The Theology of the Chinese Jews: An Understanding of God That Is Simultaneously Jewish, “Confucian” and Daoist

  • Jordan Paper


A thousand years ago, Jewish merchants from Persia were invited from a Chinese seaport synagogue community to the then capital of Kaifeng. Within a century, they built a synagogue that eventually became one of largest in the world. The Kaifeng synagogue community continued until external circumstances led to its demise in the mid-eighteenth century. As Jews in Europe, they assimilated linguistically, culturally and physically, and achieved government positions out of proportion to their numbers. When they left Basra, the most prominent Jewish theologian was Saadia Gaon. Over the centuries, their theology was influenced by Chinese philosophy, as Maimonides was influenced by Greek philosophy via Arab learning. The result was a theology close to Saadia’s, compatible with Maimonides, yet in harmony with Chinese literati philosophy, but one that differed from later European Jewish theology. This was due to their unique circumstances, for in China, the Jews encountered no persecution whatsoever.


Jewish Community Male Circumcision Chinese Philosophy Filial Piety Mystic Experience 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HumanitiesYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Studies in Religion and SocietyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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