Confucian and Jewish cultures

March 16, 2010

OMF International have a superb website – China’s Millions – which givesOMF International logo a  consistently faith-focussed image of China’s history. However, I think we need to add something to complete the picture.

There are significant similarities between the Confucian and Neo-Confucian tradition on the one hand and the tradition of Tanakh and its developments on the other, in the way they have culturally evolved.

Confucianism and Judaism are the world’s two great community traditions of this-worldly belief. Both have shown, through millennia, a cultural resistance to doctrines of salvation through rebirth or through paradise. It seems extraordinary that their parallel cultural histories over the past five thousand years have not been fully explored by the scholars of religion and of communities. In addition, for hundreds of years there has been a similar history of discrimination against Chinese and Jewish entrepreneurial ‘middlemen’ communities in Asia and in Europe.

Given this family resemblance between the two cultures, the two recent best-selling antisemitic books of Song Hongbing – ‘Currency Wars’ – published in China, South Korea and Vietnam, are particularly deplorable.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, comments on these books: “The Chinese have the highest regard for what they see as Jewish intellectual and commercial acumen, with little or no concurrent culture of antisemitism. This claim, however, plays to the most discredited and outmoded canards surrounding Jews and their influence. That it should gain currency in the world’s most important emerging economy is a great concern.”