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Jews in China


We have in former years given some accounts of the Jews in the interior of China; and now since the war of Great Britain with that country has opened several ports besides Canton to the commerce sad influence of Europeans, we obtain occasionally some little, though unsatisfactory accounts of our brothers, through means of the missionaries, whose evident tendency it must be to pervert them from the path of our faith. It is natural enough to suppose that their acquaintance with the details of our religion must be very slight indeed, since they have lost the knowledge of the Hebrew, if the accounts sent to us be true. Would it not be the duty of those who have the means, in Europe especially, to endeavour to enter into direct communication with them, and to diffuse at the same time some tracts printed in the Chinese character, conveying such information as is acceptable to us all? or would it not be more advisable still to send them a teacher, to rekindle among them the lamp of the knowledge which they have lost? Such an act would be charity of the highest kind, and would also tend to elevate those who start the work high in public esteem. We trust that Christians will not be alone in their interest for those isolated people, and that we shall have the satisfaction to chronicle before long that something has been done in the premises.

The last account which has met our eyes is contained in the “Sabbath Recorder” (a Seventh-day Baptist paper), of March 18th, and we hasten to place it before our readers. They will see that the agents in China of the Mission Society or the Seventh-day Baptist Sect are anxious to benefit the poor Hebrews, after their fashion of thinking, for which we cannot blame them. Let us ask solemnly, “Have we no duty in this respect to perform? Should we not strive to engraft good <<38>> knowledge in that almost withered shoot of the good vine, which might produce so many good fruits?” Let us hope that the suggestion here thrown out, may attract the attention of those who are both able and willing to act.

Ed. Oc.

From a letter of Solomon Carpenter, Seventh-day Baptist Missionary at Shanghai, China, dated Nov. 13, 1851.

“Since we last wrote, we have seen two Jews from the province of Honan, about 2,700 Chinese (900 English) miles from this place. One of them is a teacher of youth, the other a merchant, and both men of good abilities. The number of Jews in their native city they state to be upwards of 2,000, besides women and children. Their ancestors came into China more than 2,000 years ago. They have copies of the Pentateuch, beautifully written on parchment rolls; each roll about twenty inches wide, and several rods long. Some of these they were induced to bring to Shanghai, and we had the pleasure of seeing them. Some of them have been sent to England. They still keep the Sabbath, and observe many of the rites of the former dispensation. They seem to be in a state of decline; for the last forty years they have had no man who could read their much-venerated books, which have not been translated into Chinese.

“These two Jews seemed to feel much at home with us, on account of the identity of our Sabbath day and theirs. They manifested a desire for instruction, both for themselves, their children, and their people. As often as circumstances would allow, while in Shanghai, they attended our little meeting on the Sabbath. My teacher Tong, who was deeply interested in them, as we all were, using their dialect, took great pains to instruct them.

“We expect to hear from them in a month or two. By this time they are probably at the end of their journey homeward. After consulting their brethren, suppose they should ask us to take three or four of their sons to educate in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures; or, suppose they should ask us to send them a native preacher (a foreigner could not remain there) to instruct their people into the doctrines and duties of the Holy Scriptures; and suppose, in addition, we should have such a man, his heart burning with zeal to proceed to that important field of labour; shall we be prepared for such emergencies? or unprepared, would it not be an evident token of our duty towards those who are beloved of God for the fathers’ sakes?”

In the same paper, under date of December 18th, we find the subjoined.

“A paper called the North China Herald contains a detailed narrative of an excursion made by two Chinese Christians, in search of a colony of Jews, who were supposed to exist at K’hae-fung-foo [Kaifeng] (latitude <<39>> 34 deg. 66 min. N., long. 1 deg. 50 min. W. of Pekin [Beijing]). As was anti­cipated, the people they were in search of were discovered, but in the most abject and wretched condition, having for their bed bare ground, with only rags to cover them, and with means barely sufficient to support nature. It appears that their existence was known to the Jesuit missionaries some century and a half ago; but up to the present time nothing had been done towards gaining a knowledge of their history. And what a history would not this prove, if it could be traced back to the date at which they separated from the rest of their people! In poverty and abject wretchedness they now exist, living apart from the idolaters by whom they are surrounded. On the first visit, little else was accomplished than the procuring of a few Hebrew manuscripts, containing portions of the Old Testament scriptures. On a second visit to this interesting colony, six copies of the Pentateuch, in the original Hebrew, were obtained. Two of the Jews themselves have arrived at Shanghai. The copies of the Pentateuch, ere long, will be forwarded to Europe, and will prove of intense interest to the learned in the Hebrew language. The knowledge of this language has entirely passed away from this community, not one member of it being able to speak or read it. The last person who could do so, they state, was their priest, who died some fifty years ago.”