12 tribes of Israel



Dee Finney's blog
start date July 20, 2013
today's date December 16, 2013
page 610




12-16-13 -  DREAM - I was working on a computer, either copying or downloading a strange picture language. I had to separate a group of picture letters into a more coherent list of picture letters.  I did this for quite some time, thinking they were Hebrew words or letters, but it wasn't real Hebrew  - it was something before that - or from the ETs I thought.

I had that dream twice.  Upon discussions later, it was not hyroglyphics - the pictures were not recognizable figures, they were more like strange star bursts - but not like stars either -  but strange configurations and each one was different.

On 12-17-13 - I found these similar letters on an album cover published in Japanese.  Japanese kanji language

Now the question is, why was I working on a Japanese page?


It came to me while I was walking through a doorway that the connection between my thinking that the language was Hebrew, and discovering this album which arrived in the mail today - a used copy I purchased a couple of days ago on Amazon.com


Since it came to me that this set of dreams was about a lost Hebrew Tribe, I decided to do some research on that and if I can trace a Hebrew tribe to China and then to Japan which is the way the language tracks across the countries.

Jewish Japan

The ten lost tribes refers to the ten of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel that were deported from the Kingdom of Israel after it was conquered by Assyria in about 722 BCE. Claims of descent from the lost tribes have been proposed in relation to many groups, and some religions espouse a millenarian view that the tribes will return.

Tudor Parfitt has declared that "the Lost Tribes are indeed nothing but a myth", and writes that, "...this myth is a vital feature of colonial discourse throughout the long period of European overseas empires, from the beginning of the fifteenth century, until the later half of the twentieth.

The motif of "the lost tribes" first appeared in the post-biblical era, and was subsequently elaborated upon in a number of apocryphal texts. The return of the lost tribes was eventually tied to the notion of the coming of the messiah in the 7th and 8th centuries CE. 

The recorded history is at variance with the legends elaborated in apocryphal texts. For example, no record exists of the Assyrians having exiled people from Dan, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun or western Manasseh. Descriptions of the deportation of people from Reuben, Gad, Manasseh in Gilead, Ephraim and Naphtali indicate that only a portion of these tribes were deported and the places to which they were deported are known locations given in the accounts. The deported communities are mentioned as still existing at the time of the composition of the books of Kings and Chronicles, and not wholly assimilated into the Assyrian populace.

DNA studies have found no evidence of the existence of any lost tribes. DNA studies have refuted any connection between ethnic Jews and most all of the ethnic groups discussed below, with the exception of the Lemba, for whom a Y-chromosome connection has been confirmed, but no maternal DNA.


The twelve tribes

According to the Hebrew Bible, Jacob (who was later named Israel; Gen 35:10) had 12 sons and at least one daughter (Dinah) by two wives and two concubines. The twelve sons fathered the twelve Tribes of Israel.

  • When the land of Israel was apportioned among the tribes in the days of Joshua, the Tribe of Levi, being chosen as priests, did not receive land (Joshua 13:33, (14:3). However, the tribe of Levi were given cities. Six cities were to be refuge cities for all men of Israel, which were to be controlled by the Levites. Three of these cities were located on each side of the Jordan River. In addition, 42 other cities (and their respective open spaces), totaling 48 cities, were given to the Tribe of Levi. (Numbers 35)
  • Joshua elevated the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh (the two sons of Joseph by his Egyptian wife Asenath) (Genesis 41:50) to the status of full tribes in their own right, replacing the Tribe of Joseph (Joshua 14:4). Each received its own land and had its own encampment during the 40 years of wandering in the desert.

Thus, the two divisions of the tribes are:

Traditional division:

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Levi
  4. Judah
  5. Issachar
  6. Zebulun
  7. Dan
  8. Naphtali
  9. Gad
  10. Asher
  11. Joseph
  12. Benjamin

Division according to apportionment of land in Israel:

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Judah
  4. Issachar
  5. Zebulun
  6. Dan
  7. Naphtali
  8. Gad
  9. Asher
  10. Benjamin
  11. Ephraim (son of Joseph)
  12. Manasseh (son of Joseph)
  • Levi (no territorial allotment, except a number of cities located within the territories of the other tribes)

According to the Bible, the Kingdom of Israel (or Northern Kingdom) was one of the successor states to the older United Monarchy (also called the Kingdom of Israel), which came into existence in about the 930s BCE after the northern Tribes of Israel rejected Solomon's son Rehoboam as their king. Nine landed tribes formed the Northern Kingdom: the tribes of Reuben, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh. In addition, some members of Tribe of Levi, who had no land allocation, were found in the Northern Kingdom. The Tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Rehoboam, and formed the Kingdom of Judah (or Southern Kingdom). Members of Levi and the remnant of Simeon were also found in the Southern Kingdom.

According to 2 Chronicles 15:9, members of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon "fled" to Judah during the reign of Asa of Judah. Whether these groups were absorbed into the population or remained distinct groups, or returned to their tribal lands is not indicated.

In c. 732 BCE, the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III sacked Damascus and Israel, annexing Aramea and territory of the tribes of Reuben, Gad andManasseh in Gilead including the desert outposts of Jetur, Naphish and Nodab. People from these tribes including the Reubenite leader, were taken captive and resettled in the region of the Khabur River system in Assyria/Mesopotamia. Tiglath-Pilesar also captured the territory of Naphtali and the city of Janoah in Ephraim and an Assyrian governor was placed over the region of Naphtali. According to 2 Kings 16:9 and 15:29, the population of Aram and the annexed part of Israel was deported to Assyria.

Israel continued to exist within the reduced territory as an independent kingdom subject to Assyria until around 720 BCE, when it was again invaded by Assyria and the rest of the population deported. The Bible relates that the population of Israel was exiled, leaving only the Tribe of Judah, the Tribe of Simeon (that was "absorbed" into Judah), the Tribe of Benjamin and the people of the Tribe of Levi who lived among them of the original Israelites tribes in the southern Kingdom of Judah. However, Israel Finkelstein estimated that only a fifth of the population (about 40,000) were actually resettled out of the area during the two deportation periods under Tiglath-Pileser III and his successor Sargon II. Many also fled south to Jerusalem, which appears to have expanded in size fivefold during this period, requiring a new wall to be built, and a new source of water (Siloam) to be provided by King Hezekiah. Furthermore, 2 Chronicles 30:1-11 explicitly mentions northern Israelites who had been spared by the Assyrians—in particular, members of Dan, Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher and Zebulun—and how members of the latter three returned to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem at that time.

However in 2 Kings 17:34 it says of the newly exiled Israelites that were in Assyria; To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship Yahweh nor adhere to the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands that Yahweh gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel. The medieval rabbi and biblical commentator David Kimhi explains that this is in reference to the tribes that were exiled, and that they remained in their ways, neither accepting a monotheistic God nor in adhering to any of the laws and regulations that were common to all Jews.

The Hebrew Bible does not use the phrase "ten lost tribes", leading some to question the number of tribes involved. However, 1 Kings 11:31 states that the kingdom would be taken from Solomon and give ten tribes to Jeroboam:

And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee.

But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes.

The ten lost tribes and Biblical apocrypha

According to Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

Centuries after their disappearance, the ten lost tribes sent an indirect but vital sign... In 2 Esdras, we read about the ten tribes and “their long journey through that region, which is called Arzareth”... The book of the “Vision of Ezra,” or Esdras, was written in Hebrew or Aramaic by a Palestinian Jew sometime before the end of the first century CE, shortly after the destruction of the temple by the Romans. It is one of a group of texts later designated as the so-called Apocrypha—pseudoepigraphal books attached to but not included in the Hebrew biblical canon.

The ten lost tribes and the New Testament

Some evidence exists of a continuing identification in later centuries of individual Israelites to the Lost Tribes. For example, in Luke 2:36 of the New Testament, an individual is identified with the tribe of Asher.

Millenarian religious beliefs and the lost tribes


There are numerous references in biblical writings. In Ezekiel 37:16-17, the prophet is told to write on one stick (an ancient reference to scrolls) (quoted here in part) "For Judah..." and on the other (quoted here in part), "For Joseph..." (the main Lost Tribe). The prophet is then told that these two groups shall be someday reunited.

Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in your hand.

—Ezekiel 37:16-17, HE

There are also discussions in the Talmud as to whether the ten lost tribes will eventually be reunited with the Tribe of Judah, that is, with the Jewish people.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has extensive teachings regarding the gathering of Israel and the restoration of the ten tribes. One of their main Articles of Faith written by Joseph Smith Jr. is as follows: "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." (LDS Articles of Faith #10)

Regarding the Ezekiel 37 prophecy, the LDS Church teaches that the Book of Mormon is the stick of Ephraim mentioned and that the Bible is the stick of Judah, thus comprising two witnesses for Jesus Christ. The LDS Church believes The Book of Mormon to be a collection of records by prophets of the ancient Americas, written on plates of gold and translated by Joseph Smith Jr. circa 1830. The LDS Church considers the Book of Mormon one of the main tools for the spiritual gathering of Israel.

17th- to mid-20th-century theories

The increased currency of tales relating to lost tribes was brought about in the 17th century owing to the confluence of several factors. According to Parfitt

...As Michael Pollack shows, Menassah's argument was based on, 'three separate and seemingly unrelated sources: a verse from the book of Isaiah, Matteo Ricci's discovery of an old Jewish community in the heart of China and Antonio Montezinos' reported encounter with members of the Lost Tribes in the wilds of South America.

The Portuguese traveler and Marrano Sephardic Jew Antonio de Montezinos returned to Europe with accounts that some of the Lost Tribes were living among the Native Americans of the Andes in South America. Menasseh ben Israel, a noted rabbi and printer of Amsterdam, was excited by this news. He believed that a Messianic age was approaching, and that Jewish people being settled around the world was necessary for it.

In 1649 Menassah published his book, The Hope of Israel, in Spanish and in Latin in Amsterdam, including Montezinos' account of the Lost Tribes in the New World.[10][11] An English translation was published in London in 1650. In it Menasseh argued, and for the first time tried to give learned support in European thought and printing, to the theory that the native inhabitants of America at the time of the European discovery were descendants of the [lost] Ten Tribes of Israel.[10] He noted how important Montezinos' account was,

"...for the Scriptures doe not tell what people first inhabited those Countries; neither was there mention of them by any, til Christop. Columbus, Americus, Vespacius, Ferdinandus, Cortez, the Marquesse Del Valle, and Franciscus Pizarrus went thither..."

He wrote on 23 December 1649:

... I think that the Ten Tribes live not only there ... but also in other lands scattered everywhere; these never did come back to the Second Temple and they keep till this day still the Jewish Religion...

In 1655, Menasseh ben Israel petitioned Oliver Cromwell to allow the Jews to return to England in furtherance of the Messianic goal. (Since the Edict of Expulsion in 1290, Jews had been prohibited by law from living in England.) With the approach of 1666, considered a significant date, Cromwell was allegedly interested in the return of the Jews to England because of the many theories circulating related to millennial thinking about the end of the world. Many of these ideas were fixed upon the year 1666 and the Fifth Monarchy Men who were looking for the return of Jesus as the Messiah; he was expected to establish a final kingdom to rule the physical world for a thousand years. Messianic believers supported Cromwell's Republic in the expectation that it was a preparation for the fifth monarchy—that is, the monarchy that should succeed the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Romanworld empires.

Apocryphal accounts concerning the Lost Tribes, based to varying degrees on biblical accounts, have been produced by both Jews and Christianssince at least the 17th century.[14] An Ashkenazi Jewish tradition speaks of these tribes as Die Roite Yiddelech, "The little red Jews", cut off from the rest of Jewry by the legendary river Sambation "whose foaming waters raise high up into the sky a wall of fire and smoke that is impossible to pass through".

Historians have generally arrived at the conclusion that the Lost Tribes merged with the local population. For instance, the New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia states,

"In historic fact, some members of the Ten Tribes remained in Palestine, where apart from the Samaritans some of their descendants long preserved their identity among the Jewish population, others were assimilated, while others were presumably absorbed by the last Judean exiles who in 597-586 BC were deported to Assyria...Unlike the Judeans of the southern Kingdom, who survived a similar fate 135 years later, they soon assimilated...

In declaring his conviction that "the Lost Tribes are indeed nothing but a myth", Parfitt writes that,

The continued belief in the Lost Tribes is unabated... The present writer does not believe that the Ten Tribes are still to be found and accepts their disappearance as a historical fact that requires no further proof.

Groups which claim descent from lost tribes

Bene Israel

The Bene Israel may be descended from the sea-faring Zebulun tribe.

Bnei Menashe

Main article: Bnei Menashe

Some tribes in Mizoram and Manipour claim they are Lost Israelites.


Beta Israel of Ethiopia

Main article: Beta Israel

The Beta Israel (also known derogatorily as Falashas) are Ethiopian Jews. Some members of the Beta Israel as well as several Jewish scholars believe that they are descended from the lost Tribe of Dan, as opposed to the traditional story of their descent from the Queen of Sheba. They always longed for Jerusalem.[21] Numerous genetics studies, however, refute the possibility of a connection.[22][23][24][25][26]

Igbo Jews

Main article: Igbo Jews

The Igbo Jews of Nigeria claim descent variously from the tribes of Ephraim, Naphtali, Menasseh, Levi, Zebulun and Gad. The theory, however, does not hold up to historical scrutiny. Historians have examined the historical literature on West Africa from the colonial era and elucidated diverse functions which such theories served for the writers that proposed them.[27][28]


Main article: Lemba people

The Lemba people (Vhalemba) from Southern Africa claim to be descendants of several Jewish men who traveled from what is now Yemen to Africa in search of gold, where they took wives and established new communities DNA testing has genetically linked the Lemba with modern Jews and Muslim Semites. They have specific religious practices similar to those in Judaism and a tradition of being a migrant people, with clues pointing to an origin in West Asia or North Africa. According to the oral history of the Lemba, their ancestors were Jews who came from a place calledSena several hundred years ago and settled in East Africa. Sena is an abandoned ancient town in Yemen, located in the eastern Hadramaut valley, which history indicates Jews inhabited in past centuries. Some research suggests that "Sena" may refer to Wadi Masilah (near Sayhut) in Yemen, often called Sena, or alternatively to the city of Sana'a, also located in Yemen.

