Chinese Policy towards
By Xu Xin, Nanjing University
As China is the only country in the Far East world in which
Jews have continually lived for over 1,000 years, "Chinese Judaism"
-- referring to the religious belief and practices of those Jews who had lived
or are now living in China
-- is unique. Within this long history, a significant distinction must be made.
Jews who came before modern times, before 1840, became part of Chinese society
almost without distinct features; those who arrived since 1840 have remained
aliens. Chinese policy, especially since 1950s, treats them separately. This
paper attempts to address the issue from a historical perspective with a
special consideration to the settlers in Kaifeng
during the last 50 years.
Jews and their religious practice in history
During their 1,000
year residency, what, if any, has been official policy of China towards the Jews and their
religious practices? Examining historical sources before the 20th century --
although documents related directly to this issue are rare  -- a liberal
policy of "respecting their religion and changing not their customs and
traditions" was carried out by Chinese governments in principle. This
policy, applying towards all ethnic groups and their faiths, equally covers
Jews and Judaism. Accordingly, the dynasties or the governments have instituted
lenient policies towards the Jews, permitting them to live within the country
and to practice normal religious activities, including erecting synagogues.
That policy was
well reflected in the case of Kaifeng Jews. The Kaifeng
Jewish stele records that the Song dynasty emperor gave permission for Jews to
live in the then capital of China
and to follow their own traditions and customs. 
Grants of land by
officials of different dynasties for the building or rebuilding of the
synagogue further illustrate the respect of the Chinese towards Jews and
Judaism. There is a presumption that in 1163 special permission was requested
and granted to construct a unique building for the synagogue in Kaifeng. Presumably, the
same kind of permission was requested and granted each time the synagogue was
destroyed, either by fire or by flood. The reconstruction of the synagogue in
1421 was under the direct sponsorship of the prince of Zhou, who was the
younger brother of Ming emperor Chen Zu. The Imperial Cash Office subsidized
the project. The 1489 inscription records confirm this. In 1461, a flood
destroyed the synagogue completely except for its foundation. After the floodwaters
subsided, the Jews of Kaifeng, headed by Ai Qin, petitioned the provincial
commissioner, requesting a decree confirming the right of the community to
rebuild the demolished synagogue on the original site of the ancient one. The
permission was soon granted, and Kaifeng Jewry was able to reconstruct the
house of worship which was dedicated in 1489.
expression of that policy is perhaps a horizontal, inscribed plaque granted by
a Qing emperor, as well as vertical plaques and scrolls with couplets given
them by local officials for the dedication of the newly completed synagogue
that replaced the one destroyed in the Yellow River
flood of 1642. 
government once enacted a regulation that "strangers and carriers of pork
cannot pass near the synagogue." This shows that the Jews of Kaifeng
had absolute freedom of religion and that their customs were respected. No equivalent period in the entire history of
the other historical Diasporas show Jews enjoying similar respect.
In the Republican
period (1912-1949), the fact
that a large number of Jews (more than 40,000 totally) from Europe arrived and
lived in China
indirectly proved that Chinese authorities carried out a very positive policy
towards Jews and their religion. Jews received permissions to stay, to
establish organizations, and to build synagogues. The Chinese government issued
a number of statements to endorse Zionism, which should be viewed as Chinese
policy towards Jews, as Judaism and Zionism are directly related. For instance,
in 1920, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father for the Republic of China, wrote
a letter to N.E. B. Ezra, then secretary of the Shanghai Zionist Association,
to express his support for the
Jewish national cause. His letter says: “I have read your letter and copy of Israel's
Messenger with much interest and wish to assure you of my sympathy for this
movement which is one of the greatest movements of the present time. All lovers
of democracy cannot help but support
the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation which has
contributed so much to the civilization of the world and which rightly deserves
an honorable place in the family of nations." 
During World War
II, the Chinese government was particularly sympathetic to the plight of Jews in
Europe and took an action to assist them by proposing a plan to set up a
settlement in Southwest China to replace those who were suffering in German
occupied countries in Europe in 1939.
According to the plan, the Chinese government would offer Jewish refugees the
same rights of residence, work and governmental protection as Chinese citizens.
