|The Jewish People in Haerbin|
|http://www.sina.com.cn 2003/04/16 12:59 中国周刊|
The Chinese nationality is a generous nationality, due to her culture and history. From ancient times to modern times, many foreigners with different complexions, languages, and religions have come to China,swheresthey were never treated with discrimination or persecution. On the contrary, foreigners have received a more than welcoming attitude from the Chinese people. Among those foreigners were Muslims from central and western Asia who came through the milk Road.?There were also south Asians who came through the mea Silk Road.?These people lived with Chinese people and formed new nationalities, such as the Hui, Saha, Dongxiang, and so on. Some foreigners even came from farther away, in the Middle East and Europe, and gradually integrated themselvessintosthe Han nationality, the majority people in China. All foreigners have left some hints of their presence in Chinese history. For example, the Hui culture is easy to see in China.
However, there are some people whose culture is hard to find, among them, the culture of the Jewish people. Thus, our magazine is contributing to this topic, the Jewish people in China.
This article is based on an interview trip in Harbin, capital city of Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China. Harbin is well known for her nicknames fastern Moscow?and fastern Small Paris,?adding exotic features to this ice City?of China. More than that, there is also a large-scale Jewish cemetery in Harbin, which makes this city even more exotic in culture. While the land of the Jewish people is thousands of miles away, Harbin is a city in the northeastern border of China. Why, then, have Jewish people been buried in China? When did they start coming to China? Besides the big Jewish cemetery, there is also a series of Jewish vestiges in Harbin. There is even a Heilongjiang Jews Study Center there as well.
To find the answers for the above questions, and to learn more about the Jewish people in Harbin, a journalist of our magazine interviewed Mr. Qu Wei, president of Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences and director of Heilongjiang Jews Study Center.
A city of generosity
Since the occurrence of land conflict, it has been difficult for a nationality to exist and develop in another nationality's land--especially a small nationality in the big territory of a massive nationality.
However, since the 19th century, with the construction of the eastern branch of the Siberia Railroad (called Zhongdong railroad in China), many Jewish people came from Russia and other eastern European regions to reside in Haerbin. They thought there would be a promising prospect there. Before long, due to the apprehension of the october Revolution,?many more Jewish people came from the Soviet Union to Harbin. By 1920, there were more than 20,000 Jewish people in Harbin.
In Harbin, the Jewish people were not treated with discrimination. On the contrary, kind-hearted Chinese people accepted them, and the Jewish people quickly developed their culture there. With the establishment of synagogues, stores, banks, hospitals, theaters, libraries, tobacco factories, beer factories, charities, insurance companies, publishing houses, etc., a nearly complete Jewish society system formed, bringing something new to Harbin.
Today, it is not difficult to find some Jewish-related vestiges in Tongjiang Street, Daoli District, which used to be a central region of Jewish activities. When you walk through Central Avenue-the first walk commercial street in north China-you can see the beautiful Madel Hotel that was constructed by Jewish people, making Central Avenue look more attractive to its customers from all over China.
When you walk in Tongjiang Street, parallel to Central Avenue, you will find a well-kept Jewish synagogue that is bigger than a basketball court. Wandering inside, you will become deeply absorbed in the Jewish religious architectural art, forgetting you are even in China. Beside this synagogue, there is a two-story villa in the Jewish style, which was and still is a medium-scale Jewish middle school. Besides its educational contribution, it is also a witness to real history.
Actually, the structures mentioned above are only a small part of the Jewish vestiges in Haerbin. Due to their artistic and architectural value, they still look charming today. What's more, with the local government's protection and maintenance and effective publication, more and more guests from all over the world come to Haerbin to see them.
An excellent nationality
The Jewish nationality deserves to have other groups respect it and learn from it. Karl Marx, great proletarian revolutionist, was Jewish. Another great proletarian revolutionist, Lenin, was also of Jewish decent. The theories of Marx and Lenin have been the strong thinking weapons for Chinese people to step forward to more successes. Dr. Kissenger, who made a great contribution to the establishment of official China-U.S. relations, is Jewish. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists in history, was also Jewish. According to statistics, the Jewish people are only one three hundredth of the world's population; yet they represent one third of Nobel Prize laureates!
Besides natural sciences, the Jewish people also exceed in social sciences, cultures, arts and so forth. According to statistics, during the 1920's, among the Jewish people in Haerbin, the proportion of teachers, lawyers, journalists, engineers, artists, and other intellectuals was 33.8%, also remarkably high even when evaluated at the city level in some developed countries today.
Besides the excellent Jewish people in Haerbin, they have also been outstanding pianists and violinists all over the world. It was their contributions that made Haerbin's prosperity in the musical stage at that time. Moreover, the Jewish people built music academies and cultivated many more outstanding musicians. These student musicians not only received the invaluable artistic legacies of their masters, but they also developed their own skills much further. All their efforts account for another nickname of Harbin, music City.?
Based on high levels of the musical masters, music quickly became popular in Haerbin. mummer of Haerbin?concert, started 40 years ago and actively continued now, has had close relations with contributions from Jewish people either directly or indirectly.
