In Kaifeng, you come though a dark locked floor which is one of the boiler rooms in the age old hospital of Chinese medicine. The hospital is lined with Ming dynasty bricks. The bricks are line only few yards deep, however it still holds a good amount of water. The Chinese city has flood plains which lay along the yellow river and this is about six hundred miles south of Beijing.
Ancient Culture of China
The temples here are the temples of Purity and Truth. This place had a synagogue that stood here once upon a time. A large group of travelers keep coming here to experience the rich heritage that this place has been enriched with.
There is a specific concentration of Jews here who are Chinese. The Chinese Jews are usually quite famous here although most of them are just stories in the history books.
There is a Mezuzu here which is attached to a door frame. This is apparently a copy of the Sh’ma. This is considered to be the most important Hebrew payer. This copy is decorated with many Chinese lettering. These are hung on the wall which lies to the west side of the temple.
A black and white Portrait of Mr. Zhao, who was the creator of the temple is displayed next to the Chinese styled alter. There are reportedly about fifty descendants of Kaifeng Jews. These people embraced their legacy and began learning the Jewish ways again. Kaifeng used to be the capital of the Song dynasty that lies to the north. This place is now a cosmopolitan center which is also part of the famous silk route. Many Chinese imperial suitors and merchants from Persia came through here on their camels. There is also a community of Sephardic Jews who arrive mostly from Persia. The ones who arrive from Persia and India were usually the traders.
The scholars who studied about this had other theories like about seven hundred years ago, the Jews here was completely free from persecution. Also they were largely out of mind regarding the many Chinese empires that called them as the blue hated Hui. These people were essentially from the west. The people from here started trading and during eleven hundred and sixty three they built a synagogue.
In the year sixteen hundred and five, an Italian Jesuit missionary called Matteo Ricci. This is one of the emissaries here in Beijing. The origins of this place have been traced back all the way to Europe.
The many European missionaries who come here bought the seventeenth century torah which belonged to the Hebrews. This place is now shown at the British museum based in London. Since the scrolls were in Kaifeng local language, no one could actually read it. And when the synagogue had been destroyed by regular flooding, it was never rebuilt again.
After about one hundred and fifty years later, the last rabbi here died. Although this happens the spirit of the Jewish heritage still carried on. The Jewish people here in china, have baked unleavened cakes and rooster’s blood is dabbed on the doorsteps during the Passover.
Whenever there is a Jewish tour, somehow Kaifeng is never on the list. Since this place is a little away from the main cities, like Shangai, Harbin, Tianjin and Beijing. There are synagogues that are not used for prayers which are located in the main cities and this is where the tourists are usually directed. This place however gets a fair amount of back packing travelers who come here by word of mouth. There are reports of four rabbis and a Jewish scholar who come here on heritage trips every once in the year. A lot of visitors, who come here, have a good look and just leave immediately.
The place is less the architectural wonder and more of the magical presence that once lived here when the synagogues stood. Where the people would not eat pork and have unleavened bread.
China, although doesn’t not recognize Judaism as one of its approved religion. Jews some how are not even considered to be one of the fifty five minorities here. If a foreigner comes here and wishes to practice Judaism; they are allowed to do so. Although; there are currently no officially active synagogues in China and the Chinese claim that; at this time, there are no Chinese Jews that exist here.
The local authorities here are quite tolerant the Jewish community and the visitors that it brings here. The Kaifeng Municipal museum here will offer you locked rooms that take you all the way into the Jewish presence here in Kaifeng.