surnames are common among Ashkenazi Jews today:  Jin, meaning "gold," and Shi, meaning "stone." 

(Note:  F
ormer Chinese Communist Party officials Li Peng 李鹏 and Zhao Ziyang 赵紫阳 were not, in fact, members of the Tribe ...)

Schedule a talk for your organization today!

Talks on the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng: Tang Dynasty to the Present

Talks on the Sephardi Jews of 19th Century Shanghai & Jewish Life in Harbin, Tianjin and Shanghai,1920-1949

Sino-Judaic tours, talks and cultural orientations by Dr. Wendy Abraham

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