Pashtuns of the Afghanistan and Pakistan region

The Pashtuns are a predominantly Muslim people, native to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who adhere to a pre-Islamic indigenous religious code of honor and culture Pashtunwali. The myth about Pashtuns and Kashmiris being from the lost tribes of Israel has never been substantiated through concrete historical evidence. Genetics studies also refute the myth. 

Written sources

The tribal name 'Yusef Zai' in Pashto has been claimed to translate as the 'sons of Joseph', as described by Makhzan-i-Afghani, a historical work from the 17th Century by Nehamtullah, an official in the royal court of Mughal Emperor Jehangir. A similar story is told by Iranian historian Ferishta.

DNA studies

A number of genetics studies refute the possibility of a connection.


Kaifeng Jews

Main article: Kaifeng Jews

Though not connected with any of the typical lore relating to claims of descent from lost tribes, as described above, Parfitt and other scholars consider the discovery of a Jewish community by a Jesuit missionary in the early 17th century to have been important factor leading to the increased currency of theories and tales related to the Lost Tribes.

In 1605, Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci discovered a small community consisting of approximately ten to twelve families of Chinese Jews in Kaifeng, China. According to historical records, a Jewish community in Kaifaeng built a synagogue in 1163, during the Southern Song Dynasty, which existed until the late nineteenth century.

The Americas

The United States, American Indians

In 1650, a British divine named Thomas Thorowgood, who was a preacher in Norfolk, published a book entitled Jewes in America or Probabilities that the Americans are of that Race, which he had prepared for the New England missionary society. Tudor Parfitt writes:

The society was active in trying to convert the Indians but suspected that they might be Jews and realized they better be prepared for an arduous task. Thorowgood's tract argued that the native population of North America were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes.

In 1652 Sir Hamon L'Estrange, an English author writing on topics such as history and theology published an exegitical tract called Americans no Jews, or improbabilities that the Americans are of that Race in response to the tract by Thorowgood.

In response to L'Estrange, Thorowgood published a second edition of his book in 1660 with a revised title and included a forward written by John Eliot, a Puritan missionary to the Indians who had translated the bible into an Indian language.

Speculation regarding other ethnic groups

Scythian / Cimmerian Theories

Several theories claim that the Scythians and/or Cimmerians were in whole or in part the Lost Tribes of Israel. These are generally based on the belief that the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which had been deported by the Assyrians, became known in history as the Scythians and/or Cimmerians. Various points of view exist as to their modern descendants.

The Behistun Inscription is often cited as a link between the deported Israelites, the Cimmerians and the Scythians (Saka).

Jehu Obolisk

The 19th-century British scholar George Rawlinson wrote:

We have reasonable grounds for regarding the Gimirri, or Cimmerians, who first appeared on the confines of Assyria and Media in the seventh century B.C., and the Sacae of the Behistun Rock, nearly two centuries later, as identical with the Beth-Khumree of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel.

Adherents point out that the Behistun Inscription connects the people known in Old Persianand Elamite as Saka, Sacae or Scythian with the people known in Babylonian as Gimirri orCimmerian.

It should be made clear from the start that the terms 'Cimmerian' and 'Scythian' were interchangeable: in Akkadian the name Iskuzai (Asguzai) occurs only exceptionally. Gimirrai (Gamir) was the normal designation for 'Cimmerians' as well as 'Scythians' in Akkadian.

E. Raymond Capt, a British Israelite, claimed similarities between King Jehu's pointed headdress and that of the captive Saka king seen to the far right on the Behistun Inscription. He also posited that the Assyrian word for the House of Israel, Khumri, which was named after Israel's King Omri of the 8th century BC, is connected phonetically to Gimirri (Cimmerian).

Critics of the Israel / Scythian theory argue that the customs of the Scythians and Cimmerians differ from those of the Ancient Israelites. In addition, the greater body of research on the history of ancient populations does not provide support for the purported links between these ancient populations.

British Israelism variant

British Israelism (also known as 'Anglo-Israelism') espouses a theory that people of Western European descent, especially Britain and the United States, are descended from the lost tribes of Israel.

Tudor Parfitt, author of The Lost Tribes: The History of a Myth, states that the proof cited by adherents of British Israelism is "of a feeble composition even by the low standards of the genre." (Parfitt,2003. p. 61.)

Other critics cite similar problems:

“When reading Anglo-Israelite literature, one notices that it generally depends on folklore, legends, quasi-historical genealogies and dubious etymologies. None of these sources prove an Israelite origin for the peoples of northwestern Europe. Rarely, if ever, are the disciplines of archeology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics or historiography applied to Anglo-Israelism. Anglo-Israelism operates outside the sciences. Even the principles of sound biblical exegesis are seldom used, for...whole passages of Scripture that undermine the entire system are generally ignored...Why this unscientific approach? This approach must be taken because to do otherwise is to destroy Anglo-Israelism's foundation.” (Orr, 1995)

Adherents argue that the deported Israelites became Scythians / Cimmerians who are ancestors of the Celts / Anglo-Saxons of Western Europe.The theory arose in England, whence it spread to the United States. During the 20th century, British Israelism was promoted by Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. Armstrong argued that this theory provided a 'key' to understanding biblical prophecy; he felt called to proclaim these prophecies to the 'lost tribes' of Israel before the coming of the 'end-times'. The Worldwide Church of God no longer teaches the theory, but some offshoot churches such as the Philadelphia Church of God, the United Church of God, and the Living Church of God continue to teach it.

British Israelism has also been refuted by the findings of modern genetics, which show no connection between Semitic people from the Middle Easternregion and the people of the United Kingdom.

Brit-Am variant

Brit-Am, sometimes confused with British Israelism, is an organization centered in Jerusalem, and composed of Jews and non-Jews. Brit-Am, like British Israel, identifies the Lost Ten Tribes with peoples of West European descent, but does so from a Jewish perspective, quoting both biblical and Rabbinical sources. It uses Rabbinical Commentary supplemented by secular theories that posit the Lost Tribes / Scythian / Cimmerian connection, which are believed to have been ancestors of current Western European cultures and nations. An example of Brit-Am scholarship may be seen from its treatment of Obadiah 1:20 [in Hebrew Obadiah mentions the Sepharad, believed by some to refer to Iberian Jews, where the original Hebrew as understood by Rabbinical Commentators such as Rashi and Don Isaac Abrabanel is referring to the Lost Ten Tribes in France and England. Brit-Am also believes that "Other Israelite Tribes gave rise to elements within Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Wales, France, Holland, andBelgium" and that "The Tribe of Dan is to be found amongst part of the Danish, Irish, and Welsh." Brit-Am also believes that the Khazars were descended from the Ten Tribes and quotes Jewish and non-Jewish sources that were contemporaneous with them.

Other variants

Other organizations teach other variants of the theory, including the claim that the Scythians / Cimmerians represented in whole or in part the Lost Ten Tribes. One such theory posits that the lost Israelites can be defined by the Y-DNA haplogroup R, which makes up much of the population of Europe and Russia, which is in contrast to British Israelism and Brit-Am, which believe that the Israelites became only Western Europeans. It should be noted that the genetic findings postulated by this and other theories are typically inconsistent with the findings of generally accepted research inarcheology, anthropology and population genetics.


Some writers have speculated that the Japanese people may be direct descendants of part of the Ten Lost Tribes. Tudor Parfitt writes that "the spread of the fantasy of Israelite origin... forms a consistent feature of the Western colonial enterprise":

"It is in fact in Japan that we can trace the most remarkable evolution in the Pacific of an imagined Judaic past. As elsewhere in the world, the theory that aspects of the country were to be explained via an Israelite model was introduced by Western agents."

In 1878, Scottish immigrant to Japan Nicholas McLeod published Epitome of the Ancient History of Japan. McLeod drew correlations between his observations of Japan and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy:

The civilized race of the Aa. Inus, the Tokugawa and the Machi No Hito of the large towns, by dwelling in the tent or tabernacle shaped houses first erected by Jin Mu Tenno, have fulfilled Noah's prophecy regarding Japhet, "He shall dwell in the tents of Shem."(McLeod, 1878. p. 7)

Several other authors have followed McLeod in speculating about parallels between Japanese and Israelite rituals, culture and language in an attempt to support the hypothesis. Arismas Kubo, an ordained Christian minister, has translated McLeod's book into Japanese, and has published a number of works on the topic. In his article, "Mystery of the Ten Lost Tribes: Japan," he asserts that many traditional customs and ceremonies in Japan are very similar to those of ancient Israel. He postulates that perhaps these rituals came from the Jews through members of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who might have come to ancient Japan.

Jon Entine emphasizes that DNA evidence shows there are no genetic links between Japanese and Israelite peoples.

Other religions

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) believes in the literal gathering of Israel, and the LDS Church actively preaches the gathering of people from the twelve tribes. "Today Israelites are found in all countries of the world. Many of these people do not know that they are descended from the ancient house of Israel," the church teaches in its basic Gospel Principles manual. "The Lord promised that His covenant people would someday be gathered .... God gathers His children through missionary work. As people come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, receiving the ordinances of salvation and keeping the associated covenants, they become 'the children of the covenant' (3 Nephi 20:26)."

The church also teaches that "The power and authority to direct the work of gathering the house of Israel was given to Joseph Smith by the prophetMoses, who appeared in 1836 in the Kirtland Temple.... The Israelites are to be gathered spiritually first and then physically. They are gathered spiritually as they join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and make and keep sacred covenants.... The physical gathering of Israel means that the covenant people will be “gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise” (2 Nephi 9:2). The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh will be gathered in the Americas. The tribe of Judah will return to the city of Jerusalem and the area surrounding it. The ten lost tribes will receive from the tribe of Ephraim their promised blessings (see D&C 133:26–34). . . The physical gathering of Israel will not be complete until the Second Coming of the Savior and on into the Millennium (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37)."

See also


  • Bruder, Édith: Black Jews of Africa, Oxford 2008.
  • Lange, Dierk: "Yoruba origins and the 'Lost Tribes of Israel'", Anthropos 106 (2011), 579-595.
  • Parfitt, Tudor: The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth, London 2002.
  • Weil, Shalva: Beyond the Sambatyon: the Myth of the Ten Tribes, Tel Aviv 1991.


References and notes


  1. Jump up^ Jospehus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11 chapter 1 and II Esdras 13:39-45
  2. Jump up^ Parfitt, Tudor (2003). The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth. Phoenix. pp. 1, 225.
  3. Jump up^ The Ten Lost Tribes Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Oxford University Press. pp. 58-62
  4. ^ Jump up to:a b Weil, S. 1989 Beta Israel: A House Divided, Binghamton State University of NewYork.
  5. Jump up^ Lester L. Grabbe, Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? (New York: T&T Clark, 2007): 134
  6. Jump up^ Finkelstein & Silberman 2001, The Bible Unearthed.
  7. Jump up^ David Kimhi. Commentary on 2 Kings 17:34
  8. Jump up^ The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History, Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Oxford University Press, p.57
  9. Jump up^ Parfitt, Tudor (2003). The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth. Phoenix. p. 69.
  10. ^ Jump up to:a b Méchoulan, Henry, and Nahon, Gérard (eds.), Menasseh Ben Israel. The Hope of Israel, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987 - ISBN 0-19-710054-6, p. 101 and passim.
  11. Jump up^ Wilensky M. (1951). "The Royalist Position concerning the Readmission of Jews to England", The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 397–409
  12. Jump up^ Menassah ben Israel, The Hope of Israel (London, 1650, English translation), scanned text online at Oliver's Bookshelf, accessed 10 May 2013
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  26. Jump up^ Shen, Peidong; Lavi, Tal; Kivisild, Toomas; Chou, Vivian; Sengun, Deniz; Gefel, Dov; Shpirer, Issac; Woolf, Eilon et al. (2004). "Reconstruction of patrilineages and matrilineages of Samaritans and other Israeli populations from Y-Chromosome and mitochondrial DNA sequence Variation". Human Mutation 24 (3): 248–60.doi:10.1002/humu.20077. PMID 15300852.
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  29. Jump up^ Transcript, INSIDE AFRICA: Current Events on the African Continent, CNN, 11 September 2004.
  30. Jump up^ "The Lemba, The Black Jews of Southern Africa", NOVA episode, PBS.
  31. Jump up^ The Story of the Lemba People by Dr. Rudo Mathivha, 15 October 1999.
  32. ^ Jump up to:a b Tudor Parfitt's Remarkable Journey Part 2, NOVA, PBS website.
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  37. Jump up^ Haber, M.; Platt, D. E.; Ashrafian Bonab, M.; Youhanna, S. C.; Soria-Hernanz, D. F.; Martínez-Cruz, B. A.; Douaihy, B.; Ghassibe-Sabbagh, M.; Rafatpanah, H.; Ghanbari, M.; Whale, J.; Balanovsky, O.; Wells, R. S.; Comas, D.; Tyler-Smith, C.; Zalloua, P. A.; Genographic, C. (2012)."Afghanistan's Ethnic Groups Share a Y-Chromosomal Heritage Structured by Historical Events". In Kayser, Manfred. PLoS ONE 7 (3): e34288. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034288. PMC 3314501.PMID 22470552. edit
  38. ^ Jump up to:a b Abraham's children: race, identity, and the DNA of the chosen people Jon Entine
  39. Jump up^ De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, p. 108 in Gallagher's English translation (1953)
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  50. Jump up^ Orr, Ralph. "The United States and Britain in Prophecy: An Analysis of the Biblical Evidence". Retrieved 2009-01-13.
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  • Michael Riff. The Face of Survival: Jewish Life in Eastern Europe Past and Present. Valentine Mitchell, London, 1992. ISBN 0-85303-220-3

External links


Kanji (漢字; Japanese pronunciation: [kandʑi] About this sound listen) are the adopted logographic Chinese characters (hanzi) that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana, katakana, Hindu-Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet. The Japanese term kanji for the Chinese characters literally means "Han characters" and is written using the same characters as the Chinese word hanzi (simplified Chinese: 汉字;traditional Chinese: 漢字).

