>According to YnetNews, a group of Chinese Jews living in Kaifeng may be the descendants of Jews who came to China from Persian and Iraqi. Some scholars have identified them with a remnant of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Others, believe that their presence in China is a fulfillment of Isaiah 49:12.
The following are excerpts from the article published in YnetNews:
However, a thousand years ago, Kaifeng was the capital of the Chinese empire, the largest, richest and most advanced in the world at the time, with 600,000 residents that made it the most populated city on earth.
Ancient Kaifeng had a Jewish community – a small but thriving one, whose story is unique in the history of the Jewish people. For the 800 years of its existence, Kaifeng’s Jews never suffered from persecution or discrimination. The Chinese authorities, as well as the general population, welcomed their Jewish neighbors, viewed them as citizens in every respect and allowed them to observe their religion with complete freedom.
It is not clear when exactly the first Jews came to China or when the Jewish community in Kaifeng was formed. In the prophecy of the redemption in the book of Isaiah it states: “See, they will come from afar – some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Sinim (“Chinese”)” (Isaiah, 49:12); but biblical scholars agree that the verse does not speak of China per se. Some claim that the Jews of Kaifeng are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes. Others theorize that they came to China in the second century following the downfall of the Jews in the Bar Kokhva revolt (132-135CE).
DNA testing done over the past few years on the descendents of the Kaifeng Jews, proved them distant relatives of Armenian, Iranian and Iraqi Jews. Most of the researchers, as well as the Kaifeng descendents themselves, tend to suggest that the original Jews in China were merchants from Persia that came by way of the Silk Route (in today’s southern Turkey) to the city of Xian in central China.
Historical references and archaeological findings have proven that the Persian Jews first arrive in China in the eighth century; and since the long, difficult journey made family life difficult, the solution was to establish a permanent base in China. The location of choice was Kaifeng – China’s capital from 927BC to 1127AD.
There has been much speculation about the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Several claims have been made about the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. I have written several posts discussing other claims about the Ten Lost Tribes. If you are interested in knowing more about these claims, check here, here, here, here, and here. I do not give much credence to this claim of the Jews of China in the same way I have been skeptical about previous claims.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary