Jews of Kaifeng ~ Rare Book Exhibit

Perhaps before the eleventh century, Jewish traders established a community in Kaifeng, China; some of their descendants reside there still. Until the last century they maintained their Jewish religious identity even while integrating Chinese culture into their own. Their Hebrew texts have distinctive letters and unusual vowel pointings. Some of the manuscripts are bound in Western book style and others in fanfold form.

The Kaifeng manuscripts were acquired in the 1920s by the Library from a missionary society. The collection includes Torah portions, prayer books, and the only known manuscripts which contain both Chinese and Hebrew characters.

Prayer Book and Name List.
Manuscript. China. ca.17th century.
Chinese Hebrew square characters.

This prayer book for the Sabbath Eve contains a membership list of the Kaifeng Congregation from the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The names, written in both Hebrew and Chinese, are an important source of information about the men and women of this community.