The plan was
proposed after a series of 1938 events spurred the victimization of helpless
Jews: the annexation of Austria to the Reich in March, the fruitless Evian
Conference on Jewish Refugees in July, Crystal Night in November, and the
attempt on the life of Secretary of the Legation von Rath in Paris,
which resulted in massive persecution on German Jews, unleashing furies raged
without bounds and restraint all over Germany and Austria. 
program was never implemented, due to the complicated situation of WWII, the
very idea shows that Chinese were sympathetic to the Jewish situation and tried
to assist in time of need.
Communists took over power of the country in 1949, the Chinese government,
especially the local governments of the cities where Jews lived, instituted a
very liberal policy toward the Jewish religion, permitting the Jews to maintain
their synagogues and to carry on their regular activities. The Jewish religion
was recognized at that time by the government as one of the approved religions
in such cities as Shanghai, Tianjin,
and Harbin. For
instance, the Shanghai New Synagogue remained open, and Jewish rituals were
continuously observed until it was closed in 1956 because the number of Jews
had decreased. The Harbin Synagogue remained open until mid-1960s. Facts prove
that Judaism practiced by those alien Jews before their departure was well
respected by the Communist government though it was not on the list of
officially recognized religions in contemporary China.
While there were
Jews living in China
from mid-1960s to the end of 1970s, and the formal practice of Judaism ceased,
the relationship does not end here. China,
which underwent undergoing dramatic changes since 1979, thanks to her reform
and "Open Door Policy," sought foreign investments and to establish
ties with the rest of the World, especially with the Western countries. This
revived the Jewish presence in China. Nowadays, a significant number of Jews live
in Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. With more and
more Jews arriving to work, invest, study, and live in China, the practice of Judaism once
again becomes visible in Chinese society.
For instance, in
1980s, Jews who came to Beijing from North America to pursue careers in business, journalism,
diplomacy, or for academic study, started to celebrate Jewish high holidays
such as Passover. Twenty-five Jews showed up at the Seder of 1980. In the
1990's, the Beijing Jewish Community took shape as more Jews live, work, or
study there. In 1995, Friday night services began to be held regularly every
week at the Capital Club of Beijing. Sabbath prayer books and a Sefer Torah
were donated to the community, which enabled them to celebrate all major
holidays. On both the High Holy Days and the Passover Seder, the community can
expect to have 200 present to share the joyous occasions. Other important
landmarks for the community include it’s first bar mitzah in 1996 and its first
b'rit millah in 1997. This community is headed by Roberta Lipson and Elyse
Silverberg, two Jewish businesswomen, and affiliated with the Progressive
movement of Judaism.
In 2001, a new
development took place in the practice of Judaism in Beijing. Rabbi Shimon Freundlich from
Chabad-Lubavitch movement came and settled in the city. His mission is to build
and lead the center of Chabad-Lubavitch of Beijing, an Orthodox congregation.
Jews also began to
return to Shanghai in the 1980's, attracted by China's
open-door policy. As Shanghai
became more and more cosmopolitan, Jewish presence in the city became more
visible. In the mid-1990s, they organized and established the contemporary
Shanghai Jewish Community. Shortly after, Rabbi Shalom Greenberg from
Chabad-Lubavitch in New York arrived in Shanghai to serve this
community in August 1998. His commitment has infused new life into the growing
Jewish community. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President of the Appeal of Conscience
Foundation from New York,
donated a Sefer Torah to the community in 1998. Now the size of the community
reaches a few hundreds. Regular Shabbat services and kosher meals have been
implemented in Shanghai.
Jewish education also started. Child and adult education classes, bar and bat
mitzvah training and social brunches are conducted. On the first day of Rosh
Hashanah, in September 1999, a Jewish New Year service was held at the Ohel
Rachel Synagogue for the first time since 1952 when the synagogue was closed.
It is highly possible that the Ohel Rachel Synagogue may become a permanent
house of worship for the Jews in Shanghai
in the near future.
experience in China merits
its good reputation because China
never persecuted them. The Chinese government realized that it is highly
necessary to create a positive cultural environment for those foreigners if China
wants to keep and attract them. This kind of cultural environment includes
respect for religion.
consideration and respect have consistently been shown to Jewish religious
requirements by the authorities. In 1993, to mark the historic visit of Israeli
President Chaim Herzog to China
after China and Israel established full diplomatic relations, the Shanghai government turned
the original building of the Ohel Moses Synagogue (which had been used by
Jewish refugees during World War II) into a museum. It is now open and receives
visitors by the thousands annually.
