Purple motes : Jews in China more than a millennium ago

By Douglas Galbi, the author of purple motes

When the Jewish Chinese scholar Ai Tien and the Christian Italian Matteo Ricci met in Beijing in 1605, each mistook the other for a co-religionist.  Ai Tien was a Chinese native from the Jewish community at Kaifeng.  Ricci, a Jesuit missionary priest, had arrived in China in 1583.  Ai Tien told Ricci that the head of his faith (the Chief Rabbi) had twelve sons.  Ricci mis-understood and thought that Ai Tien was speaking of Jesus and the twelve apostles.  At Ricci’s house, Ai Tien mis-identified Ricci’s paintings of John the Baptist and Mary with the baby Jesus as paintings of Jacob, Rebecca, and Esau……

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