Type Logographic
Languages Old Japanese, Japanese
Parent systems
Sister systems Hanja, Zhuyin, Simplified Chinese,Nom, Khitan script, Jurchen script
ISO 15924 Hani, 500
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias Han
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Chinese characters first came to Japan on official seals, letters, swords, coins, mirrors, and other decorative items imported from China. The earliest known instance of such an import was the King of Na Gold Seal given by Emperor Guangwu of Han to a Yamato emissary in 57 AD. Chinese coins from the 1st century AD have been found in Yayoi period archaeological sites. However, the Japanese of that era probably had no comprehension of the script, and would remain illiterate until the 5th century AD. According to the Nihon Shoki and Kojiki, a semi-legendary scholar called Wani(王仁) was dispatched to Japan by the Kingdom of Baekje during the reign of Emperor Ōjin in the early 5th century, bringing with him knowledge of Confucianism and Chinese characters.

The earliest Japanese documents were probably written by bilingual Chinese or Korean officials employed at the Yamato court.[5] For example, the diplomatic correspondence from King Bu of Wa toEmperor Shun of Liu Song in 478 has been praised for its skillful use of allusion. Later, groups of people called fuhito were organized under the monarch to read and write Classical Chinese. During the reign of Empress Suiko (593–628), the Yamato court began sending full-scale diplomatic missions to China, which resulted in a large increase in Chinese literacy at the Japanese court.

The Japanese language had no written form at the time Chinese characters were introduced, and texts were written and read only in Chinese. Later, during the Heian period however, a system known as kanbun emerged, which involved using Chinese text with diacritical marks to allow Japanese speakers to restructure and read Chinese sentences, by changing word order and adding particles and verb endings, in accordance with the rules of Japanese grammar.

Chinese characters also came to be used to write Japanese words, resulting in the modern kana syllabaries. Around 650 CE, a writing system called man'yōgana (used in the ancient poetry anthology Man'yōshū) evolved that used a number of Chinese characters for their sound, rather than for their meaning. Man'yōgana written in cursive style evolved into hiragana, a writing system that was accessible to women (who were denied higher education). Major works of Heian era literature by women were written in hiragana. Katakana emerged via a parallel path:monastery students simplifiedman'yōgana to a single constituent element. Thus the two other writing systems, hiragana and katakana, referred to collectively as kana, are actually descended from kanji.

In modern Japanese, kanji are used to write parts of the language such as nouns, adjective stems, and verb stems, while hiragana are used to write inflected verb and adjective endings and as phonetic complements to disambiguate readings (okurigana), particles, and miscellaneous words which have no kanji or whose kanji is considered obscure or too difficult to read or remember. Katakana are used for representing onomatopoeia, non-Japanese loanwords (except those borrowed from ancient Chinese), the names of plants and animals (with exceptions), and for emphasis on certain words.

Orthographic reform and lists of kanji

Main article: Japanese script reform
A young woman practicing kanji. Ukiyo-ewoodblock print by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1897

In 1946, following World War II, the Japanese government instituted a series of orthographic reforms. This was done with the goal of facilitating learning for children and simplifying kanji use in literature and periodicals. The number of characters in circulation was reduced, and formal lists of characters to be learned during each grade of school were established. Some characters were given simplified glyphs, called新字体 (shinjitai). Many variant forms of characters and obscure alternatives for common characters were officially discouraged.

These are simply guidelines, so many characters outside these standards are still widely known and commonly used; these are known as hyōgaiji (表外字?).

Kyōiku kanji

Main article: Kyōiku kanji

The Kyōiku kanji (教育漢字, "education kanji") are 1,006 characters that Japanese children learn in elementary school. The number was 881 until 1981. The grade-level breakdown of the education kanji is known as the gakunen-betsu kanji haitōhyō (学年別漢字配当表), or the gakushū kanji.

Jōyō kanji

Main article: Jōyō kanji

The Jōyō kanji (常用漢字, "regular-use kanji") are 2,136 characters consisting of all the Kyōiku kanji, plus 1,130 additional kanji taught in junior high and high school. In publishing, characters outside this category are often given furigana. The Jōyō kanji were introduced in 1981, replacing an older list of 1,850 characters known as the Tōyō kanji (当用漢字, "general-use kanji") introduced in 1946. Originally numbering 1,945 characters, the Jōyō kanji list was extended to 2,136 in 2010. Some of the new characters were previously Jinmeiyō kanji; some are used to write prefecture names: 阪, 熊, 奈, 岡, 鹿, 梨, 阜, 埼, 茨, 栃 and 媛.

Jinmeiyō kanji

Main article: Jinmeiyō kanji

Since September 27, 2004, the Jinmeiyō kanji (人名用漢字, "kanji for use in personal names") consist of 2,928 characters, containing the Jōyō kanjiplus an additional 983 kanji found in people's names. There were only 92 kanji in the original list published in 1952, but new additions have been made frequently. Sometimes the term Jinmeiyō kanji refers to all 2,928, and sometimes it only refers to the 983 that are only used for names.


Main article: Hyōgaiji

Hyōgaiji (表外字?, "unlisted characters") are any kanji not contained in the jōyō kanji and jinmeiyō kanji lists. These are generally written using traditional characters, but extended shinjitai forms exist.

Japanese Industrial Standards for kanji

The Japanese Industrial Standards for kanji and kana define character code-points for each kanji and kana, as well as other forms of writing such as the Latin alphabet, Cyrillic script, Greek alphabet, Hindu-Arabic numerals, etc. for use in information processing. They have had numerous revisions. The current standards are:

  • JIS X 0208 (JIS X 0208:1997), the most recent version of the main standard. It has 6,355 kanji.
  • JIS X 0212 (JIS X 0212:1990), a supplementary standard containing a further 5,801 kanji. This standard is rarely used, mainly because the common Shift JIS encoding system could not use it. This standard is effectively obsolete;
  • JIS X 0213 (JIS X 0213:2000), a further revision which extended the JIS X 0208 set with 3,695 additional kanji, of which 2,743 (all but 952) were in JIS X 0212. The standard is in part designed to be compatible with Shift JIS encoding;
  • JIS X 0221:1995, the Japanese version of the ISO 10646/Unicode standard.


Gaiji (外字), literally meaning "external characters", are kanji that are not represented in existing Japanese encoding systems. These include variant forms of common kanji that need to be represented alongside the more conventional glyph in reference works, and can include non-kanji symbols as well.

Gaiji can be either user-defined characters or system-specific characters. Both are a problem for information interchange, as the codepoint used to represent an external character will not be consistent from one computer or operating system to another.

Gaiji were nominally prohibited in JIS X 0208-1997, and JIS X 0213-2000 used the range of code-points previously allocated to gaiji, making them completely unusable. Nevertheless, they persist today with NTT DoCoMo's "i-mode" service, where they are used for emoji (pictorial characters).

Unicode allows for optional encoding of gaiji in private use areas, while Adobe's SING (Smart INdependent Glyphlets] technology allows the creation of customized gaiji.

The Text Encoding Initiative uses a <g> element to encode any non-standard character or glyph, including gaiji. (The g stands for "gaiji".

Total number of kanji

The number of possible characters is disputed; in principle any Chinese character can be used as kanji, which often occurs with proper names or names of food. The Daikanwa Jiten contains about 50,000 characters, which is considered to be comprehensive in Japan. The Zhonghua Zihai, published in 1994 in China where Chinese characters is used more extensively, contain about 80 000 characters.

Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 characters are in common use in Japan, a few thousand more find occasional use, and a total of about 13,000 characters can be encoded in various Japanese Industrial Standards for kanji.


Borrowing Typology of Han Characters
Meaning Pronunciation
a) semantic on L1 L1
b) semantic kun L1 L2
c) phonetic on L1
d) phonetic kun L2
*With L1 representing the language borrowed from (Chinese) and L2 representing the borrowing language (Japanese).

Because of the way they have been adopted into Japanese, a single kanji may be used to write one or more different words (or, in some cases, morphemes), and thus the same character may be pronounced in different ways. From the point of view of the reader, kanji are said to have one or more different "readings". Deciding which reading is appropriate depends on recognizing which word it represents, which can usually be determined from context, intended meaning, whether the character occurs as part of a compound word or an independent word, and sometimes location within the sentence. For example, (今日?) is usually read kyō, meaning "today", but in formal writing is instead read konnichi, meaning "nowadays"; this is understood from context. Nevertheless, some cases are ambiguous and require a furigana gloss, which are also used simply for difficult readings or to specify a non-standard reading.

Kanji readings are categorized as either on'yomi (literally "sound reading", from Chinese) or kun'yomi (literally "meaning reading", native Japanese), and most characters have at least two readings, at least one of each. However, some characters have only a single reading, such as kiku (?, chrysanthemum) (on) or iwashi (?, sardine) (kun); kun-only are common for Japanese-coined kanji (kokuji). Some common kanji have ten or more possible readings; the most complex common example is 生, which is read as sei, shō, nama, ki, o-u, i-kiru, i-kasu, i-keru, u-mu, u-mareru, ha-eru,and ha-yasu, totaling 8 basic readings (first 2 are on, rest are kun), or 12 if related verbs are counted as distinct; see okurigana: 生 for details.

Most often a character will be used for both sound and meaning, and it is simply a matter of choosing the correct reading based on which word it represents. In other cases, a character is used only for sound (ateji), in which case pronunciation is still based on an standard reading, or used only for meaning (broadly a form of ateji, narrowly jukujikun), in which case the individual character does not have a reading, only the full compound; this is significantly more complicated; see special readings, below.

The analogous phenomenon occurs to a much lesser degree in Chinese languages, where there are literary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters – borrowed readings and native readings. In Chinese these borrowed readings and native readings are etymologically related, since they are between Chinese languages (which are related), not from Chinese to Japanese (which are not related). They thus form doublets and are generally similar, analogous to different on'yomi, reflecting different stages of Chinese borrowings into Japanese.

On'yomi (Sino-Japanese reading)

The on'yomi (音読み), the Sino-Japanese reading, is the modern descendant of the Japanese approximation of the Chinese pronunciation of the character at the time it was introduced. Some kanji were introduced from different parts of China at different times, and so have multiple on'yomi, and often multiple meanings. Kanji invented in Japan would not normally be expected to have on'yomi, but there are exceptions, such as the character 働 "to work", which has the kun'yomi "hataraku" and the on'yomi "dō", and 腺 "gland", which has only the on'yomi "sen" – in both cases these come from the on'yomi of the phonetic component, respectively 動 "dō" and 泉 "sen".

Generally, on'yomi are classified into four types:

  • Go-on (呉音?, "Wu sound") readings are from the pronunciation during the Southern and Northern Dynasties during the 5th and 6th centuries. There is a high probability of Go referring to the Wu region (in the vicinity of modern Shanghai), which still maintains linguistic similarities with modern Sino-Japanese vocabulary.
  • Kan-on (漢音?, "Han sound") readings are from the pronunciation during the Tang Dynasty in the 7th to 9th centuries, primarily from the standard speech of the capital, Chang'an (長安 or 长安, modern Xi'an). Here, Kan is used in the sense of China.
  • Tō-on (唐音?, "Tang sound") readings are from the pronunciations of later dynasties, such as the Song (宋) and Ming (明). They cover all readings adopted from the Heian era (平安) to the Edo period (江戸). This is also known as Tōsō-on (唐宋音), "Tang and Song sound".
  • Kan'yō-on (慣用音?, "Customary sound") readings, which are mistaken or changed readings of the kanji that have become accepted into the language. In some cases, they are the actual readings that accompanied the character's introduction to Japan, but do not match how the character “should” be read according to the rules of character construction and pronunciation.
Examples (rare readings in parentheses)
Kanji Meaning Go-on Kan-on Tō-on Kan'yō-on
bright myō mei (min)
go gyō

extreme goku kyoku
pearl shu shu ju (zu)
degree do (to)
transport (shu) (shu) yu
child shi shi su
clear shō sei (shin)
capital kyō kei (kin)
soldier hyō hei
strong kyō

The most common form of readings is the kan-on one, and use of a non-kan-on reading in a word where the kan-on reading is well-known is a common cause of reading mistakes or difficulty, such as in ge-doku (解毒?, detoxification, anti-poison) (go-on), where (?) is usually instead read as kai. Thego-on readings are especially common in Buddhist terminology such as gokuraku 極楽 "paradise", as well as in some of the earliest loans, such as the Sino-Japanese numbers. The tō-on readings occur in some later words, such as isu 椅子 "chair", futon 布団 "mattress", and andon 行灯, "a kind of paper lantern". The go-on, kan-on, and tō-on readings are generally cognate (with rare exceptions of homographs; see below), having a common origin in Old Chinese, and hence form linguistic doublets or triplets, but they can differ significantly from each other and from modern Chinese pronunciation.

In Chinese, most characters are associated with a single Chinese sound, though there are distinctliterary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters. However, some homographs called 多音字 (pinyin: duōyīnzì) such as 行 (pinyin: háng or xíng) (Japanese: an, gō, gyō) have more than one reading in Chinese representing different meanings, which is reflected in the carryover to Japanese as well. Additionally, many Chinese syllables, especially those with an entering tone, did not fit the largely consonant-vowel (CV) phonotactics of classical Japanese. Thus most on'yomi are composed of twomorae (beats), the second of which is either a lengthening of the vowel in the first mora, the vowel i, or one of the syllables ku, ki, tsu, chi, or moraic n, chosen for their approximation to the final consonants of Middle Chinese. It may be that palatalized consonants before vowels other than i developed in Japanese as a result of Chinese borrowings, as they are virtually unknown in words of native Japanese origin.

On'yomi primarily occur in multi-kanji compound words (熟語 jukugo), many of which are the result of the adoption, along with the kanji themselves, of Chinese words for concepts that either did not exist in Japanese or could not be articulated as elegantly using native words. This borrowing process is often compared to the English borrowings from Latin, Greek, and Norman French, since Chinese-borrowed terms are often more specialized, or considered to sound more erudite or formal, than their native counterparts. The major exception to this rule is family names, in which the nativekun'yomi are usually used (though on'yomi are found in many personal names, especially men's names).

Kun'yomi (Japanese reading)

The kun'yomi (訓読み), Japanese reading, or native reading (literally, meaning reading), is a reading based on the pronunciation of a native Japaneseword, or yamato kotoba, that closely approximated the meaning of the Chinese character when it was introduced. As with on'yomi, there can be multiple kun'yomi for the same kanji, and some kanji have no kun'yomi at all.

For instance, the kanji for east, , has the on'yomi tō. However, Japanese already had two words for "east": higashi and azuma. Thus the kanji  had the latter readings added as kun'yomi. In contrast, the kanji , denoting a Chinese unit of measurement (about 30 mm or 1.2 inch), has no nativeJapanese equivalent; it only has an on'yomi, sun, with no native kun'yomi. Most kokuji, Japanese-created Chinese characters, only have kun'yomi(although some have back-formed a pseudo-on'yomi by analogy with similar characters, such as  dō, from  dō), though some, such as  sen"gland", have only an on'yomi.

Kun'yomi are characterized by the strict (C)V syllable structure of yamato kotoba. Most noun or adjective kun'yomi are two to three syllables long, while verb kun'yomi are usually between one and three syllables in length, not counting trailing hiragana called okurigana. Okurigana are not considered to be part of the internal reading of the character, although they are part of the reading of the word. A beginner in the language will rarely come across characters with long readings, but readings of three or even four syllables are not uncommon. This contrasts with on'yomi, which are monosyllabic, and is unusual in the Chinese family of scripts, which generally use one character per syllable – not only in Chinese, but also in Korean, Vietnamese, and Zhuang; polysyllabic Chinese characters are rare and considered non-standard.

承る uketamawaru,  kokorozashi, and  mikotonori have five syllables represented by a single kanji, the longest readings in the Jōyō character set. These unusually long readings are due a single character representing a compound word. In detail, due respectively to 承る being a single character for a compound verb, one component of which has a long reading (alternative spelling as 受け賜る u(ke)-tamawa(ru), hence (1+1)+3=5; compare common受け付ける u(ke)-tsu(keru), to  being a nominalization of the verb 志す which has a long reading kokoroza(su) (due to being derived from a noun-verb compound, 心指す kokoro-za(su)), the nominalization removing the okurigana, hence increasing the reading by one mora, yielding 4+1=5 (compare common  hanashi 2+1=3, from 話す hana(su), and  being a triple compound (alternative spelling 御言宣 mi-koto-nori, hence 1+2+2=5). Longer readings exist for non-Jōyō characters and non-kanji symbols, where a long gairaigo word may be the reading (this is classed as kun'yomi – see single character gairaigo, below) – the character  has the seven kana reading センチメートル senchimētoru "centimeter", though it is generally written as "cm" (with two half-width characters, so occupying one space); another common example is '%' (the percent sign), which has the five kana reading パーセント pāsento. Further, some Jōyō characters have long non-Jōyō readings (students learn the character, but not the reading), such as omonpakarufor 慮る.

In a number of cases, multiple kanji were assigned to cover a single Japanese word. Typically when this occurs, the different kanji refer to specific shades of meaning. For instance, the word なおす, naosu, when written 治す, means "to heal an illness or sickness". When written 直す it means "to fix or correct something". Sometimes the distinction is very clear, although not always. Differences of opinion among reference works is not uncommon; one dictionary may say the kanji are equivalent, while another dictionary may draw distinctions of use. As a result, native speakers of the language may have trouble knowing which kanji to use and resort to personal preference or by writing the word in hiragana. This latter strategy is frequently employed with more complex cases such as もと moto, which has at least five different kanji: 元, 基, 本, 下, and , the first three of which have only very subtle differences. Another notable example is sakazuki "sake cup", which may be spelt as at least five different kanji: 杯, 盃, 巵/卮, and ; of these, the first two are common – formally  is a small cup and  a large cup.

Local dialectical readings of kanji are also classified under kun'yomi, most notably readings for words in Ryukyuan languages. Further, in rare casesgairaigo (borrowed words) have a single character associated with them, in which case this reading is formally classified as a kun'yomi, because the character is being used for meaning, not sound. This is discussed under other readings, below.

Mixed readings

A jūbako (重箱?), which has a mixed on-kun reading.
A yutō (湯桶?), which has a mixed kun-on reading.

There are many kanji compounds that use a mixture of on'yomi and kun'yomi, known as jūbako (重箱?, multi-layered food box) or yutō (湯桶?, hot liquid pail) words (depending on the order), which are themselves examples of this kind of compound (they are autological words): the first character of jūbako is read usingon'yomi, the second kun'yomi (on-kun), while it is the other way around with yutō (kun-on). Formally, these are referred to as jūbako-yomi (重箱読み?, jūbako reading) and yutō-yomi (湯桶読み?, yutō reading). Note that in both these words, the on'yomi has a long vowel; long vowels in Japanese generally come from Chinese, hence distinctive of on'yomi. These are the Japanese form of hybrid words. Other examples include 場所 basho "place" (kun-on), 金色 kin'iro "golden" (on-kun) and 合気道 aikidō "the martial art Aikido" (kun-on-on).

Special readings

Gikun (義訓) and jukujikun (熟字訓) are readings of kanji combinations that have no direct correspondence to the characters' individual on'yomi or kun'yomi, but rather are connected with their meaning – this is the opposite of ateji. From the point of view of the character, rather than the word, this is known as a nankun(難訓?, difficult reading), and these are listed in kanji dictionaries under the entry for the character. Gikunare when non-standard kanji are used, generally for effect, such as using 寒 with reading fuyu (ふゆ, "winter"), rather than the standard character 冬. Jukujikun are when the standard kanji for a word are related to the meaning, but not the sound – the word is pronounced as a whole, not corresponding to sounds of individual kanji. For example, 今朝 ("this morning") is jukujikun, and read neither as *ima'asa, the kun'yomiof the characters, nor konchō, the on'yomi of the characters, nor any combination thereof. Instead it is read as kesa—a native Japanese word with two syllables (which may be seen as a single morpheme, or as a fusion of kyō (previously kefu), "today", and asa, "morning"). Jukujikun are primarily used for some native Japanese words, and for some old borrowings, such as 柳葉魚 (shishamo, literally "willow leaf fish"), from Ainu, or 煙草 (tabako, literally "smoke grass"), from Portuguese. Words whose kanji are jukujikun are often usually written as hiragana (if native), or katakana (if borrowed); some old borrowed words are also written as hiragana.

Jukujikun are quite varied. Often the kanji compound for jukujikun is idiosyncratic and created for the word, with the corresponding Chinese word not existing; in other cases a kanji compound for an existing Chinese word is reused, with the Chinese word and on'yomi may or may not be used in Japanese; for example, (馴鹿?, reindeer) is jukujikun for tonakai, from Ainu, but the on'yomi junroku is also used. In some cases Japanese coinages have subsequently been borrowed back into Chinese, such as ankō (鮟鱇?, monkfish).

The underlying word for jukujikun is a native Japanese word or foreign borrowing, which either does not have an existing kanji spelling (either kun'yomior ateji) or for which a new kanji spelling is produced. Most often the word is a noun, which may be a simple noun (not a compound or derived from a verb), or may be a verb form or a fusional pronunciation; for example sumō (相撲?, sumo) is originally from the verb suma-u (争う?, to vie), while kyō (今日?, today) is fusional. In rare cases jukujikun is also applied to inflectional words (verbs and adjectives), in which case there is frequently a corresponding Chinese word.

Examples of jukujikun for inflectional words follow. The most common example of a jukujikun adjective is kawai-i (可愛い?, cute), originally kawayu-i;the word (可愛?) is used in Chinese, but the corresponding on'yomi is not used in Japanese. By contrast, the jukujikun fusawa-shii (相応しい?, appropriate) and on'yomi sōō (相応?, appropriate) are both used; the -shii ending is because these were formerly a different class of adjectives. A common example of a verb with jukujikun is haya-ru (流行る?, to spread, to be in vogue), corresponding to on'yomi ryūkō (流行?). A sample jukujikun deverbal (noun derived from a verb form) is yusuri (強請?, extortion), from yusu-ru (強請る?, to extort), spelling from kyōsei (強請?, extortion). See 義訓and 熟字訓 for many more examples. Note that there are also compound verbs and, less commonly, compound adjectives, and while these may have multiple kanji without intervening characters, they are read using usual kun'yomi; examples include omo-shiro-i (面白い?, interesting) face-whiteningand zuru-gashiko-i (狡賢い?, sly).

Typographically, the furigana for jukujikun are often written so they are centered across the entire word, or for inflectional words over the entire root – corresponding to the reading being related to the entire word – rather than each part of the word being centered over its corresponding character, as is often done for the usual phono-semantic readings.

Broadly speaking, jukujikun can be considered a form of ateji, though in narrow usage "ateji" refers specifically to using characters for sound and not meaning (sound-spelling), rather than meaning and not sound (meaning-spelling), as in jukujikun.

Many jukujikun (established meaning-spellings) began life as gikun (improvised meaning-spellings). Occasionally a single word will have many such kanji spellings; an extreme example is hototogisu (lesser cuckoo), which may be spelt in a great many ways, including 杜鵑, 時鳥, 子規, 不如帰, 霍公鳥, 蜀魂, 沓手鳥, 杜宇, 田鵑, 沓直鳥, and 郭公 – many of these variant spellings are particular to haiku poems.

Single character gairaigo

In some rare cases, an individual kanji has a reading that is borrowed from a modern foreign language (gairaigo), though most often these words are written in katakana. Notable examples include pēji (頁、ページ?, page), botan (釦/鈕、ボタン?, button), zero (零、ゼロ?, zero), and mētoru (米、メートル?, meter). See list of single character gairaigo for more. These are classed as kun'yomi of a single character, because the character is being used for meaning only (without the Chinese pronunciation), rather than as ateji, which is the classification used when a gairaigo term is written as a compound (2 or more characters). However, unlike the vast majority of other kun'yomi, these readings are not native Japanese, but rather borrowed, so the "kun'yomi" label can be misleading. The readings are also written in katakana, unlike the usual hiragana for native kun'yomi. Note that most of these characters are for units, particularly SI units, in many cases using new characters (kokuji) coined during the Meiji period, such as kiromētoru(粁、キロメートル?, kilometer, 米 "meter" + 千 "thousand").

Other readings

Some kanji also have lesser-known readings called nanori (名乗り), which are mostly used for names (often given names), and are generally closely related to the kun'yomi. Place names sometimes also use nanori or, occasionally, unique readings not found elsewhere.

For example, in the case of surname 小鳥遊, literally it mean little birds playing around, and that imply no eagle (as eagles is little birds' natural enemy, and it's only eagle aren't around so little birds can play happily), (鷹(たか)がいない), Taka ga i nai)), thus it is then converted to become pronounced as タカナシ (Takanashi). 

When to use which reading

Although there are general rules for when to use on'yomi and when to use kun'yomi, the language is littered with exceptions, and it is not always possible for even a native speaker to know how to read a character without prior knowledge (this is especially true for names, both of people and places); further, a given character may have multiple kun'yomi or on'yomi. When reading Japanese, one primarily recognizes words (multiple characters and okurigana) and their readings, rather than individual characters, and only guess readings of characters when trying to "sound out" an unrecognized word.

Homographs exist, however, which can sometimes be deduced from context, and sometimes cannot, requiring a glossary. For example, 今日 may be read either as kyō "today (informal)" (special fused reading for native word) or as konnichi "these days (formal)" (on'yomi); in formal writing this will generally be read as konnichi. In some cases multiple readings are common, as in 豚汁 "pork soup", which is commonly pronounced both as ton-jiru(mixed on-kun) and buta-jiru (kun-kun), with ton somewhat more common nationally. Inconsistencies abound – for example 牛肉 gyu-niku "beef" and 羊肉 yō-niku "mutton" have on-on readings, but 豚肉 buta-niku "pork" and 鶏肉 tori-niku "poultry" have kun-on readings.

The main guideline is that a single kanji followed by okurigana (hiragana characters that are part of the word) – as used in native verbs and adjectives –always indicates kun'yomi, while kanji compounds (kango) usually use on'yomi, which is usually kan-on; however, other on'yomi are also common, andkun'yomi are also commonly used in kango. For a kanji in isolation without okurigana, it is typically read using their kun'yomi, though there are numerous exceptions. For example, 鉄 "iron" is usually read with the on'yomi tetsu rather than the kun'yomi kurogane. Chinese on'yomi which are not the common kan-on one are a frequent cause of difficulty or mistakes when encountering unfamiliar words or for inexperienced readers, though skilled natives will recognize the word; a good example is ge-doku (解毒?, detoxification, anti-poison) (go-on), where (?) is usually instead read as kai.

Okurigana are used with kun'yomi to mark the inflected ending of a native verb or adjective, or by convention – note that Japanese verbs and adjectives are closed class, and do not generally admit new words (borrowed Chinese vocabulary, which are nouns, can form verbs by adding -suru (〜する?, to do) at the end, and adjectives via 〜の -no or 〜な -na, but cannot become native Japanese vocabulary, which inflect). For example: 赤い aka-i "red", 新しい atara-shii "new", 見る mi-ru "(to) see". Okurigana can be used to indicate which kun'yomi to use, as in 食べる ta-beru versus 食う ku-u (casual), both meaning "(to) eat", but this is not always sufficient, as in 開く, which may be read as a-ku or hira-ku, both meaning "(to) open". 生 is a particularly complicated example, with multiple kun and on'yomi – see okurigana: 生 for details. Okurigana is also used for some nouns and adverbs, as in 情けnasake "sympathy", 必ず kanarazu "invariably", but not for 金 kane "money", for instance. Okurigana is an important aspect of kanji usage in Japanese; see that article for more information on kun'yomi orthography

Kanji occurring in compounds are generally read using on'yomi, called 熟語 jukugo in Japanese (though again, exceptions abound). For example, 情報jōhō "information", 学校 gakkō "school", and 新幹線 shinkansen "bullet train" all follow this pattern. This isolated kanji versus compound distinction gives words for similar concepts completely different pronunciations. 東 "east" and 北 "north" use the kun'yomi higashi and kita, being stand-alone characters, while 北東 "northeast", as a compound, uses the on'yomi hokutō. This is further complicated by the fact that many kanji have more than one on'yomi: 生 is read as sei in 先生 sensei "teacher" but as shō in 一生 isshō "one's whole life". Meaning can also be an important indicator of reading; 易 is read i when it means "simple", but as eki when it means "divination", both being on'yomi for this character.

These rules of thumb have many exceptions. Kun'yomi compound words are not as numerous as those with on'yomi, but neither are they rare. Examples include 手紙 tegami "letter", 日傘 higasa "parasol", and the famous 神風 kamikaze "divine wind". Such compounds may also have okurigana, such as 空揚げ (also written 唐揚げ) karaage "Chinese-style fried chicken" and 折り紙 origami, although many of these can also be written with the okurigana omitted (for example, 空揚 or 折紙).

Similarly, some on'yomi characters can also be used as words in isolation: 愛 ai "love", 禅 Zen, 点 ten "mark, dot". Most of these cases involve kanji that have no kun'yomi, so there can be no confusion, although exceptions do occur. A lone 金 may be read as kin "gold" or as kane "money, metal"; only context can determine the writer's intended reading and meaning.

Multiple readings have given rise to a number of homographs, in some cases having different meanings depending on how they are read. One example is 上手, which can be read in three different ways: jōzu (skilled), uwate (upper part), or kamite (stage left/house right). In addition, 上手い has the reading umai (skilled). More subtly, 明日 has three different readings, all meaning "tomorrow": ashita (casual), asu (polite), and myōnichi (formal).Furigana (reading glosses) is often used to clarify any potential ambiguities.

Conversely, in some cases homophonous terms may be distinguished in writing by different characters, but not so distinguished in speech, and hence potentially confusing. In some cases when it is important to distinguish these in speech, the reading of a relevant character may be changed. For example, 私立 (privately established, esp. school) and 市立 (city established) are both normally pronounced shi-ritsu; in speech these may be distinguished by the alternative pronunciations watakushi-ritsu and ichi-ritsu. More informally, in legal jargon 前文 "preamble" and 全文 "full text" are both pronounced zen-bun, so 前文 may be pronounced mae-bun for clarity, as in "Have you memorized the preamble [not 'whole text'] of the constitution?". As in these examples, this is primarily using a kun'yomi for one character in a normally on'yomi term.

As stated above, 重箱 jūbako and 湯桶 yutō readings are also not uncommon. Indeed, all four combinations of reading are possible: on-on, kun-kun,kun-on and on-kun.

Some famous place names, including those of Tokyo (東京 Tōkyō) and Japan itself (日本 Nihon or sometimes Nippon) are read with on'yomi; however, the majority of Japanese place names are read with kun'yomi: 大阪 Ōsaka, 青森 Aomori, 箱根 Hakone. Names often use characters and readings that are not in common use outside of names. When characters are used as abbreviations of place names, their reading may not match that in the original. The Osaka (大阪) and Kobe (神戸) baseball team, the Hanshin (阪神) Tigers, take their name from the on'yomi of the second kanji of Ōsaka and the first of Kōbe. The name of the Keisei (京成) railway line, linking Tokyo (東京) and Narita (成田) is formed similarly, although the reading of 京 from 東京 is kei, despite kyō already being an on'yomi in the word Tōkyō.

Japanese family names are also usually read with kun'yomi: 山田 Yamada, 田中 Tanaka, 鈴木 Suzuki. Japanese given names often have very irregular readings – although they are not typically considered jūbako or yutō, they often contain mixtures of kun'yomi, on'yomi and nanori, such as 大助Daisuke [on-kun], 夏美 Natsumi [kun-on]. Being chosen at the discretion of the parents, the readings of given names do not follow any set rules and it is impossible to know with certainty how to read a person's name without independent verification. Parents can be quite creative, and rumours abound of children called 地球 Āsu and 天使 Enjeru, quite literally "Earth" and "Angel"; neither are common names, and have normal readings chikyū andtenshi respectively. Common patterns do exist, however, allowing experienced readers to make a good guess for most names.

Chinese place names and Chinese personal names appearing in Japanese texts, if spelled in kanji, are almost invariably read with on'yomi. Especially for older and well-known names, the resulting Japanese pronunciation may differ widely from that used by Chinese speakers. For example, Mao Zedong's name, written 毛沢東, is pronounced as Mō Takutō in Japanese. Today, Chinese names that aren't well known in Japan are often spelled inKatakana instead, in a form much more closely approximating the native Chinese pronunciation. Alternatively, they may be written in kanji with katakana furigana.

In some cases the same kanji can appear in a given word with different readings. Normally this occurs when a character is duplicated and the reading of the second character has voicing (rendaku), as in 人人 hito-bito "people" (more often written with the iteration mark as 人々), but in rare cases the readings can be unrelated, as in 跳び跳ねる tobi-haneru "hop around" (more often written 飛び跳ねる).

Pronunciation assistance

Because of the ambiguities involved, kanji sometimes have their pronunciation for the given context spelled out in ruby characters known as furigana, (small kana written above or to the right of the character) or kumimoji (small kana written in-line after the character). This is especially true in texts for children or foreign learners. It is also used in newspapers and manga (comics) for rare or unusual readings and for characters not included in the officially recognized set of essential kanji. Works of fiction sometimes use furigana to create new "words" by giving normal kanji non-standard readings, or to attach a foreign word rendered in katakana as the reading for a kanji or kanji compound of the same or similar meaning.

Spelling words

Conversely, specifying a given kanji, or spelling out a kanji word—whether the pronunciation is known or not—can be complicated, due to the fact that there is not a commonly used standard way to refer to individual kanji (one does not refer to "kanji #237"), and that a given reading does not map to a single kanji—indeed there are many homophonous words, not simply individual characters, particularly for kango (with on'yomi). Easiest is to write the word out—either on paper or tracing it in the air—or look it up (given the pronunciation) in a dictionary, particularly an electronic dictionary; when this is not possible, such as when speaking over the phone or writing implements are not available (and tracing in air is too complicated), various techniques can be used. These include giving kun'yomi for characters—these are often unique—using a well-known word with the same character (and preferably the same pronunciation and meaning), and describing the character via its components. For example, one may explain how to spell the word kōshinryō(香辛料?, spice) via the words kao-ri (香り?, fragrance), kara-i (辛い?, spicy), and in-ryō (飲料?, beverage)—the first two use the kun'yomi, the third is a well-known compound—saying "kaori, karai, ryō as in inryō."

Local developments and divergences from Chinese

Since Kanji are essentially Chinese hanzi used to write Japanese, majority of kanji used in modern Japanese still retain their Chinese meaning (especially with their modern traditional Chinese characters counterparts) and retain a degree of similarity in pronunciation with Classical Chinese pronunciation imported to Japan from 5th to 9th century. Nevertheless, after centuries of development, there is a notable number of kanji used in modern Japanese have different meaning from Chinese characters used in modern Chinese. Such differences is the resulted by (i) the use of characters created in Japan, (ii) characters that have been given different meanings in Japanese, and (iii) post-World War II simplifications of the kanji. Likewise, the process of character simplification in mainland China since the 1950s has the result that Japanese speakers who have not studied Chinese may not recognize some simplified characters.


Kokuji (国字, "national characters") are characters particular to Japan, generally devised in Japan. The term wasei kanji (和製漢字, "kanji made in Japan") is also used to refer to kokuji. These are primarily formed in the usual way of Chinese characters, namely by combining existing components, though using a combination that is not used in China. The corresponding phenomenon in Korea is called gukja (國字), which is the cognate term; there are however far fewer Korean-coined characters than Japanese-coined ones. Other languages using the Chinese family of scripts sometimes have far more extensive systems of native characters, most significantly Vietnamese chữ nôm, which comprises over 20,000 characters used throughout traditional Vietnamese writing, and Zhuang sawndip, which comprises over 10,000 characters, which are still in use.

Since kokuji are generally devised for existing native words, these usually only have native kun readings. However, they occasionally have a Chineseon reading, derived from a phonetic, as in , dō, from , and in rare cases only have an on reading, as in , sen, from , which was derived for use in technical compounds ( means "gland", hence used in medical terminology).

The majority of kokuji are ideogrammatic compounds (会意字), meaning that they are composed of two (or more) characters, with the meaning associated with the combination. For example, 働 is composed of 亻 (person radical) plus 動 (action), hence "action of a person, work". This is in contrast to kanji generally, which are overwhelmingly phono-semantic compounds. This difference is because kokuji were coined to express Japanese words, so borrowing existing (Chinese) readings could not express these – combining existing characters to logically express the meaning was the simplest way to achieve this. Other illustrative examples (below) include  sakaki tree, formed as 木 "tree" and  "god", literally "divine tree", and tsuji "crossroads, street" formed as  (⻌) "road" and  "cross", hence "cross-road".

In terms of meanings, these are especially for natural phenomena (esp. species) that were not present in ancient China, including a very large number of fish, such as 鰯 (sardine). In other cases they refer to specifically Japanese abstract concepts, everyday words (like 辻), or later technical coinages (such as 腺).

There are hundreds of kokuji in existence.[16] Many are rarely used, but a number have become commonly used components of the written Japanese language. These include the following:

Jōyō kanji has about 9 kokuji; there is some dispute over classification, but generally includes these:

  •  どう dō, はたら(く) hatara(ku) "work", the most commonly used kokuji, used in the fundamental verb 働く hatara(ku) "work", included in elementary texts and on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N5, for example.
  •  こ(む) ko(mu), used in the fundamental verb 込む(こむ) komu "to be crowded"
  •  にお(う) nio(u), used in common verb 匂う(におう) niou "to smell, to be fragrant"
  •  はたけ hatake "field of crops"
  •  せん sen, "gland"
  •  とうげ tōge "mountain pass"
  •  わく waku, "frame"
  •  へい hei, "wall"
  •  しぼ(る) shibo(ru), "to squeeze" (disputed; see below)

Jinmeiyō kanji:

  •  さかき sakaki "tree, genus Cleyera"
  •  つじ tsuji "crossroads, street"
  •  もんめ monme (unit of weight)


  •  しつ(け) shitsu(ke) "training, rearing (an animal, a child)"

Some of these characters (for example, 腺, "gland" have been introduced to China. In some cases the Chinese reading is the inferred Chinese reading, interpreting the character as a phono-semantic compound (as in how on readings are sometimes assigned to these characters in Chinese), while in other cases (such as 働), the Japanese on reading is borrowed (in general this differs from the modern Chinese pronunciation of this phonetic). Similar coinages occurred to a more limited extent in Korea and Vietnam.

Historically, some kokuji date back to very early Japanese writing, being found in the Man'yōshū, for example – 鰯 iwashi "sardine" dates to the Nara period (8th century) – while they have continued to be created as late as the late 19th century, when a number of characters were coined in the Meiji era for new scientific concepts. For example, some characters were produced as regular compounds for some (but not all) SI units, such as 粁 (米 "meter" + 千 "thousand, kilo-") for kilometer – see Chinese characters for SI units for details.

In Japan the kokuji category is strictly defined as characters whose earliest appearance is in Japan. If a character appears earlier in the Chinese literature, it is not considered a kokuji even if the character was independently coined in Japan and unrelated to the Chinese character (meaning "not borrowed from Chinese"). In other words, kokuji are not simply characters that were made in Japan, but characters that were first made in Japan. An illustrative example is ankō (鮟鱇?, monkfish). This spelling was created in Edo period Japan from the ateji (phonetic kanji spelling) 安康 for the existing word ankō by adding the 魚 radical to each character – the characters were "made in Japan". However, 鮟 is not considered kokuji, as it is found in ancient Chinese texts as a corruption of 鰋 (魚匽). 鱇 is considered kokuji, as it has not been found in any earlier Chinese text. Casual listings may be more inclusive, including characters such as 鮟.[18] Another example is 搾, which is sometimes not considered kokuji due to its earlier presence as a corruption of Chinese 榨.


In addition to kokuji, there are kanji that have been given meanings in Japanese different from their original Chinese meanings. These are not considered kokuji but are instead called kokkun (国訓) and include characters such as:

  •  fuji (wisteria; Ch. téng rattan, cane, vine)
  •  oki (offing, offshore; Ch. chōng rinse, minor river (Cantonese))
  • 椿 tsubaki (Camellia japonica; Ch. chūn Toona spp.)

Types of Kanji: by category

Han Dynasty scholar Xu Shen in his ancient dictionary Shuowen Jiezi classified Chinese characters into six categories (Chinese: 六書 liùshū, Japanese: rikusho). The traditional classification is still taught but is problematic and no longer the focus of modern lexicographic practice, as some categories are not clearly defined, nor are they mutually exclusive: the first four refer to structural composition, while the last two refer to usage.

