Hebrew Prayers from Kaifeng, China

Hebrew Prayers from Kaifeng, China


Collection ID

MS.000663

Type

Manuscript

Date

ca. 1642–1699

Geography

China

Language

Hebrew

Medium

Ink on paper

Dimensions

7.7 × 4.7 × 0.25 in. (19.5 × 11.9 × 0.7 cm)

Exhibit Location

On view in the History of the Bible Floor, The Bible Spreads Globally


A small manuscript containing the Ma’ariv prayers that are recited during weeknights. The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4–9) is central to the evening prayer service, recalling the possible origins of the evening service within the Shema itself: “Recite them . . . when you lie down.” The Jews of Kaifeng observed standard religious practices like communal readings from the Torah, recitations of standard prayers, and the observance of major festivals. The community lived along the Yellow River in eastern China, perhaps settling as early as the 11th century. Many of their sacred texts were destroyed after the Yellow River flooded in 1642, but they soon recopied the manuscripts that were irreparably damaged. This manuscript is likely a product of the post-1642 recopying.

Created ca. 1642–1699 in Kaifeng, China; Purchased 1850–1851 by the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews;[1][2] Purchased at auction in 2010 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma;[3] Donated in 2016 to National Christian Foundation (later The Signatry) under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible.

Notes: [1] The society is now called the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People (CMJ UK). [2] A quote from the 2010 Sotheby’s sale: “. . . acquired through the aid of Bishop George Smith of Hong Kong, who sent two Chinese Protestant converts, K'hew T'heen-sang and Tseang Yung-che, to Kaifeng in winter 1850 and summer 1851, to purchase the community's Torah scrolls and 63 books. These manuscripts were taken to Shanghai and described in the North China Herald and the journal Chinese Repository in 1851, and formed the basis of their publication on rice paper, Fac-Similes of the Hebrew Manuscripts, obtained at the Jewish Synagogue in K'ae-Fung-Foo (Shanghai 1851). The manuscripts were then sent to the Society's headquarters in London (and more extensively studied and discussed in Jewish Intelligence in 1853, later reprinted in the Jewish Chronicle). They remained there until 1924, when 59 of the volumes were sold to the Library of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. Pollak (pp.95-7) suggested that the remaining 4 were lost while on loan to the 1907 Palestine Exhibition in London. In fact they had been mislaid and remained in the holdings of the Society, until their recent rediscovery. They are offered here by the same society.” [3] Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, Sotheby’s London, 7 December 2010, Lot 36.

Selected References:

Chaim Simons, Jewish Religious Observance by the Jews of Kaifeng China (Seattle, WA: Sino-Judaic Institute, 2014).

Michael Pollak, The Jews of Kaifeng: Chinese Jews on the Banks of the Yellow River (Tel Aviv: Bet Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldman Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, 1984).

Donald Leslie, The Survival of the Chinese Jews: The Jewish Community of Kaifeng (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972).

Fac-similes of the Hebrew Manuscripts, Obtained at the Jewish Synagogue in Kʻae-fung-foo (Shanghae: Printed at the London Missionary Society Press, 1851).

Description

A small manuscript containing the Ma’ariv prayers that are recited during weeknights. The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4–9) is central to the evening prayer service, recalling the possible origins of the evening service within the Shema itself: “Recite them . . . when you lie down.” The Jews of Kaifeng observed standard religious practices like communal readings from the Torah, recitations of standard prayers, and the observance of major festivals. The community lived along the Yellow River in eastern China, perhaps settling as early as the 11th century. Many of their sacred texts were destroyed after the Yellow River flooded in 1642, but they soon recopied the manuscripts that were irreparably damaged. This manuscript is likely a product of the post-1642 recopying.


Provenance

Created ca. 1642–1699 in Kaifeng, China; Purchased 1850–1851 by the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews;[1][2] Purchased at auction in 2010 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma;[3] Donated in 2016 to National Christian Foundation (later The Signatry) under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible.

Notes: [1] The society is now called the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People (CMJ UK). [2] A quote from the 2010 Sotheby’s sale: “. . . acquired through the aid of Bishop George Smith of Hong Kong, who sent two Chinese Protestant converts, K'hew T'heen-sang and Tseang Yung-che, to Kaifeng in winter 1850 and summer 1851, to purchase the community's Torah scrolls and 63 books. These manuscripts were taken to Shanghai and described in the North China Herald and the journal Chinese Repository in 1851, and formed the basis of their publication on rice paper, Fac-Similes of the Hebrew Manuscripts, obtained at the Jewish Synagogue in K'ae-Fung-Foo (Shanghai 1851). The manuscripts were then sent to the Society's headquarters in London (and more extensively studied and discussed in Jewish Intelligence in 1853, later reprinted in the Jewish Chronicle). They remained there until 1924, when 59 of the volumes were sold to the Library of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. Pollak (pp.95-7) suggested that the remaining 4 were lost while on loan to the 1907 Palestine Exhibition in London. In fact they had been mislaid and remained in the holdings of the Society, until their recent rediscovery. They are offered here by the same society.” [3] Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, Sotheby’s London, 7 December 2010, Lot 36.

Selected References:

Chaim Simons, Jewish Religious Observance by the Jews of Kaifeng China (Seattle, WA: Sino-Judaic Institute, 2014).

Michael Pollak, The Jews of Kaifeng: Chinese Jews on the Banks of the Yellow River (Tel Aviv: Bet Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldman Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, 1984).

Donald Leslie, The Survival of the Chinese Jews: The Jewish Community of Kaifeng (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1972).

Fac-similes of the Hebrew Manuscripts, Obtained at the Jewish Synagogue in Kʻae-fung-foo (Shanghae: Printed at the London Missionary Society Press, 1851).


Currently On Display

Museum of the Bible

400 4th St SW, Washington, DC 20024
(866) 430-MOTB

Get Museum Tickets

Questions about our Collections?

Visit Contact Us Page
(866) 430-MOTB


To acquire permission to use this image, please visit our Rights and Reproduction page.