In 1998, the Shanghai government spent
over $60,000 to restore the Ohel Rachel Synagogue, which was first constructed
in 1920, as a historic site. Permission to use the building for Jewish holiday
celebrations is frequently granted.
that relate to the Jewish life still exist in Shanghai. The political implications of
choosing and renovating original synagogues are very clear: the Chinese government understands that a site
for religious services is the
core part of Jewish life.
In Harbin, the Jewish cemetery with 876 graves -- the
best-preserved Jewish cemetery in Mainland China
-- is well taken care of by Chinese authorities. In fall of 1996, at the
expenses of the Chinese government, a new fence and gate were completed to
better protect the cemetery. Now the city government is taking additional steps
to preserve the heritage handed down by the Harbin Jewish community since it began at the
end of the 19th century.
priests are not allowed to conduct religious services in China by Chinese law in general, permission has
been granted to those Chabad Lubavtich rabbis to conduct the practice of
Judaism in China
as Chinese government understands the uniqueness of Judaism. This move can well
be viewed as the
for Judaism and the Jewish people, and may also exist because the Jews do not seek
Issue of the Kaifeng Jews since 1950
When we discuss
Chinese policy towards Judaism, the issue most people are concerned about,
interested in, yet the most puzzling, and complicated, seem to be related to
the Kaifeng Jews. History shows that these Jews, arriving 1,000 years ago,
always lived according to their own way and at their own wishes, either as
observant or as assimilated Jews. Although the relations between the Kaifeng
Jewry and Chinese governments were good, as we discussed earlier, we have not
found any policy specifically directed at them. Nobody interfered with them and
no specific policy was implemented for a long time as they were so small in
number when set against the vast number of Chinese and could easily be
completely overlooked.  Why, then, did things change during the last 50
Moreover, the Chinese government took a very liberal
policy towards Judaism as non-Chinese Jews practice it. Why did a different
policy seem to exist towards Kaifeng Jews, their identity, and their religious
activities during the last 50 years? Why did the government pay so much
attention to them? A few available documents now seem to shed some light on the
Over time, Jews in
Kaifeng did not
loose their sense of identity even when their community ceased to formally
exist. Today, they are not much
distinctive in customs and traditions from other Chinese. While not practicing
traditional rites, they still remember their ancestry and insist on their Jewish
roots when talking about their identity. For instance, during the 1952 census
conducted by the government, many classified themselves as "Jew" when
filling the census forms. As a result, their residence registration booklet and
ID card (issued in 1980s) marked them as "Jew" in the catalog of
nationality. The government, at least at the local level, accepted their claim
and never challenged their Jewish identity when they recorded it.
started to change and identity became an issue, because political
considerations rather than anything else after the 1952 census. A good
intention developed into an unexpected problem.
After getting rid
of most of the Kuomingdang's remaining forces and with the end of the Korean
War in sight, the Chinese
government started to pay more attention to the stability of the country and
the unity of all ethnic  groups within Chinese territory. In August 1952,
the Central government of China
issued three related resolutions to strengthen this unity by establishing
autonomies and protecting the equal rights of all ethnic groups. One of these
was the "Resolution on Ensuring That All Minority Groups That Live in
China Enjoy Equal National Rights." The spirit of the resolution is to
ensure that all minorities with the requisites for exercising regional national
autonomy, irrespective of the size of their populations, are permitted to
establish their own autonomous areas and that in the case of those small
nationalities lacking the requisites for establishing autonomous areas or
living in mixed communities or in a scattered state across the country, they
enjoy national equality all the same. According to the resolution, any small
(referring population) nationalities are given representation at the National
People's Congress, each having at least one deputy.