Shōkei moji (象形文字

Shōkei (Chinese: xiàngxíng) characters are pictographic sketches of the object they represent. For example, 目 is an eye, while 木 is a tree. (Shōkei象形 is also the Japanese word for Egyptian hieroglyphs). The current forms of the characters are very different from the originals, though their representations are more clear in oracle bone script and seal script. These pictographic characters make up only a small fraction of modern characters.

Shiji moji (指事文字)

Shiji (Chinese: zhǐshì) characters are ideographs, often called "simple ideographs" or "simple indicatives" to distinguish them and tell the difference from compound ideographs (below). They are usually simple graphically and represent an abstract concept such as 上 "up" or "above" and 下 "down" or "below". These make up a tiny fraction of modern characters.

Kaii moji (会意文字)

Kaii (Chinese: huìyì) characters are compound ideographs, often called "compound indicatives", "associative compounds", or just "ideographs". These are usually a combination of pictographs that combine semantically to present an overall meaning. An example of this type is 休 (rest) from 人 (person) and 木 (tree). Another is the kokuji 峠 (mountain pass) made from 山 (mountain), 上 (up) and 下 (down). These make up a tiny fraction of modern characters.

Keisei moji (形声文字)

Keisei (Chinese: xíngshēng) characters are phono-semantic or radical-phonetic compounds, sometimes called "semantic-phonetic", "semasio-phonetic", or "phonetic-ideographic" characters, are by far the largest category, making up about 90% of the characters in the standard lists; however, some of the most frequently used kanji belong to one of the three groups mentioned above, so keisei moji will usually make up less than 90% of the characters in a text. Typically they are made up of two components, one of which (most commonly, but by no means always, the left or top element) suggests the general category of the meaning or semantic context, and the other (most commonly the right or bottom element) approximates the pronunciation. The pronunciation relates to the original Chinese, and may now only be distantly detectable in the modern Japanese on'yomi of the kanji; it generally has no relation at all to kun'yomi. The same is true of the semantic context, which may have changed over the centuries or in the transition from Chinese to Japanese. As a result, it is a common error in folk etymology to fail to recognize a phono-semantic compound, typically instead inventing a compound-indicative explanation.

Tenchū moji (転注文字)

Tenchū (Chinese: zhuǎnzhù) characters have variously been called "derivative characters", "derivative cognates", or translated as "mutually explanatory" or "mutually synonymous" characters; this is the most problematic of the six categories, as it is vaguely defined. It may refer to kanji where the meaning or application has become extended. For example, 楽 is used for 'music' and 'comfort, ease', with different pronunciations in Chinese reflected in the two different on'yomi, gaku 'music' and raku 'pleasure'.

Kasha moji (仮借文字)

Kasha (Chinese: jiǎjiè) are rebuses, sometimes called "phonetic loans". The etymology of the characters follows one of the patterns above, but the present-day meaning is completely unrelated to this. A character was appropriated to represent a similar sounding word. For example, 来 in ancient Chinese was originally a pictograph for "wheat". Its syllable was homophonous with the verb meaning "to come", and the character is used for that verb as a result, without any embellishing "meaning" element attached. The character for wheat 麦, originally meant "to come", being a keisei moji having 'foot' at the bottom for its meaning part and "wheat" at the top for sound. The two characters swapped meaning, so today the more common word has the simpler character. This borrowing of sounds has a very long history.

Related symbols

The iteration mark (々) is used to indicate that the preceding kanji is to be repeated, functioning similarly to a ditto mark in English. It is pronounced as though the kanji were written twice in a row, for example 色々 (iroiro "various") and 時々 (tokidoki "sometimes"). This mark also appears in personal and place names, as in the surname Sasaki (佐々木). This symbol is a simplified version of the kanji 仝 (variant of 同 dō "same").

Another abbreviated symbol is , in appearance a small katakana "ke", but actually a simplified version of the kanji 箇, a general counter. It is pronounced "ka" when used to indicate quantity (such as 六ヶ月, rokkagetsu "six months") or "ga" in place names like Kasumigaseki (霞ヶ関). .


Kanji, whose thousands of symbols defy ordering by conventions such as those used for the Latin script, are often collated using the traditional Chinese radical-and-stroke sorting method. In this system, common components of characters are identified; these are called radicals. Characters are grouped by their primary radical, then ordered by number of pen strokes within radicals. For example, the kanji character , meaning "cherry", is sorted as a ten-stroke character under the four-stroke primary radical  meaning "tree". When there is no obvious radical or more than one radical, convention governs which is used for collation.

Other kanji sorting methods, such as the SKIP system, have been devised by various authors.

Modern general-purpose Japanese dictionaries (as opposed to specifically character dictionaries) generally collate all entries, including words written using kanji, according to their kana representations (reflecting the way they are pronounced). The gojūon ordering of kana is normally used for this purpose.

Kanji education

An image which lists most joyo-kanji, according toHalpern's KLD indexing system, with kyo-iku kanji color-coded by grade level.

Japanese school children are expected to learn 1,006 basic kanji characters, the kyōiku kanji, before finishing the sixth grade. The order in which these characters are learned is fixed. The kyōiku kanji list is a subset of a larger list, originally of 1,945 kanji characters, in 2010 extended to 2,136, known as the jōyō kanji – characters required for the level of fluency necessary to read newspapers and literature in Japanese. This larger list of characters is to be mastered by the end of the ninth grade.[19] Schoolchildren learn the characters by repetition and radical.

Students studying Japanese as a foreign language are often required by a curriculum to acquire kanji without having first learned the vocabulary associated with them. Strategies for these learners vary from copying-based methods to mnemonic-based methods such as those used in James Heisig's series Remembering the Kanji. Other textbooks use methods based on the etymology of the characters, such as Mathias and Habein's The Complete Guide to Everyday Kanji and Henshall's A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters. Pictorial mnemonics, as in the text Kanji Pict-o-graphix, are also seen.

The Japanese government provides the Kanji kentei (日本漢字能力検定試験 Nihon kanji nōryoku kentei shiken; "Test of Japanese Kanji Aptitude") which tests the ability to read and write kanji. The highest level of the Kanji kentei tests about 6,000 kanji.

See also


  1. Jump up^ Taylor, Insup; Taylor, Maurice Martin (1995). Writing and literacy in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 305. ISBN 90-272-1794-7.
  2. Jump up^ Suski, P.M. (2011). The Phonetics of Japanese Language: With Reference to Japanese Script. p. 1.
  3. Jump up^ Malatesha Joshi, R.; Aaron, P.G. (2006). Handbook of orthography and literacy. New Jersey: Routledge. pp. 481–2. ISBN 0-8058-4652-2.
  4. Jump up^ "Gold Seal (Kin-in)". Fukuoka City Museum. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b c Miyake (2003), 8.
  6. ^ Jump up to:a b Miyake (2003), 9.
  7. Jump up^ Introducing the SING Gaiji architecture, Adobe.
  8. Jump up^ OpenType Technology Center, Adobe.
  9. Jump up^ "Representation of Non-standard Characters and Glyphs", P5: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange, TEI-C.
  10. Jump up^ "TEI element g (character or glyph)", P5: Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange, TEI-C.
  11. Jump up^ Kuang-Hui Chiu, Chi-Ching Hsu, Chinese Dilemma: How Many Ideographs are needed, National Taipei University, 2006
  12. Jump up^ Shouhui Zhao, Dongbo Zhang, The Totality of Chinese Characters – A Digital Perspective
  13. Jump up^ Daniel G. Peebles, SCML: A Structural Representation for Chinese Characters, May 29, 2007
  14. Jump up^ Rogers, Henry. Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. Print.
  15. Jump up^ 【名字】小鳥遊
  16. Jump up^ "Kokuji list", SLJ FAQ.
  17. Jump up^ James H Buck, Some Observations on kokuji, in The Journal-Newsletter of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Oct. 15, 1969), pp. 45–9.
  18. Jump up^ 国字 at 漢字辞典ネット demonstrates this, listing both 鮟 and 鱇 as kokuji, but starring 鮟 and stating that dictionaries do not consider it to be a kokuji.
  19. Jump up^ J. Halpern, The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary, p. 38a (2006).


  • DeFrancis, John (1990). The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1068-6.
  • Hadamitzky, W., and Spahn, M., (1981) Kanji and Kana, Boston: Tuttle.
  • Hannas, William. C. (1997). Asia's Orthographic Dilemma. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1892-X (paperback); ISBN 0-8248-1842-3 (hardcover).
  • Kaiser, Stephen (1991). Introduction to the Japanese Writing System. In Kodansha's Compact Kanji Guide. Tokyo: Kondansha International. ISBN 4-7700-1553-4.
  • Miyake, Marc Hideo (2003). Old Japanese: A Phonetic Reconstruction. New York, London: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • Morohashi, Tetsuji. 大漢和辞典 Dai Kan-Wa Jiten (Comprehensive Chinese–Japanese Dictionary) 1984–1986. Tokyo: Taishukan
  • Mitamura, Joyce Yumi and Mitamura, Yasuko Kosaka (1997). Let's Learn Kanji. Tokyo: Kondansha International. ISBN 4-7700-2068-6.
  • Unger, J. Marshall (1996). Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan: Reading Between the Lines. ISBN 0-19-510166-9

External links

The Wikibook Japanese has a page on the topic of: Kanji
Look up kanji in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Glyph conversion



Jews and Judaism in China have had a long history. Jewish settlers are documented in China as early as the 7th or 8th century CE. Relatively isolated communities developed through the Tang and Song Dynasties (7th to 12th centuries CE) all the way through the Qing Dynasty (19th century), most notably in the Kaifeng Jews (the term "Chinese Jews" is often used in a restricted sense to refer to these communities). By the time of the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, few if any native Chinese Jews were known to have maintained the practice of their religion and culture. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, some international Jewish groups have helped Chinese Jews rediscover their heritage.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Jewish immigrants from around the world arrived with Western commercial influences, particularly in the commercial centers of Hong Kong, which was for a time a British colony,Shanghai (the International Settlement and French Concession), and Harbin (the Trans-Siberian Railway). In the first half of the 20th century, thousands of Jewish refugees escaping from the 1917 Russian Revolutionand the Holocaust in Europe arrived in China.

China's Jewish communities have been ethnically diverse ranging from the Jews of Kaifeng and other places during the history of Imperial China, who, it is reported, came to be more or less totally assimilated into Chinese culture, to 19th- and 20th-century Ashkenazi Jews, to Baghdadis, to Indians.

The presence of a community of Jewish immigrants in China is consistent with the history of the Jewish people during the first and second millennia CE, which saw them disperse and settle throughout the Eurasian landmass, with an especial concentration throughout central Asia.By the 9th century, ibn Khordadbehnoted the travels of Jewish merchants called Radhanites, whose trade took them to China via the Silk Roadthrough Central Asia and India. Jacob of Ancona, the supposed author of a book of travels,was a scholarly Jewish merchant who wrote in vernacular Italian, and reached China in 1271, although some authors question it.

During the period of international opening and quasi-colonialism, the first group to settle in China were Jews who arrived in China under British protection following the First Opium War. Many of these Jews were ofIndian or Iraqi origin, due to British colonialism in these regions, and became the largest dealers in opium[citation needed]. The second community came in the first decades of the 20th century when many Jews arrived in Hong Kong and Shanghai during those cities' periods of economic expansion.

Many more arrived as refugees from the Russian Revolution of 1917. A surge of Jews and Jewish families was to arrive in the late 1930s and 1940s, for the purpose of seeking refuge from the Holocaust in Europe and were predominantly of European origin. Shanghai was notable for its volume of Jewish refugees, most of whom left after the war, the rest relocating prior to or immediately after the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

Over the centuries, the Kaifeng community came to be virtually indistinguishable from the Chinese population and is not recognized by the Chinese government as a separate ethnic minority. This is as a result of having adopted many Han Chinese customs including patrilineal descent, as well as extensive intermarriage with the local population. Since their religious practices are functionally extinct, they are not eligible for expedited immigration to Israel under the Law of Return unless they explicitly convert.

Today, some descendants of the Jews still live in the Han Chinese and Hui population. Some of them, as well as international Jewish communities, are beginning to revive their interest in this heritage. This is especially important in modern China because belonging to any minority group includes a variety of benefits includingreduced restrictions on the number of children and easier admission standards to tertiary education.

The study of Judaism in China has been, like other Abrahamic religions, a subject of interest to some Westerners, and has achieved moderate success compared to other Western studies in China.


It has been asserted by some that the Jews who have historically resided in various places in China originated with the Lost Ten Tribes of the exiled ancient Kingdom of Israel who relocated to the areas of present-day China. Traces of some ancient Jewish rituals have been observed in some places.

One well-known group was the Kaifeng Jews, who are purported to have traveled from Persia to India during the mid-Han Dynasty and later migrated from the Muslim-inhabited regions of northwestern China (modern day Gansuprovince) to Henan province during the early Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

A massacre of Jews in Canton, China occurred during the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the 9th century during theHuang Chao Rebellion.


Jews of Kaifeng, late 19th or early 20th century

There is an oral tradition that the first Jews immigrated to China through Persia following the Roman Emperor Titus's capture of Jerusalem in 70 CE. A large number of Jews emigrated from Persia during the reign ofEmperor Ming of Han (58-75 CE). Writing in 1900, Father Joseph Brucker hypothesized that Jews came to China from India by a sea route during the Song dynasty between 960 and 1126.

Three steles with inscriptions found at Kaifeng bear some historical suggestions. The oldest, dating from 1489, commemorates the construction of a synagogue (1163) (bearing the name Qīngzhēn Sì, a term often used for mosque in Chinese), states the Jews entered China from India in the Later Han Dynasty (25–220 CE), the Jews' 70 Chinese surnames, their audience with an "un-named" Song Dynasty Emperor, and finally lists the transmission of their religion from Abraham down to the prophet Ezra. The second table, dated 1512 (found in the synagogueXuanzhang Daojing Si) details the Jews' religious practices. The third is dated 1663 and commemorates the re-rebuilding of the Qingzhen sisynagogue and recaps the information from the other two steles.

