Youtai – Presence and Perception of Jews and Judaism in China

According to historical records, a Jewish communtity including a Jewish Synagogue, existed from the 12th (Song-Dynasty) until the middle of the 19th century, in the old city of Kaifeng in the Henan province of China. Besides its long history, the Kaifeng Jewish Community had another conspicuous feature: although existing almost in isolation and without any contacts with the Jewish Diaspora outside China, it still managed to keep Jewish traditions and customs for hundreds of years. Up to the 17th century, the assimilation of the Kaifeng Jews intensified and escalated, and this was shown in changes to their religious and ritual customs, social and language traditions, as well as intermarriage with other ethnic groups, such as the Han-Chinese, the Hui- and the Manchu-Minorities in China. In 1860s, the Jewish Synagoge in Kaifeng collapsed from long neglect and disrepair.
In the study, there will be analysed the current status of the descendants of the Kaifeng Jews in present modern Chinese society, which is heavily influenced by globalisation. The acception of the term "Youtai" even in personal family books shows that, under the current relatively liberal conditions, and through encouragement form contacts abroad, the descendants of the Kaifeng Jews may be looking for a new identity in order to develop themselves.
An international symposium with guests from China, Israel and Great Britain is planned for the autumn of 2003.

Duration of Funding: 2003
DFG-Förderung für integriertes Symposium 2003

Prof. Dr. Peter Kupfer (Angewandte Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft)
Prof. Dr. Roman Malek (Theologie)

Naxin Wei (Chinesisch)

Fricker, Silvia/ Peter Kupfer (2003): Youtai - Presence and Perception of Jews and Judaism in China. In: China heute 22. P. 204-208.

KUPFER, PETER (Ed.) (2008): Youtai – Presence and Perception of Jews and Judaism in China. Frankfurt a. M. et al., 327 P. (= FASK Publikationen des Fachbereichs Angewandte Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in Germersheim, Reihe A, Bd. 47).