In order to
fulfill this goal, the Chinese government
undertook the task of ethnic
identification, as there had existed no document to determine and clarify which
were individual nationalities and which were areas inhabited by a given
nationality. Until all of this was clarified, it would be very difficult to
ensure the rights of minorities involved in political equality by being given
fair representation in the Chinese political structure.
government put forward a set of traits requisite to constitute a separate
ethnic group. These included a common language, an area of inhabitation, a
unique set of customs, attitudes and beliefs, and traditional means of
livelihood.  Difficult as it turned out to be, the government organized special
investigation groups made up of ethnologists, linguists, historians, and other
specialists to assist the local government concerned. Any ethnic group had
first to be judged by all those traits before it could be officially
recognized. It is because of this set of criterion that the Kaifeng Jews were
not qualified for the government recognition.
It might be argued
that the Chinese government was doing something impossible: to identify each
and every ethnic group by one set of criterion, as there are always exceptions.
However, nobody could challenge the government's sincerity and good intentions.
The theme for that
year's celebration of National Day, which was one of the biggest events in
Chinese political life, was also the unity of all nationalities. Local
governments across the country were asked to pick up representatives from each
and every ethnic group living in their region and send them to Beijing,
the capital of the country, to participate the National Day celebration and to
show the whole world that China
was giving equal rights to all.
Accordingly, the Bureau of Central South  and
Kaifeng Municipal Government, when making their selection, chose two Jewish
descendants in Kaifeng: Ai Fenming who became a
communist and worked in an Air force unit in Kaifeng,
and Shi Fenying who worked in the Foreign Affair Office of the Henan Province.
The reason that those two Jewish descendants were chosen was that the local
governments were aware of the existence of Jews in the city and wanted to ensure
equal rights for any ethnic group living in their region, including Jews. Those
two Jewish descendants were introduced as Jews while in Beijing and were well received during the
celebration. They participated all activities for the National Day celebrations
including the state banquet hosted by Premier Zhou Enlai on October 16. The
People's Daily, the major newspaper run by the Central Committee of the
Communist Party, cited Jews as one of 46 ethnic groups  that participated
the banquet , an indication that the Kaifeng Jews were considered as a
separate ethnic group. Seeing this, one may feel that Jews in Kaifeng were lucky in New China. They were
honored simply because they were Jews. In fact, the Kaifeng Jews had never
before received such an honor, although they had been in China for nearly 1,000 years. As no Jews elsewhere had ever
enjoyed the same honor, it seemed that their identity was not a problem at all.
In April 1953, the
United Front  of the Bureau of Central South sent a policy-seeking
telegraph to the Central United Front in Beijing
to ask if it was appropriate for them to recognize the Kaifeng Jews as an
ethnic group.  It is not clear why the issue arose at this time. Was it
because of the claim by the Kaifeng Jews or simply because of the requirement of the process the
local government took in ethnic identification in the region? However, one
thing is clear: it would have been
impossible to discuss the issue had there been no such movement of ethnic
identification in the country.
In any case, this
move actually raised the issue of the political status of the Kaifeng Jews for
the first time, perhaps, in history and led to a far-reaching Chinese policy
towards Kaifeng Jews. According to the policy relating to ethnic issues at the
time, Kaifeng Jews would have had representation or held a seat in political
mechanism of the city as well as in the country automatically had they been
recognized as a separate ethnic group. This was obviously a serious matter, and
instructions from the Central government were necessary. The Central Unity
Front of the Community Party of China sent an official written reply to the
United Front of the Bureau of Central South on June 8, 1953, in a period of two months, which
sets the tone for the issue until now and has had a profound impact.
This document is
no doubt written in the spirit of ethnic identification, stated that Jews who
scatter in Kaifeng
"have no direct connections economic wise. They don't have a common
language of their own and a common area of inhabitance. They have completely
mixed and mingled with the majority Han population, in terms of their
political, economical and cultural life, neither do they possess any
distinctive traits in any other aspect. “Therefore, "it is not an issue to
treat them as one distinctive ethnic group, as they are not a Jewish nation in
However, at the
same time, the document admits that this is an intricate issue because aside
from Kaifeng there are Jews in other Chinese
cities too (it mentions specifically that there are stateless Jews in Shanghai ). It points
out that the move "could cause other problems and put us in a passive
position politically." We have no idea what "other problems"
might be and why the Chinese government believes that they might be "put
in a passive position politically" as nothing specific is mentioned in the
document. However, the expression "in a passive position politically"
means a very serious issue in political usage in China and it is used here to warn
that the local government should do everything possible to avoid that consequence from happening by all means.