Father Joseph Brucker believed Matteo Ricci's manuscripts indicate there were only approximately ten or twelve Jewish families in Kaifeng in the late 16th and early 17th century, and that they had reportedly resided there for five or six hundred years. It was also stated in the manuscripts that there was a greater number of Jews inHangzhou. This could be taken to suggest that loyal Jews fled south along with the soon-to-be crowned Emperor Gaozong to Hangzhou. In fact, the 1489 stele mentions how the Jews "abandoned Bianliang" (Kaifeng) after theJingkang Incident.

Section of the 1512 stele which mentions Yue's famous tattoo.

Many Jewish communities were established in China in the Middle Ages. However, not all left evidence of their existence. The following are those known today: Kaifeng, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Yangzhou, and Ningxia.


The contemporary term for Jews in use among Chinese today is Youtairen (Chinese: 猶太人; pinyin: Yóutài Rén) in Mandarin Chinese. The term Youtai has similar phonetic sound of Yehudai, the Aramaic word for Jew, as well as Greek terms Jude or Judah.

It has been recorded that the Chinese historically called the Jews Tiao jin jiao (挑筋教), loosely, "the religion which removes the sinew," probably referring to the Jewish dietary prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve (from Genesis32:32).

Jewish dietary law (kashruth), which forbids the eating of, among other foods, non-ruminant mammals, shellfish andreptiles, would have most likely caused Jewish communities to stand out from the surrounding mainstream Chinese population, as Chinese culture is typically very free in the range of items it deems suitable for food.[citation needed]

Jews have also been called the Blue-Hat Hui (Chinese: 藍帽回; pinyin: Lánmào Húi), in contrast to other populations of Hui people, who have identified with hats of other colors. The distinction between Muslim and Jewish Hui is not, and historically has not been, well recognised by the dominant Han population.

A modern translation of the "Kaifeng Steles" has shown the Jews referred to their synagogue as "The Pure and Truth", which is essentially the same as the term used in modern China to refer to Muslim mosques (清真寺).

According to an oral tradition dictated by Xu Xin, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Nanjing University, in his book Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, the Kaifeng Jews called Judaism Yīcìlèyè jiào (一賜樂業教), lit. the religion of Israel. Yīcìlèyè is a transliteration and partial translation of "Israel". Xu Xin translates this phrase as "Chosen people, endowed by God, and contented with their lives and work".

Early record

Bird's eye view of the synagogue of Kaifeng.

The earliest evidence showing the presence of Jews in China is from the beginning of the 8th century: a business letter written in the Judeo-Persian language, discovered by Marc Aurel Stein. The letter (now housed in the British Museum) was found in Danfan Uiliq, an important post along the Silk Road in northwest China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The text is thirty-seven lines in length and was written on paper, a product then manufactured only in China. It was identified, by David Samuel Margoliouth, as dating from 718 CE. Ibn Zeyd al Hassan of Siraf, a 9th-century Arabian traveler, reports that in 878 followers of the Chinese rebel leader Huang Chao besieged Canton (Guangzhou) and killed a large number of foreign merchants, Arabs, Persians, Christians, and Jews, resident there.

Sources indicate that Jews in China were often mistaken for Muslims by other Chinese. The first plausible recorded written Chinese mention of Jews uses the term Zhuhu (竹忽), orZhuhudu (朱乎得) (perhaps from Arabic Yehoud, or from Hebrew Yehudim, "Jews") found in the Annals of the Yuan Dynasty in 1329 and 1354. The text spoke of the reinforcement of a tax levied on "dissenters" and of a government decree that the Jews come en-masse toBeijing, the capital.

Famous Venetian traveler Marco Polo, who visited China, then under the Yuan Dynasty, in the late 13th century, described the prominence of Jewish traders in Beijing. Similar references can be found in the notes of the Franciscan John of Montecorvino, first archbishop of theRoman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing in the early 14th century, and the writings of Ibn Batuta, an Arabian envoy to the Mongol Empire in the middle of the 14th century.

Genghis Khan called both Jews and Muslims Huihui (回回), calling the Jews Zhuhu Huihui (竹忽回回), when he forbade Jews and Muslims from practicing Kosher and Halal preparation of their food, calling both of them "slaves" and forcing them to eat Mongol food, and banned them from practicing circumcision.

Among all the [subject] alien peoples only the Hui-hui say “we do not eat Mongol food”. [Cinggis Qa’an replied:] “By the aid of heaven we have pacified you; you are our slaves. Yet you do not eat our food or drink. How can this be right?” He thereupon made them eat. “If you slaughter sheep, you will be considered guilty of a crime.” He issued a regulation to that effect ... [In 1279/1280 under Qubilai] all the Muslims say: “if someone else slaughters [the animal] we do not eat”. Because the poor people are upset by this, from now on,Musuluman [Muslim] Huihui and Zhuhu [Jewish] Huihui, no matter who kills [the animal] will eat [it] and must cease slaughtering sheep themselves, and cease the rite of circumcision.


During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), a Ming emperor conferred seven surnames upon the Jews, by which they are identifiable today: Ai (艾), Shi(石), Gao (高), Jin (金), Li (李), Zhang (張), and Zhao (趙); sinofications of the original seven Jewish clan's family names: Ezra, Shimon, Cohen, Gilbert, Levy, Joshua, and Jonathan, respectively. Interestingly, two of these: Jin and Shi are the equivalent of common Jewish names in the west: Gold and Stone.

The first modern Western record of Jews residing in China is found in the records of the 17th-century Jesuit missionaries in Beijing. The prominent Jesuit Matteo Ricci, received a visit from a young Jewish Chinese man in 1605. Ricci mentioned this man's name as Ngai, who has since been identified by the French sinologist Paul Pelliot as a Jew named Ai T'ien, who explained that the community he belonged to was monotheistic, or believing in only one God. It is recorded that when he saw a Christian image of Mary with the child Jesus, he took it to be a picture of Rebecca withEsau or Jacob, figures from Hebrew Scripture. Ngai (Ai Tian, Ai T'ien) declared that he had come from Kaifeng, and stated that this was the site of a large Jewish population.[22] Ricci sent an ethnic Chinese Jesuit Lay Brother to visit Kaifeng; later, other Jesuits (mostly European) also visited the city. It was later discovered that the Jewish community had a synagogue (Libai si), which was constructed facing the west, and housed a number of written materials and books.

The Jews who managed the synagogue were called "Mullahs". Floods and Fire repeatedly destroyed the books of the Kaifeng synagogue, they obtained some from Ningxia and Ningbo to replace them, another Hebrew roll of law was bought from a Muslim in Ning-keang-chow in Shen-se (Shanxi), who acquired it from a dying Jew at Canton.

The Chinese called Muslims, Jews, and Christians in ancient times by the same name, "Hui Hui" (Hwuy-hwuy). Crossworshipers (Christians) were called "Hwuy who abstain from animals without the cloven foot", Muslims were called "Hwuy who abstain from pork", Jews were called "Hwuy who extract the sinews (removes the sciatic nerve)". Hwuy-tsze (Hui zi) or Hwuy-hwuy (Hui Hui) is presently used almost exclusively for Muslims, but Jews were still called Lan Maou Hwuy tsze (Lan mao Hui zi) which means "Blue cap Hui zi". At Kaifeng, Jews were called "Teaou kin keaou "extract sinew religion". Jews and Muslims in China shared the same name for synagogue and mosque, which were both called "Tsing-chin sze" (Qingzhen si) "Temple of Purity and Truth", the name dated to the 13th century. The synagogue and mosques were also known as Le-pae sze (Libai si). A tablet indicated that Judaism was once known as "Yih-tsze-lo-nee-keaou" (israelitish religion) and synagogues known as Yih-tsze lo nee leen (Israelitish Temple), but it faded out of use.

A Muslim in Nanjing told Semedo that four families of Jews converted to Islam since they were the last Jews in the area, their numbers diminishing.


Various Jewish Chinese individuals worked in government service and owned big properties in China in the 17th century.

19th century

During the Taiping rebellion of the 1850s, the Jews of Kaifeng apparently suffered a great deal and were dispersed. Following this dislocation, they returned to Kaifeng, yet continued to be small in number and to face hardships, as is recorded in the early 20th century.

Shanghai's first wave of Jews came in the second half of the 19th century, many being Mizrahi Jews from Iraq. The first Jew who arrived there was Elias David Sassoon, who, about the year 1850, opened a branch in connection with his father's Bombay house. Since that period Jews gradually migrated from India to Shanghai, most of them being engaged from Bombay as clerks by the firm of David Sassoon & Co. The community was composed mainly of "Asian," (Sephardi) German, and Russian Jews, though there were a few of Austrian, French, and Italian origin among them. Jews took a considerable part in developing trade in China, and several served on the municipal councils, among them being Silas Aaron Hardoon, partner in the firm of E. D. Sassoon & Co., who served on the French and English councils at the same time. During the early days of Jewish settlement in Shanghai the trade in opium and Bombay cotton yarn was mainly in Jewish hands.

Modern times

A plaque commemorates the former Jewish Middle School in Harbin, now the No. 2 Korean Middle School

Contemporaneous sources estimated the Jewish population in China in 1940 — including Manchukuo — at 36,000 (source: Catholic Encyclopedia).

Jewish life in Shanghai had really taken off with the arrival of the British. Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East came as traders via India and Hong Kong and established some of the leading trading companies in the second half of the 19th century. Later, after World War I, many Ashkenazi Jews came from Europe. RebbeMeir Ashkenazi (Chabad-Lubavitch) was the Chief Rabbi of Shanghai (1926–1949).

At the early 20th century many Russian Jews fleeing pogroms in several towns in Russian Empire decided to move to northeast China for permanent settlement (Rabbi Aaron Kiselev served in Harbin from 1913 until his death in 1949). After the Russian Revolution of 1917, a lot of White Russians, fled to Harbin (formerManchuria). These included, among others, Dr. Abraham Kaufman, who played a leading role in the Harbin Jewish community after 1919, the parents of future Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Teodor Parnicki at the age of 12.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, held admirations for the Jewish people and Zionism, and saw parallels between the persecution of Jews and the domination of China by the Western powers. He stated, "Though their country was destroyed, the Jewish nation has existed to this day... [Zionism] is one of the greatest movements of the present time. All lovers of democracy cannot help but support wholeheartedly and welcome with enthusiasm the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation, which has contributed so much to the civilization of the world and which rightfully deserve [sic] an honorable place in the family of nations."

The Japanese occupation of northeast China in 1931 and the establishment of Manchukuo in 1932 had a negative impact on the Harbin Jewish community (13,000 in 1929). Most of those Jews left Harbin for Tianjin, Shanghai, and British Mandate of Palestine. Until 1939, the Russian Jews were about 5,000 in Shanghai.

World War II

Another wave of 18,000 Jews from Germany, Austria, and Poland immigrated to Shanghai in the late 1930s and the early 1940s. Shanghai at the time was an open city and did not have restrictions on immigration, and some Chinese diplomats such as Ho Feng Shan issued "protective" passports. In 1943, the occupying Japanese army required these 18,000 Jews, formally known as "stateless refugees," to relocate to an area of 0.75 square miles (1.9 km2) in Shanghai's Hongkew district (today known as Hongkou District) where many lived in group homes called "Heime".[31] The total number of Jews entering Shanghai during this period equaled the number of Jews fleeing to Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa combined. Many of the Jews in China later moved to found modern Israel.

Shanghai was an important safe-haven for Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, since it was one of the few places in the world where one didn't need a visa. However, it was not easy to get there. The Japanese, who controlled the city, preferred in effect to look the other way. Some corrupt officials however, also exploited the plight of the Jews. By 1941 nearly 20,000 European Jews had found shelter there.

Jakob Rosenfeld, a doctor for the New Fourth Army, between Liu Shaoqi (left) andChen Yi (right).

Notable Jews during the Second Sino-Japanese War include Hans Shippe, Dr. Jakob Rosenfeld, Stanisław Flato, Eva Sandberg, Ruth Weiss, photographer and wife of Communist leader Xiao San, and Morris Abraham Cohen.

Late in the War, Nazi representatives pressured the Japanese army to devise a plan to exterminate Shanghai's Jewish population, and this pressure eventually became known to the Jewish community's leadership. However, the Japanese had no intention of further provoking the anger of the Allies after their already notorious invasion of China and a number of other Asian nations, and thus delayed the German request until the War ended. With the intercession of the Amshenower Rebbe and the translation skills ofLeo (Ariyeh) Hanin, the Japanese ultimately kept the Jews of Shanghai safe.

In general, in the period of 1845 to 1945 more than 40,000 Jews came to China for business development or for a safe haven.

Late 20th century

After World War II and the establishment of the PRC in 1949, most of these Jews emigrated to Israel or the West, although a few remained. Three prominent non-Chinese lived in China from the establishment of the People's Republic of China to the contemporary period: Sidney Shapiro, Israel Epstein, and Ruth Weiss, two American emigres and one Austrian emigre, are of Jewish descent. Another Jewish-American, Sidney Rittenberg served as interpreter to many top Chinese officials.

Sara Imas, the Shanghai-born daughter of Shanghai's Jewish Club president, Leiwi Imas, became the first Jewish-Chinese immigrant to Israel after the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1992. Leiwi Imas, who had to leave Germany for Poland in 1939, arrived in Shanghai the same year. He spent his final years in Shanghai until 1962, prior to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Although Sara Imas's non-Chinese appearance and family background brought her much trouble during the Cultural Revolution when she was accused of being a foreign capitalist and spy, today Sara Imas has returned to Shanghai, working as the Chinese representative of an Israeli diamond company.

The Institute of Jewish Studies was established at Nanjing University in 1992.

