Western Missionaries and the Study on the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng
In June 1605, Ai Tian, a Chinese Jew from Kaifeng called upon Matteo Ricci at the headquarters of Jesuit Mission in Beijing. During their conversation, Ricci found Ai Tian could recognize the Hebrew characters, although he was unable to read them. Ai Tian also reported that, in his city, there were twelve clans observing Jewish religious practices and that they had a synagogue where they kept scrolls of the law. Scattered over China, there were others of the same faith, but they were gradually being lost.
This was the first account to the Western world that an isolated Jewish community had been in existence in the heart of China for some centuries without having any communication with Jews in other countries. Considerable interest in the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng has been displayed since then. More and more missionaries, scholars and researchers went to Kaifeng and began to study their history and life.