Judaic Center in China
US & Britain
China Judaic Studies Association
Promoting Judaic Studies in China
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
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are old family photos, maps, artifacts, historical documents, diagrams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
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.