The Jews of China is one of the most extraordinary and little known stories of the country’s history. It begins in the Tang dynasty in the eighth century, where the first Jews from the Middle East followed the overland Silk Road and settled in central China. It runs until today, when there is a flourishing Jewish life in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and other major cities. Relations between China and Israel, established in 1992, are flourishing in many sectors, including education, high technology, medicine, agriculture, commerce and the military.
Judaism and China are two of the oldest civilisations in the world. They share much in common – importance of family, education and community life, veneration of ancestors and importance of harmony and social order. China is one of the few countries in the world that has never persecuted Jews. This has given it a particular status and esteem among Jewish people. In December 1918, the Republic of China was one of the first countries to support a Jewish national home in Palestine, just one year after the Balfour Declaration by the British government in favour of it. That same year, the Japanese government also declared its support for a Jewish national home. Between 1931 and 1945, Japan controlled large areas of China that were home to tens of thousands of Jews; it treated them in the same way as it did other foreigners and refused pressure by its Nazi ally to follow its example.
Mark O’Neill is British and worked as a journalist in Britain, Hong Kong and Taiwan before joining Reuters in 1983. He spent 13 years with the world’s leading news agency in Hong Kong, New Delhi, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo before joining the South China Morning Post, for which he worked in Beijing and Shanghai. Since 2007 he had been a lecturer in journalism at Baptist University, Hong Kong University and United International College, Zhuhai and a freelance journalist for publications including the South China Morning Post.
His past publications include a biography of his grandfather Rev Frederick O’Neill, an Irish Presbyterian missionary in China and books on the Chinese Labour Corp in Europe and the Chinese in Russia in World War One. He has also written about 12 outstanding people of Xiangshan in the late Qing and early Republican periods. His gave a talk to us last year on his book about the two Palace Museums in Beijing and Taipei, “The Miraculous History of China’s Two Palace Museums” “兩故宫的世纪傳奇”. His latest book is “Israel and China: From the Tang Dynasty to Silicon Wadi”.
Cost: £8 per member or guest, to include refreshments
Lunch: A self-paying lunch will be arranged at 12:45 p.m.at Chutneys, 124 Drummond Street, London NW1 2PA (corner of North Gower Street.) Tel: 020 7388 0604. Please note on the booking form if you wish to join the lunch.
Booking: Please email Paul Bolding at email@example.com tel: 020 7684 5811. Please transfer £8 per person to the Friends’ bank account at least a week before the event, if you can. Thank you. If not, use the form at the end of the June 2018 newsletter.