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China Judaic Studies Association 
Promoting Judaic Studies in China

Articles

Sino-Judaic Institute Historical Exhibit Arrives in Kaifeng

By Matt Trusch

Published by the China Judaic Studies Association


After months of delay, the Sino-Judaic Institute's historical exhibit has finally found its home in Kaifeng's new Riverside Scene Park. Three buildings in the Park are to be set aside for exhibits on Kaifeng's Jewish history, and the Sino-Judaic Institute's exhibit, shipped from Palo Alto to Beijing to Kaifeng, is to span two stories of a building in the middle.

Riverside Scene Park is Kaifeng's new 337,000 square meter cultural theme park, located in the city's northwest corner, and modeled after the Northern Song painting "Riverside Scene in Qingming Festival" by Zheng Zeduan. Represented are the Northern Song capital's city gate, rainbow bridge, ancient streets, shops, canals, docks and boats --arranged somewhat according to the original painting. Song handicrafts are for sale, and folk performances entertain throughout the day.

Investment in Riverside Scene Park amounted to around 60 million Chinese yuan with the Kaifeng Tourist Authority investing 45 percent, and Mr. Wang Haidong's private Zidi Company investing 55 percent.  Kaifeng's Mr. Wang previously befriended Gerald Finkel, a Jewish investor from Chicago, during a Hainan Island investment project, and then when Wang agreed to invest in the Riverside Scene Park, Finkel ensured that the Park would have a Jewish exhibit. The Jewish exhibits now occupy three adjacent buildings. The first building holds paintings by Kaifeng artists Yu Zhengge, Zhang Zhaomin, Wang Qianxian and Liu Bo, reenactments of historic and legendary tales. Displayed are the Jews' arrival along the Silk Road, their settlement in Kaifeng, their meeting with the Song emperor who bestowed the eight families with seven surnames, the Rabbi's prayers that brought rain during a drought, their meeting with the Empress Dowager in the late Qing, etc.

Also in the first building, a model of the synagogue was commissioned for 20,000 yuan based upon the drawing by Jean Domenge, S.J., a Jesuit missionary, in 1722. The second building will house the Sino-Judaic Institute's exhibit on the Kaifeng Jews, an important contribution to both local and international visitors. Approximately 40 pictures and their respective English and Chinese captions will be displayed on two stories. Included are old family photos, maps, artifacts, historical documents, diagrams of the synagogue, etc., prepared and donated by the Sino-Judaic Institute in memory of Mr. Loe Gabow, the founding president of the Institute. Professor Xu Xin translated the majority of captions into Chinese. The exhibit was last displayed in October 1998 in Beijing, and arrived in Kaifeng in November with the assistance of Elyse Beth Silverberg from U.S.-China Industrial Exchange Inc. in Beijing. Mid-December 1998, Professor Xu Xin and a Harvard graduate student traveled to Riverside Scene Park to oversee the final logistics of setting up the SJI exhibit.

The third building contains Kaifeng's own historic exhibit on the local Jews. This exhibit displays some of the same historical information contained in the SJI exhibit, but it also contains a few local highlights. The first is a replica of the Tang Jewish merchant and his camel. The second are rubbings from the three stone steles contained in the Kaifeng Museum (1489, 1512, 1663). The third are color photos of the Jin and Shi burial sites, the site of a Jewish-funded bridge, and the wailingwall in Jerusalem.

Kaifeng Jewish descendant Mr. Moshe Zhang has worked every day since August to see these exhibits displayed in Riverside Scene Park. His efforts and the efforts of those involved should be recorded as a new chapter of Kaifeng Jewish history.