The Jewish people are also good at doing business. Harbin was able to reach her prosperity in the early period of the 20th century so quickly because many merchants from more than twenty countries (including Russia, America, Germany, Japan, etc.) came to Harbin to do their businesses. This formed a mutual acquaintance between Harbin and the outside world. Among those merchants, forty percent were Jewish people. These merchants were the first to export soybeans from Harbin to Europe, and the first to import commodities from Europe to Harbin. In a word, their business contribution to Harbin cannot be devaluated. This is an important reason the Harbin International Trade-talks Conference is held there.
Asgroupsof friends come from afar
There is an old Chinese proverb, The sea is spacious enough for fishes to jump and the sky is high enough for birds to fly.?Harbin not only provided a vast stage and space for the Jewish people in architecture, music, and business, but it also proudly cultivated a Jewish national hero, Trumu Beldo. He is beloved by Jewish people, a hero with only one arm. Beldo lived in Haerbin for many years, and it was one of the unforgettable places in his life.
More unforgettably, there also appeared some international Jewish communist soldiers who fought for the liberation of the Chinese people shoulder-to-shoulder with the Chinese during World War II. Philite, a British Jew, was chair of the Asia News Agency of Britain. He and his agency helped Chinese people a great deal by collecting information and providing intelligence. There was also Rosenfield, a sincere friend of the Chinese people who publicly participated in the Chinese Revolution. During the 3-year-period from 1945 through 1947, he worked in Haerbin as the Health Administer in the First Troop of the Northeastern Anti-Japanese Army. He not only devoted himself to the liberation cause, but also to the medical development of Haerbin.
From Biercai, the first Jewish person to come to China in 1898, to the death of Agalier, the last Jewish person in China, in 1985, there was a span of nearly a century. During that near-century, Chinese people and Jewish people cooperated and helped each other, some even established marriages. These associations verified the close relationship between the two nationalities. With the help of Chinese people and local government, some Jewish people have left Haerbin and gone to Europe or America to develop further, after finishing their Trimitive accumulations?in China. Some, however, were born and raised here, and eventually died and were buried here. Haerbin has actually become their second homeland.?All these events occurred before the establishment of the official relationship between their two respective countries, proving that all the Chinese did to the Jewish people was based on sincerity.
When the previous Cultural Park in Nangang District underwent reconstruction, to properly protect the Jewish cemetery partly within the reconstruction area, the local government invested millions of yuán to move the cemetery to the eastern outskirts of the city. Today, the relocated cemetery is Royal Hill Cemetery. So naturally beautiful, with such diverse plants and clean air, the Jewish cemetery is much better kept and protected. After the official mutual relationship was established between China and Israel, Israeli Ambassadors to China in Beijing's embassy, Ms. Nan Yueming and Mr. Sha Leifu, came to Haerbin Jewish cemetery to pay homage to their ancestors, each at a separate time. Walking in this cemetery, with its graceful environment and solemn atmosphere, and standing before the high quality gravestones and fine inscriptions, the two Ambassadors could not keep back their tears for the great friendship of the Chinese people.
During World War II, Hitler's Nazi's killed more than six million Jewish people, and in some European countries even Jewish vestiges were damaged. Therefore, not only the Israeli government, but also Jewish people from around the world have been deeply moved by what the Chinese people of Haerbin have done for them. When Mr. Turdy Cofuman, the president of Israel China Friendship Association, visited China, he said, turing that unforgettable era, neither shifts of China's regimes nor changes of world political situations led to the discrimination to Jews from Chinese people, and it is Chinese people's great friendship that makes those Jews?existence and development possible.
A friendship flower in full bloom
As we look in retrospect at Jewish history, we discover that friendship has never been easy for this nationality with so much suffering to acquire. As early as 2,000 years ago, the Roman Empire's brutal invasion forced the Jewish people from their homeland andsintosa vagrant life. After that, they left their footprints in Spain, Portugal, France, and countries in central Europe. In contemporary history, they repeated their vagrant life, roaming about in North America, South America, Russia, and so on. Only by the end of 19th century could they attain the welcoming attitude from Chinese people as mentioned above.
It is obvious that the friendship between the Chinese people and the Jewish people spans almost a hundred years. However, the friendship originated back further than that. As early as the silk road era,?the Jewish people began developing friendship with the Chinese people. At that time, the silk road?passed through the Middle East, and many Arabian commodities needed Jewish protection and maintenance. In that more than ten-thousand-kilometer silk road,?there were many countries and regions with many different nationalities. A commonly used language was needed, and that language was Hebrew. If an economic dispute occurred, the parties usually relied on a Jewish court to solve the issue, using the Hebrew language. Even now, Hebrew is still the official language of Israel.
During the Tang Dynasty 1,100 years ago, some Jewish people arrived in China. They first came to Xi誥n, and then established their own community in Kaifeng. They accustomed themselves to the local environment and Chinese traditions and customs, and kept on well with Chinese people there. Gradually, they thoroughly integrated themselvessintosChinese society.
All these historical realities proved that the friendship between the Chinese and the Jewish people is cheerful and unforgettable. Mr. Qu Wei says with deep feeling, turing all this time, there is no conflict but friendship, and there is no tragedy but a good story, let alone hostility. Not only Haerbin, but also the whole of China has benefited from this. So our friendship with the Jewish people is long-lasting and sure!
All photos from THE JEWS IN CHINA (China Intercontinental Press). Courtesy of Isaril Embassy for suppliing the book.
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