The initial draw between the Jews and Chinese appears in Baruch Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise of 1679, where he acknowledges how successful the Jews have been in preserving the uniqueness and the identity of the Jewish culture, which distinguishes them from other people precisely by their customs. He goes ahead to compare the Jews to the Chinese by the fact that both communities have a distinct mark on their heads, have preserved themselves during many thousands of years, and by surpassing any other nation in antiquity. Chinese have 3,000 years of civilization while the Jews have 5,000 years.
It Started with China’s Knowledge of Judaism
Modern Chinese became aware of the existence of a Jewish people across the world in the 1830’s, following the Protestant missionary teachings and Bible translations. Since then, various Jewish stereotypes took form including how the Jews were victims of the white man just like the Chinese. In the 1920s, Sun Yat-sen, the founder and first president of the Chinese Republic, justified his public support for Zionism with this perceived affinity between the two communities.
Chinese see in Jews the reflection of their own fears, history, desires, and dreams. Most Chinese have this unrealistic image of the great Jewish success and wealth that they would really love to emulate. They acknowledge the huge contributions that Jews have had to Western civilization quoting Einstein, Freud, and Marx. Then there is this regular comment that the Jews and Chinese represent the two oldest living civilization’, a comparison that clearly indicates the respect the Chinese harbor for the Jews historic continuity.
There is no other greater compliment to any culture than being admired by the Chinese, who to some extent regard their civilization as the world’s most ancient and successful. The Jews are held in such high regard, something that they must really be proud of. Both cultures place importance on family, education, and building businesses. As a matter of fact, the Chinese admire the Jew’s business acumen and think that they are clever, smart, and good at making money. The Chinese also do not view the Jews as competitors for legitimacy.
Jewish Beliefs as Shown Through Their Actions are Admirable in Chinese Culture
The Chinese have no reason to dislike the Jews because they display the traits that they admire for themselves. A Jew visiting China will feel the affinity that is palpable thanks to the commonality of traits, a common attitude towards adversity, and life. The Jews have a practical understanding of perseverance in the face of adversity’ since they maintained an independent high-culture through the two millennia of exile in the Wes,t and despite the persecution, they succeeded at the highest level within Western culture.
The Chinese and Jews have maintained their confidence in their own civilization, and even through foreign conquest and war; they have fought to preserve it. The two are quite stubborn and would rather redouble their efforts in the face of adversity than give up. This might just help explain why they are presently successful.
In as much as it may seem odd trying to compare the world’s largest community with the world’s smallest, the Jews and Chinese have always had common traits that explain their longevity and success, such as their ability to rise above the ethnic conflicts.
The Jewish “Bible” (Torah)
The Jewish religion describes Abraham, who is the Jewish Peoples founding father, as a wandering Babylonian summoned by the single creator God to have his homeland. The Jews are not an ethnicity, but rather people defined by a partnership with their creator, and they are obligated to acknowledge his presence in the details of their daily lives. Additionally, Jews are empowered to assist in the work of creation. They are a multi-racial family whereby individual races can be adopted into the nation by accepting responsibilities.
Therefore, the Jews share with the Chinese the concept of loyalty to an ancient tradition which defines the obligations of each in the society and places family at the center of the social life, rather than mere ethnic and tribal loyalties. These are collateral ways of rising above ethnicity and tribalism. The Bible was translated into classical and vernacular Chinese in the 19C only to realize that the subjects dealt in the Bible were not any different from the wisdom of Chinese sages through generations and Confucius teachings.
It quite interesting how the Jews and Chinese faced persecution by Europeans, making them share such a close bond. It’s important to acknowledge that it was China that rescued fleeing Jews during the war after the USA closed its borders to them. In the late 1930s, more than 20,000 Jews called Shanghai their home. Shanghai hosted more Jewish refugees compared to other cities in the world following World War II.
The Value of Education
Hundreds of Chinese post-doctoral and graduate students throng to Universities in Israel to be part of the world-class research. The Chinese have such a strong interest in Judaism; hence many Jewish studies programs exist in Chinese universities due to students yearning to learn more about their culture. Some travel abroad to further their Jewish studies. There are also a number of online jobs available with Preply that can help you to support your travel initiatives.
China and Israel are also collaborating on high-tech after Israel evolved to be among the world’s foremost hubs of high-tech innovation and China emerged as a manufacturing generator in recent decades. The connection between China and Israel has greatly deepened with China investing around $32 billion in Israel from 2011-2013. Also trade between China and Israel has increasingly skyrocketed by more than 20,000% in the past twenty years to above $10.8billion today, making it Israel’s third largest trading partner.
Jewish Food and China’s Role
The Jews and Chinese also have links in food. This began in 1959 when Bernstein’s, a Kosher restaurant in New York on Essex Street created such a buzz when it became the kosher restaurant to first add Chinese food on the menu, which were egg rolls. Since then, more and more restaurants have done the same. To this effect, China’s prominence in production of Kosher food greatly increased, and it’s now the fastest growing manufacturing of Kosher food in the whole world with more than 500 factories producing Kosher commodities.
Clearly, the intrinsic affinity that the Chinese people feel for the Jews can never be labeled a matter of happenstance. Since the Middle Ages, from the Jews followed the Silk Road and settled in Kaifeng, to the Chinese opening their doors to the Jewish refugees following World War II, there has always been a connection between the two communities. It is not even in the fact that the longevity of the two civilization, but something more profound. They connect on their common purpose of transcending ethnicity and tribalism through a unifying civilization, which clearly explains why they have common enemies. Together, they are taking on the world by helping each other in business.