The conclusion is
that "your request of acknowledging Kaifeng Jewry as a separate
nationality is improper. Kaifeng Jewry should be treated as a part of the Han
document stresses that the importance lays in that "we should take the
initiative to be more caring to them in various activities, and educate the
local Han population not to discriminate against or insult them. This will help
gradually ease away the differences they might psychologically or emotionally
feel exists between them and the Han."
The document is
hand written with many corrections . For instance, originally, the document
states that, in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding and problems, it is
better not to say anything if we recognize them or not, but to keep the above
principle in the mind of leaders. However, those words are crossed out before
the document was sent out. The document also showed that top Chinese leaders
such as Chairman Mao, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping read and
approved it. It is highly possible that some of corrections were made by one of
them. Because of that, it becomes something untouchable. The principle drawn up
in it, though strictly dealing with the issue of ethnic
originally, became the
guideline in all issues concerning the Kaifeng Jews in years to come.
document is written strictly in the spirit of the policy set up for ethnic identification.
No discrimination against the Kaifeng Jews whatsoever is found in it. It would
have been a totally different story had the Kaifeng Jews then lived in the way
their ancestry had lived before the 19th century, maintaining an observant
Jewish kehillah, having a temple of their own, following Jewish calendar and
kashrut, and using Hebrew prayer -- in other words, had they not assimilated.
This policy had no
evident direct effect on the everyday life of the Kaifeng Jews though it put an end to the possibility that the
Kaifeng Jewry could be acknowledged as a separate ethnic group for good. They lived
the same way as before. Interestingly enough, the Chinese government still
encouraged some arrangements for foreign
people to go to Kaifeng to meet them, which indicated that the government is
still thinking that they were "Jews" even after their failure to
grant them ethnic status. For instance,
Timoteus Pokora, a Czech sinologist, and Rene Goldman, a Canadian, visited
Kaifeng Jews in 1957. However, the issue seemed to die down in the
following 20 years when China became a more and more isolated society from the
rest of the world.
China underwent many
changes in her policies both in domestic and international affairs after she
adopted the open-door policy in late 1970s. In January 1980, the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of China arranged that four Canadians, an American Journalist
by the name of Aline Mosby, and Chinese reporters made a special trip to Kaifeng with a sole goal
of meeting Kaifeng Jews for the first time after the Culture Revolution.
What made them
undertake such a visit? According to Mosby, she learned on good authority that
not all vestiges of Judaism had yet disappeared from Kaifeng. Thus, she made a request to the
Chinese government and permission was granted.  After the visit, the
westerners wrote and published articles about the current situation of the
Kaifeng Jews, which re-raised the issue both internationally and domestically.
When the local government learned about it, they predicted that more and more
foreigners might visit Kaifeng Jews with this open-door policy, and that they
should prepare themselves for this new situation. Therefore, the Unity Front of
Henan Province, which was then in charge of such an affairs, raised the issue
of the status of the Kaifeng Jews once again by sending a report to the office
of the Central Unity Front in March 1980. In the report, they asked two
fundamental questions: 1) if the Kaifeng Jews should be treated as an minority
group, and 2) what points need attention when they deal with the issue of the
Kaifeng Jews and what kind of policy should be adopted in foreign affairs
related to the Kaifeng Jews.
Why did they do
this? Were they unaware of the previous policy? I do not think so. The 1953
document from Beijing
should be there. Were they intentionally seeking for a new policy? This is
highly possible, especially if we took into consideration the situation in China
at the end of 1970's and beginning of 1980's, when people in every line tried
to seek new policies in order to make changes. However, no one knows the
The Central Unity
Front responded to their questions on May 8, 1980.  Obviously, the Central office was not
ready for changes. First, the document quotes the policy made in the document
of 1953 and says that, according to the information they had, Kaifeng Jews did
not seek for the recognition as a minority people after 1953 and that, except
for a few elderly, the majority of Kaifeng Jews did not have that desire.
Moreover, most of the young and middle-aged people were indifferent. Therefore, based on this situation, the
document says that "we believe, as it was not necessary in the past, it is
not necessary now for us to recognize Kaifeng Jewry as an ethnic group.
