What the Chinese Know about the Jews

Published: August 28th 2010
in News » World

Shanghai at night
Pic: WikiMedia Commons

Toward the end of the 19th century a group of 4.500 Jewish refugees fled from the pogroms in Russia and settled in Shanghai. The Russian – Jewish community greatly enhanced the image of the Jews in China. Russian-Jewish doctors established the Sinai Hospital, and Russian-Jewish musicians opened a music school in the city. Both, the hospital and the music school still exist today.


The positive image of the Jews had been even strengthened after the first president of the Republic of China (established in 1911), Sun Yat Tsen, supported in his statement the Zionist Movement:


"Chinese Nationalism disappeared when China was occupied by strangers. But China was not the only nation under occupation. The Jewish people had lost its country. Although their country was destroyed, the Jewish people survived to this day ... Zionism is one of the most important movements of the new era. All lovers of democracy should support of Zionism,.. This is a movement to rehabilitate this ancient wonderful people, which have contributed so much to the world's civilization and rightly deserve to find their place among the family of nations. "


But, since the 1920's-1930's Chinese became acquainted with Eropean ant-Semitism The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other anti-Semitic articles were translated into Chinese. The second President of the Republic of China, Zhang Kai-shek and his wife were anti-Semites and their views on Jews had an impact on Chinese view of Jews.


During Second World War between 18,000 - 20,000 Jewish refugees from the Holocaust found refuge in Shanghai. Some of them came by sea from Italy and some via Russia. Their arrival strengthened the image of the Jew as a victim.


In fact, Chinese developed two approaches towards the Jewish people: a positive and a negative view. Part of the Chinese elite argued that Zionism is an imperialist capitalist movement, and the Jewish religion is a religion as old-fashioned religion as Confucius. The other part had a much more positive attitude. They translated into Chinese over forty short stories from Yiddish, and defined the Yiddish language as "the language of simple people that become the language of great literature." Chinese scholars have conducted research in which they found comparisons between biblical texts and ancient Chinese texts. Others found too many similarities between the destruction of both nations. One of the greatest Chinese writers, Dan Mao, published in 1942 a book called "The Revenge of Samson." Samson, that brought down the temple on his tormentors turned in the eyes of the author into a symbol of China groaning under foreign occupation (from 1931 to 1945 China was under Japanese occupation). Another well-known Chinese writer, Lynn Yotang wrote in 1938 in the preface to his book "sayings", that there is a similarity between the laws of Moses and the Confucian thought.


This article is being reprinted in Shalom Life with permission of Dr. Rivka Shpak Lissak. For more articles by Dr. Lissak, visit her website at www.rslissak.com

Related articles: (Chinese Jews, China, Israel)

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