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From Kaifeng to Shanghai via Rome and Paris: Jesuits and the History of Judaism in China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter reviews the origins, nature and history of the Kaifeng community in China from the pre-Suppression writings of the Jesuits. The fact that Ricci recorded meeting a Chinese Jew at a time when Jesuit documents and general assistants argued that "those from the circumcision subverted the entire house of the Society" bears further consideration. The historical circumstances within which Matteo Ricci, the famous Jesuit missionary to China, came to adulthood are pertinent to such a consideration. That is, Ricci's educational background, early missionary experiences, and personal character provide enough clues for the possible reasons behind his openness towards Ai Tian, and his desire to record this meeting. The knowledge about the Jewish community in Kaifeng was dependent on not just one or two lucky happenstances but the coming together of a wide range of factors that are discussed here.

Keywords: Ai Tian; China; Jesuits; Jewish community; Kaifeng; Matteo Ricci



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