However, when we deal with them, we should give consideration to the customs
they still keep, help them to solve possible problems they may have, and more
important, do not discriminate against them." The document suggests at the
end that "some appropriate arrangements be made for representative figures
among them," a typical method to deal with ethnic group or political
issues in China.
We do not know the
reaction of the local government. However, an increasing number of people from
the West came visited China.
Many of them were Jewish and put Kaifeng
on their itinerary in hope to meet some of the Kaifeng Jews. 
As expected, the
local authorities in charge of receiving those visitors needed a specific
guideline to deal with the new situation. As a result, another document dealing
directly with the policy towards the Kaifeng Jews was produced on July 2, 1984. This time,
they set up a three point protocol as the guidelines and reported it to the top
authorities in Beijing.
The document is written by the Foreign Affairs Office of Henan provincial
government, the office in charge of those issues. The following is the full
text of the three points laid out in the document by the office:
1. Stick to the principle of denying
Kaifeng Jewry as an ethnic group of its own. Various periodicals and newspapers
should carry objective reports both domestically and internationally. Recognize
the fact of historical migration, but put emphasis on the freedom and happiness
that they have today. Use the terminology "descendants of Kaifeng
Jews" when we address them without implying any country or ethnic group in
order to avoid any unnecessary controversy.
Be lenient to
foreign scholars and tourists with the request of visiting Kaifeng synagogue relics, stone tablets and
meeting with Jewish descendants. The Kaifeng Foreign Affairs Office will be in
charge of their visits politically.
2. From the standpoint of historical
materialism, we may consider opening the original site of Kaifeng synagogue and stone tablets to the
municipal museum could keep historical files of Kaifeng Jewry in one of its
exhibit rooms for viewing. Related introduction could also be made in books and
paintings for publicity abroad and in tourist brochures.
3. Regarding donations made to Kaifeng by Jewish persons from other
countries, acceptance could be considered if the donor has no political
intentions, and is only doing it out of kindness for renovating historical
sites, museums or other welfare purposes. If the donor's purpose is religiously
oriented or implying "a Jewish nation," the donation should be turned
down with grace.
As we can see here, this document shifts its emphasis
on issues other than ethnic identification though the principle is kept. It puts forward a set of guidelines for tourist
issues: what can be done and what can’t be done when t receiving foreign
the function of the office which drafted the document, those are their major
Obviously, the document is highly politically oriented
and raises two fundamental issues related to the Kaifeng Jews:
1) Addressing them as “descendants” in order to deny the Kaifeng Jews’ connection with the Jewish
people and Israel
as a Jewish state, because they believed this would be controversial;
2) Making the Jewish religion taboo and anything
related to Judaism not acceptable, even donations.
We have no idea what the response from the top was.
However, what was ascertained is that this document provided a
guideline for dealing with foreign visitors to the city. Those who are familiar
with the Kaifeng issue or have been to Kaifeng would feel the
policy works even now.
For 1,000 years Jews lived and worked -- and thrived
-- in China,
but big changes have occurred during the last 50
years. After a hiatus when many Jews
left following the end of World War II, the Jewish presence now increases. Western Jews, enjoying the new
Open Door Policy settle in major cities bringing their
customs and religious practices. Descendants
of the Kaifeng Jews show a renewed interest in their heritage with the arrival of co-religionists as
tourists, and new links are being established between
them and Israel.
On both fronts, all bodes well for a continued, mutually
advantageous relationship between our peoples.
 There exist a
few documents in Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) referring Mongol's policy towards
Jews. For details, please refer to Donald D. Leslie, The Survival of the
Chinese Jews, E. J. Brill, 1972, pp. 11-16.
 The 1489 stele
records "the three-point covenants" made by Chinese emperor with the
Kaifeng Jews: "Become part of Chinese, honor and preserve the customs of
your ancestors, and remain and hand them down in Kaifeng."
 To read the
full text of it, please refer to William C.White, Chinese Jews, pt. II.
 White, Chinese
Jews, pt. I, p.80.
 Sun Yat-Sen,
"To N.E.B. Ezra," The Collected Works of Sun Yan-Sen, Zhonghua Shujiu
Publishing House, 1985, Vol. 5, pp. 256-57.
