The Jewish presence in Imperial China*

Historians of China are fortunate in being able to call on a far more voluminous variety of source materials than those who work in other fields. Quite apart from the officially sponsored dynastic, or standard, histories, they may consult local gazetteers, family records and archival documents, whose value is brought to bear most fully from about iooo CE. But, as may well be expected, such writings are largely and often exclusively written from a Chinese point of view, In the case of the dynastic histories the compilers were working at the direction of their imperial masters; and they were charged with the duty of producing a record which would reflect the glory of the empire and its superiority over those less fortunate parts and peoples of the world that lay beyond imperial jurisdiction. As a result those histories refer to the presence, activities or faiths of other peoples only in

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