Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, December 14, 2001

Jewish Relics Traced in North China City

The history of Jewish people in north China's port city Tianjin can be traced back 140 years, according to a new survey. Many relics sites of Jewish people in the city were recently found by a research team led by Song Anna, vice president of the Tianjin Historical and Cultural Development Promotion Committee. The research showed that Jews entered Tianjin in large numbers mainly in three periods.


Jews Entered Tianjin in Three Period

According to the research conducted by the team, Jews entered Tianjin in large numbers mainly in three periods.

  • During the second Opium War in 1860, Tianjin was forced to turn into a treaty port. A large number of European businessmen including Jews entered the city then.

  • In 1917, after the October Revolution in Russia, lots of Russian went to China in exile, accompanied by many Jews. They arrived in Tianjin by way of northeast China.

  • The largest group of Jewish people entering Tianjin occurred in World War II. They fled Nazi persecution and sought refuge in the city. According to a U.S. year book about Jews which was published at the end of 1930s, a total of 3,500 Jews lived in Tianjin in 1935.

  • Relics Traced

    The Jews in Tianjin, including businessmen, doctors, engineers, lawyers and teachers, formed their own social circle. They set up commercial firms, restaurants and hospitals.

    A church built by Jews can still be found in the city. The Jewish religious organizations established charity schools, nursing homes and clubs.

    Many of the former residences of Jews still exist in Tianjin.

    Jews Attracted to the Relics

    Every year, more than 4,000 Jews from abroad came to the city to visit the historic relics left by their predecessors.

    Israel Epstein, a well known Jewish journalist and writer, came to China with his Jewish parents in 1920. From then on, his destiny has been closely linked with the ups and downs of the Chinese nation.

    He cherishes pictures of his old Jewish friends in Tianjin.

    Suggestion on A Museum in Tianjin

    Song Anna and other experts suggested a Jewish History Museum be set up in Tianjin to turn the former residences of Jews into tourist sites.

    China has long endeavored to protect Jewish cultural relics. Old Jewish schools, streets, houses are kept untouched or have been renovated.

    Harbin: Largest Center for Jews in China

    It is reported that Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, was the largest political, economic and cultural center for Jewish people in East Asia between the late 19th century and mid-20th century.

    At one time, some 25,000 Jewish residents lived there and gradually established a comprehensive social system.

  • Harmonious Relationship Between Jews and Chinese in History

  • European Jews first entered China via a business route in the 11th century and many of them settled down in the former capital of Kaifeng in central China's Henan Province.

    At the beginning of last century, some 60,000 Russian Jews came to northeast China to help construct railway networks. They soon became the operators of China's first banks, shops and cinemas in Harbin, the largest Jew inhabited city in Asia at the time.

    During World War II, Shanghai became an asylum for European Jews who fled Adolf Hitler's hands. The city still preserves a synagogue and some other Jewish sites. The municipal government and universities have recently set up a Jewish museum and two research societies.

  • Jewish Heritage Well Protected in China

  • Besides staying in China as permanent citizens, many Jews left the country during World War II. It was reported that a Chinese envoy to Berlin had signed dozens of thousands of visas for Jewish people.

    After the Jews left China, the Chinese people have been voluntarily protecting their heritage. The government has this year issued an order to ban the destruction of Jewish sites as their offspring would one day visit them.

  • China to Push Forward Peace Process in Middle East

  • In April 2000, Chinese president Jiang Zemin who was visiting Israel said that Chinese and Jews have formed friendly ties since ancient times and that China will do its best to push forward the peace process in the Middle East.


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