>The Jews of China and the Lost Tribes of Israel

>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Historical references and archaeological findings have proven that the Persian Jews first arrive in China in the eighth century; and since the long, difficult journey made family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.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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9 Responses to >The Jews of China and the Lost Tribes of Israel

  1. Joe Matos says:

    >The speculation never ends.Dr. Mariottini, how relevant, we literally just mentioned today in my OT survey class (in brief) that this continues.I emailed the class the link to your blog.


  2. >Joe,The identification of Chinese Jews and other ethnic groups with the lost tribes of Israel is only a desire to justify these different ethnic groups practicing Judaism today.I am glad my post was relevant to what you were discussing in class. Enjoy your semester and your teaching.Claude Mariottini


  3. Anonymous says:

    >Perhaps the new translation of the stone inscriptions could shed a different light on the subject:Weisz. Tiberiu, The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions: The Legacy of the Jews in Ancient China (iUniverse 2006)(available on Amazon, Barnes &Noble)weiszkaifengstones@yahoo.com


  4. >Dear Mr. Weisz,Thank you for this information. I will certainly check the book out and look at the information you provide there.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


  5. Anonymous says:

    >Dr.Mariottini,There is evidence that the story of the Old Testament is embedded in the written words of the Chinese language. Read the book ” The Discovery of Genesis” I think you will be facinated by the possibility that the Chinese knew about the Old Testament stories more that 4,000 years ago, before the times of Moses. If this is true it will be the greatest discovery in theological history and proof of the autenticity of GOD’s words.


  6. Anonymous says:

    >The Kaifeng Jews are NOT members of the Ten Lost Tribes. They are actually Jews who emmigrated to China in the 7-10th centuries AD. They had a synagogue, Torah Scrolls, and prayer books until 150 years ago. They practiced Judasim, and kept kashrut laws.


  7. >Dear Friend,Thank you for this information. I think this information can explain the presence of Chinese who were practicing Jews.Claude Mariottini


  8. Anonymous says:

    >You are doing a good work here Claude, keep up the good work & God Bless you very much…It does make sense, the Chinese Jews are! (Jew's)We well know about 'The Jews living in Iran (Persia) at the time of 'Queen Esther,'and the JEWS were also spread out in the other 126 Provinces of Asia, because the 'King of Persia' ruled 127 Provinces of Asia, from India across to China and else-where around the region…and of course the JEWS also went to Ancient Japan BC too. And finally out! to the 'Pacific Ocean.' as faraway as you can get from the Middle-East.


  9. >Dear Friend,Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comment. Many Jews today hope to bring back the remnant of the twelve tribes. This will be a difficult job because there is no good record where these people are living today.Claude Mariottini


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