Saturday, March 9, 2013

Along the ancient road to Kaifeng - CHP

Whenever the Yangtze would rise and flood the city of Kaifeng, the residents would salvage their property, if possible in advance, and return after the river had fallen again. Then they would rebuild their structures until the next time. Thus also did the Jewish community of Kaifeng and in that way they lost and rebuilt their synagogue for some seven centuries. All the while they maintained their traditions, in spite of being (nearly) completely isolated from Jewry on the whole. By 1810, the last Chinese Rabbi died and in 1866 the synagogue was destroyed for the last time.

The China History Podcast in it's 112th episode gives us a riveting 38 minutes about the Kaifeng Jews. This is yet another unmissable edition in this magnificent series, by Laszlo Montgomery. (feed)

In 1163 CE the Jews of Kaifeng got official permission from the Chinese emperor to build a synagogue. From here on they have a well traceable history and Laszlo tells a couple of fascinating stories about it. For example how the Jesuits found them and there was a mutual attempt to co-opt the other. Or how when decline set it and the Jews lost their Hebrew, they'd display the Torah Scrolls in the market, hoping to run into someone who could read them. But he does not simply begin in 1163 and end in 1866. This podcast spans nearly a thousand years.

How did the Jews get there in the first place? And what was done and is done until this day to rekindle Judaism in Kaifeng? Such questions take us from the ancient Silk Road (one of my favorite history subjects) to the effects of the Boxer rebellion and the Second World War. All is told in the relaxed, yet thoroughly engaging Laszlo Montgomery style.

More China History Podcast:
Getting the Silk Road
Deng Xiaoping,
Chronology of Dynasties,
China History Podcast.
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