Kaifeng Jews

Kaifeng Jews

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Kaifeng Jews

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The Kaifeng Jews are members of a small Jewish community that has existed in Kaifeng, in the Henan province of China, for hundreds of years. Jews in modern China have traditionally called themselves Youtai (, from Judah) in Mandarin Chinese which is also the predominant contemporary Chinese language term for Jews in general. However, the community was known by their Han Chinese neighbors as adherents of Tiaojinjiao (), meaning, loosely, the religion which removes the sinew (a reference to kashrut).


According to historical records, a Jewish community lived in Kaifeng from at least the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) until the late nineteenth century and Kaifeng was Northern Song's capital. It is surmised that the ancestors of the Kaifeng Jews came from Central Asia. It is also reported that in 1163 Ustad Leiwei was given charge of the religion (Ustad means teacher in Persian), and that they built a synagogue surrounded by a study hall, a ritual bath, a communal kitchen, a kosher butchering facility, and a sukkah.<!-- A stone monument in the city suggests that they were there since at least 231 BC (during the Warring States Period).

During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), a Ming emperor conferred seven surnames upon the Jews, by which they are identifiable today: Ai, Shi, Gao, Jin, Li, Zhang, and Zhao. By the beginning of the 20th c. one of these Kaifeng clans, the Zhang, had...
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