"Chungking National Government Programme for the Placement on the Jews in China,"
Republican Archives, No. 3, 1993, pp. 17-21. Also refer to Xu Xin, "Sun
Fo's Plan to Establish A Jewish Settlement in China During World War II Revealed,"
Points East, March, 2001, Vol. 16, No. 1, p. 1, pp.7-8.
 It is believed
that the highest number of the Kaifeng Jewish
community is about 5,000 before the Yellow River
flood of 1642. The population dropped down to 1,000 or less in the 19th century
speaking, Chinese use the word "minority" to refer to all other
non-Han ethnic groups as they are all small in number to compare with the
majority--Han people. In fact, the word "Chinese" refers to
"Han" originally. Another word
which is very much used is "nationality" to refer which ethnic group
one belong to.
 The other two
are "Implementing Programme for Regional National Autonomy" and
"Resolution on Measures of Setting up Local national Democratic United
"Questions and Answers about China's National Minorities, New
World Press," 1985, p.144.
 A power
mechanism in Central China set up by the
Central Committee of the Communist Party. The whole country was then divided
into several regions to be governed by the bureau that was higher in political
structure in China
than provincial government.
 The number
rose to 55 in 1960s and the standard number is 56 now.
"People's Daily," Oct.
17, 1952, p.1.
 An office set
up by the Chinese government in charge of affairs of multi-party and
multi-ethnic groups in general.
telegraph is not available to this author but we could figure out the main
point from the reply document, which repeats the request. The date of the
telegraph is April 3, 1953.
this refers to Jewish refugees from Central Europe and still stayed in Shanghai though the
majority had left after World War II.
 It should be
pointed out that not every word, especially those corrections, is legible as far
as the copy I have is concerned.
Pollak, "Mandarins, Jews, and Missionaries," pp. 248-49.
Pollak, "Mandarins, Jews, and Missionaries," p. xiv.
 This document
is not available to this author but its purpose was repeated in the reply.
 The document
is entitled as "Reply for the Issue on the Kaifeng Jews" and is
marked as No. (2) 401.
 Pollak lists
a number of such visits. For details, please refer to”Mandarins, Jews, and
Missionaries," p. xix.
The full text of the 1953 document
The United Front of the Bureau of Central South:
The telegraph dated Apr 3rd regarding the
Kaifeng Jewry is received.
Judging from your telegraph, the Jews scattered in Kaifeng have no direct
connections economic wise, they don’t have a common language of their own and a
common area of inhabitance. They have completely mixed and mingled with the
majority Han population, in terms of their political, economical and cultural
life, neither do they possess any distinctive traits in any other aspect. All
this indicates that it is not an issue to treat them as one distinctive ethnic
group, as they are not a Jewish nation in themselves.
Secondly, aside from the Kaifeng Jewry, there is
stateless Jewish population in Shanghai.
Jewish presence in some other large and mid-sized cities are also possible,
however scarce it might be. It is an intricate issue. It could cause other
problems and put us in a passive position politically if we acknowledge the
Jews of Kaifeng. Therefore, your request of acknowledging Kaifeng Jewry as a
separate nationality is improper based solely on the historical archival
evidence you found. You have only seen the minor inessential differences
between the Kaifeng Jews and their Han counterpart, and fail to see their
commonality and the fact that they’re essentially the same. (The publication
found in People’s Daily during National Day celebration time last year
regarding “a Jewish nationality” was provided by the Central Ethnic Affairs
Committee.) Kaifeng Jewry should be treated as a part of the Han Nationality.
The major issue is that we should take the initiative
to be more caring to them in various activities, and educate the local Han
population not to discriminate against or insult them. This will help gradually
ease away the differences they might psychologically or emotionally feel exists
between them and the Han.
The United Front of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of China
About the author
Xu Xin, professor of History of Jewish Culture and
director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Nanjing University,
is also president of the China Judaic Studies Association and editor-in-chief
and a major contributor of the Chinese edition Encyclopedia Judaica. He
teaches courses such as Jewish history, Jewish culture and the world
civilization, Holocaust studies, history of Jewish Diaspora. He has created
graduate-level programs on Jewish history and culture at Nanjing University. He is the author of many books and articles
about Judaism in China, and
has been a visiting professor at numerous universities in the US.
In 2003 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Bar
in recognition of the extremely important work he has done on research of the
Jewish people in China.