Since the 1990s, the Shanghai municipal government has taken the initiative to preserve historical Western architectures that were constructed during Shanghai's colonial past. Many formerly Jewish-owned hotels and private residence have been included in the preservation project. In 1997, theKadoorie-residence-turned Shanghai Children's Palace, had their spacious front garden largely removed in order to make room for the city's overpass system under construction. A One Day Tour of the history of Jewish presence in Shanghai can be arranged through the Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai.[36] Rabbi Shalom Greenberg from Chabad-Lubavitch in New York arrived in Shanghai to serve this community in August 1998. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation of New York, donated a Torah to the community that same year. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, in September 1999, a Jewish New Year service was held at the Ohel Rachel Synagogue for first time since 1952.

21st century

While the Chinese government maintained their support for Arab states, a general pro-Jewish outlook has been observed amongst China's urban populace. These attitudes arose largely due to an admiration of Jewish business skills. In particular, books on Jews and their purported connection to financial successes are best-sellers in China.

Synagogues are found in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong today, serving both international Jews and native Jews. In 2001, Rabbi Shimon Freundlich from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement came and settled in Beijing with the mission of building and leading the center of Chabad-Lubavitch of Beijing, an Orthodox congregation.

In 2005, the Israeli embassy to China held their Hanukkah celebrations at the Great Wall of China.

In 2007, the Sephardic community of Shanghai opened a synagogue, study hall, kosher kitchen, and educational classes for children and adults. The community has its own Hacham, who functions as a teacher and chazan, in addition to Rabbi Ephraim Bezalel, who manages local community affairs and kashrut needs.

As of 2010, it is estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 Jews lived in Shanghai. In May 2010, the Ohel Rachel Synagogue in Shanghai was temporarily reopened to the local Jewish community for weekend services.

See also


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"China". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
  •  This article incorporates text from Chinese and Japanese repository of facts and events in science, history and art, relating to Eastern Asia, Volume 1, a publication from 1863 now in the public domain in the United States.
  •  This article incorporates text from The preaching of Islam: a history of the propagation of the Muslim faith, by Sir Thomas Walker Arnold, a publication from 1896 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. Jump up^ "Jewish Communities in Asia." Asia Society. 12 July 2000 (Accessed 19 Nov 2006).
  2. Jump up^ David Selbourne. The City of Light. Abacus, London 1998. ISBN 978-0-349-10895-7
  3. Jump up^ Mark Honigsbaum. Chinese fake away? The Spectator, October 25, 1997
  4. Jump up^ J.R.S. Philips. The Medieval Expansion of Europe. Oxford University Press, 1998, p.289. ISBN 978-0-19-820740-5
  5. Jump up^ David L. Gold. A Fresh Essay on Duty and Responsibility. 2008
  6. Jump up^ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/israel/losttribes3.html
  7. ^ Jump up to:a b Weisz, Tiberiu. The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions: The Legacy of the Jewish Community in Ancient China. New York: iUniverse, 2006 (ISBN 0-595-37340-2)
  8. Jump up^ Atlas of the Jewish world, by Nicholas DeFlange, PAGE 42
  9. Jump up^ Alfred Edelsheim. History of the Jewish Nation after the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus. Kessinger Publishing, 2004, p. 71. ISBN 1-4179-1234-0
  10. Jump up^ Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World. Vol. I, Jewish Diaspora in China by Xu Xin, pp.153-154, Ember, Melvin; Ember, Carol R.; Skoggard, Ian (Eds.), Springer 2004, ISBN 0-306-48321-1
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  12. Jump up^ Xu Xin, The Jews of Kaifeng, China. History, Culture, and Religion. p.153, KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 2003. ISBN 0-88125-791-5, ISBN 978-0-88125-791-5
  13. Jump up^ Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World. Vol. I, Jewish Diaspora in China by Xu Xin, p.153, Ember, Melvin; Ember, Carol R.; Skoggard, Ian (Eds.), Springer 2004, ISBN 0-306-48321-1
  14. Jump up^ Gabriel Ferrand, ed. (1922). Voyage du marchand arabe Sulaymân en Inde et en Chine, rédigé en 851, suivi de remarques par Abû Zayd Hasan (vers 916). p. 76.
  15. Jump up^ Michael Dillon (1999). China's Muslim Hui community: migration, settlement and sects. Richmond: Curzon Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-7007-1026-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  16. Jump up^ Johan Elverskog (2010). Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road(illustrated ed.). University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 228. ISBN 0-8122-4237-8. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  17. Jump up^ Donald Daniel Leslie (1998). "The Integration of Religious Minorities in China: The Case of Chinese Muslims". The Fifty-ninth George Ernest Morrison Lecture in Ethnology. p. 12. Retrieved 30 November 2010..
  18. Jump up^ M. Avrum Ehrlich (Ed.). The Jewish-Chines Nexus: A Meeting of Civilizations. Routledge, UK, 2008. ISBN 978-0-415-45715-6
  19. Jump up^ Chang, Hsiang Wen (February 2011), "An Early Chinese Source on the Kaifeng Jewish Community", Folklore Studies 4: 327–331,JSTOR 3182906
  20. Jump up^ A Visit to Kaifeng by Beverly Friend Ph.D.
  21. Jump up^ Kaifeng Jewish Descendants
  22. ^ Jump up to:a b De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, Book One, Chapter 11. Pages 107-111 in the English translation: Gallagher (1953). "China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matteo Ricci", Random House, New York, 1953. The Latin original text, De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu can be found on Google Books. The corresponding text is on pages 131 and onward of Book One of the Latin text.
  23. Jump up^ Chinese and Japanese repository of facts and events in science, history and art, relating to Eastern Asia, Volume 1. s.n. 1863. p. 48. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  24. Jump up^ Chinese and Japanese repository of facts and events in science, history and art, relating to Eastern Asia, Volume 1. s.n. 1863. p. 18. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  25. Jump up^ Chinese and Japanese repository of facts and events in science, history and art, relating to Eastern Asia, Volume 1. s.n. 1863. p. 49. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  26. Jump up^ Sir Thomas Walker Arnold (1896). The preaching of Islam: a history of the propagation of the Muslim faith. A. Constable and co. p. 249. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  27. Jump up^ Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World. Vol. I, Jewish Diaspora in China by Xu Xin, p.159, Ember, Melvin; Ember, Carol R.; Skoggard, Ian (Eds.), Springer 2004, ISBN 0-306-48321-1
  28. ^ Jump up to:a b Berton, Peter. The Evolution of Sino-Israeli Relations. Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. IV, No. 3. September 2010, pp. 69-80.
  29. Jump up^ Shanghai Jews as seen by Chinese
  30. Jump up^ Adam Minter (January 15, 2006). "Return of a Shanghai Jew". Los Angeles Times.
  31. Jump up^ "Former Jewish refugees revisit Shanghai Ark". People's Daily / Xinhua. November 11, 2005.
  32. Jump up^ Tokayer, Marvin; Swartz, Mary (2004-05-31). The Fugu Plan: The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews During World War II. Gefen Publishing House Ltd.
  33. Jump up^ Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World. Vol. I, Jewish Diaspora in China by Xu Xin, p.155, Ember, Melvin; Ember, Carol R.; Skoggard, Ian (Eds.), Springer 2004, ISBN 0-306-48321-1
  34. Jump up^ A Chinese Jew's tale of adversity and triumph
  35. Jump up^ "Religion Journal; A Professor in Nanjing Takes Up Jewish Studies" by Gustav Niebuhr New York Times, March 13, 2007. full text
  36. Jump up^ One Day Private Shanghai Jewish Culture Tour
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  38. Jump up^ Fish, Issac (Dec 29, 2010). "Selling the Talmud as a Business Guide". Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  39. Jump up^ Cha, Ariana (February 7, 2007). "Sold on a Stereotype". The Washington Post.
  40. Jump up^ Synagogues in China
  41. Jump up^ China's Great Wall hosts Hanukkah celebration
  42. Jump up^ Jewish Community Shanghai
  43. Jump up^ Shanghai's Jews celebrate historic synagogue reopening

External links



The history of the Jews in Japan is well documented in modern times with various traditions relating to much earlier eras.


A Japanese Festival Illustrates the Story of Isaac.

In Nagano prefecture, Japan, there is a large Shinto shrine named "Suwa-Taisha" (Shinto is the traditional religion peculiar to Japan.) At Suwa-Taisha, the traditional festival called "Ontohsai" is held on April 15 every year. This festival illustrates the story of Isaac in chapter 22 of Genesis in the Bible, that is, the story that Abraham was about to sacrifice his own son Isaac. The festival "Ontohsai" has been held since ancient days and has been thought of as the most important festival of "Suwa-Taisha."

Next to the shrine "Suwa-Taisha," there is a mountain called Mt. Moriya ("Moriya-san" in Japanese). And the people from the Suwa area call the god of Mt. Moriya "Moriya no kami" which means "the god of Moriya." At the festival, a boy is tied up by a rope to a wooden pillar, and placed on a bamboo carpet. A Shinto priest comes to him preparing a knife, but then a messenger (another priest) comes there, and the boy is released. It reminds us of the story that Isaac was released after an angel comes to Abraham.

At this festival, animal sacrifices are also offered. 75 deer are sacrificed, but among them it is believed that there is a deer with its ears split. The deer is believed to be the one God prepared. It may have some connection with the ram that God prepared and was sacrificed after Isaac was released. Even in historic times, people thought that this custom of deer sacrifice was strange, because animal sacrifice is not a Shinto tradition.

People call this festival "the festival for Misakuchi-god". "Misakuchi" might be "mi-isaku-chi." "Mi" means "great," "isaku" is probably Isaac (the Hebrew word "Yitzhak"), and "chi" is something for the end of the word. It seems that the people of Suwa made Isaac a god, probably by the influence of idol worshipers.

Today, this custom of the boy about to be sacrificed and then released, is no longer practiced, but we can still see the custom of the wooden pillar called "oniye-basira" which means "sacrifice-pillar."

Today, people use stuffed animals instead of performing a real animal sacrifice. Tying a boy along with animal sacrifice was regarded as savage by people of the Meiji-era (about 100 years ago), and those customs were discontinued. But the festival itself still remains today.

The custom of the boy had been maintained until the beginning of Meiji era. Masumi Sugae, who was a Japanese scholar and a travel writer in the Edo era (about 200 years ago), wrote a record of his travels and noted what he saw at Suwa. The record shows the details of "Ontohsai." It tells that the custom of the boy about to be sacrificed and his ultimate release, as well as animal sacrifices, existed in those days. His records are kept at the museum near Suwa-Taisha.

The festival of "Ontohsai" has been maintained by the Moriya family ever since ancient times. The Moriya family think of "Moriya-no-kami" (god of Moriya) as their ancestor's god. And they think of "Mt. Moriya" as their holy place. The name "Moriya" may have come from "Moriah" (the Hebrew word "Moriyyah") of Genesis 22:2.

The Moriya family have been hosting the festival for 78 generations. The festival of Ontohsai must have existed since ancient times.

I am not aware of any country, other than Japan, which has a festival illustrating the story of Isaac. I believe that this tradition provides strong evidence that the Israelites came to ancient Japan.

SEE MORE EVIDENCE HERE: http://www.biblemysteries.com/library/tribesjapan.htm


Status of Jews in Japan

Jews are a minor ethnic and religious group in Japan, presently consisting of only about 2,000[1] people or about 0.0016% of Japan's total population. Although Jews have been present in Japan and Judaism has been practiced since the 16th century, on a very limited scale, in Japan, Japan comprised but a small part ofJewish history from the ending of Japan's "closed-door" foreign policy to World War II.

Jewish history in Japan

Early settlements

The first confirmed contacts between the Japanese and people of Jewish ancestry began during the Age of Discovery (16th century) with the arrival of European travelers and merchants (primarily the Portuguese andDutch). However it was not until 1853, with the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry following the Convention of Kanagawa ending Japan's "closed-door" foreign policy that Jewish families began to settle in Japan. The first recorded Jewish settlers arrived at Yokohama in 1861. By 1895 this community, which now consisted of about 50 families, established the first synagogue in Japan. Part of this community would later move toKobe after the great Kanto earthquake of 1923.

Another early Jewish settlement was one established in the 1880s in Nagasaki, a large Japanese port cityestablished by the Portuguese. This community was larger than the one in Yokohama, consisting of more than 100 families. It was here that the Beth Israel Synagogue was created in 1894. The settlement would continually grow and remain active until it eventually declined by the Russo-Japanese War in the early 20th century. The community's Torah scroll would eventually be passed down to the Jews of Kobe, a group formed of freed Russian Jewish war prisoners that had participated in the Czar's army and the Russian Revolution of 1905.

From the mid 1920s until the 1950s, the Kobe Jewish community was the largest Jewish community in Japan, formed by hundreds of Jews arriving from Russia (originating from the Manchurian city of Harbin), the Middle East (mainly from Iraq and Syria), as well as from Centraland Eastern European countries (primarily Germany). It had both an Ashkenazi and a Sephardic synagogue. During this time Tokyo's Jewish community (now Japan's largest) was slowly growing with the arrival of Jews from the United States, Western Europe, and Russia.

Jewish settlement in Imperial Japan

Some Japanese leaders, such as Captain Inuzuka Koreshige (犬塚 惟重), Colonel Yasue Norihiro (安江 仙弘) and industrialist Aikawa Yoshisuke (鮎川 義介), came to believe that Jewish economic and political power could be harnessed by Japan through controlled immigration, and that such a policy would also ensure favor from the United States through the influence of American Jewry. Although efforts were made to attract Jewish investment and immigrants, the plan was limited by the government's desire not to interfere with its alliance with Nazi Germany. Ultimately it was left up to the world Jewish community to fund the settlements and to supply settlers, and the plan failed to attract a significant long-term population or create the strategic benefits for Japan that had been expected by its originators.

On December 6, 1938, Five ministers council (Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, Army Minister Seishirō Itagaki, Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai,Foreign Minister