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Jewish Wayfarers in Modern China: Tragedy and Splendor

Posted: May 2nd, 2012 | No Comments »

Great to see Matthias Messmer’s Jewish Wayfarers in Modern China has been published. Matthias is a Shanghailander of long standing and has long been a man always keen to tease out historical facts, track down architecture and roam the city. This book looks fascinating indeed…

Jews in China doesn’t sound like an obvious topic at first blush but Messmer has compiled an extensive, admirable and fascinating collection of vignettes of a displaced people surviving and living through the most tumultuous time in China’s history.

(A. Tom Grunfeld, Empire State College )

In the pages of this amazing and unique book men and women come alive who arrived in China for longer or shorter periods of time. Hailing from Europe and elsewhere, there were merchants and journalists, physicians and writers, adventurers and communists, and refugees from Nazi Germany. They witnessed one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese history, their lives forever affected by what they saw and experienced. In vivid portrayals the author masterfully allows us glimpses of such women as Emily Hahn and Ruth Weiss, or men like Harold Isaacs and Theodore White and how they viewed ‘their’ China. Many like Willy Tonn regretfully left the China they had come to consider their own. Others like Israel Epstein and Sidney Shapiro remained in the country which they loved and where they felt they belonged. This is a superbly stimulating book.

(Irene Eber, Louis Frieberg Professor of East Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem )

Review

“Jews in China doesn’t sound like an obvious topic at first blush but Messmer has compiled an extensive, admirable and fascinating collection of vignettes of a displaced people surviving and living through the most tumultuous time in China’s history.” —A. Tom Grunfeld, Empire State College

“In the pages of this amazing and unique book men and women come alive who arrived in China for longer or shorter periods of time. Hailing from Europe and elsewhere, there were merchants and journalists, physicians and writers, adventurers and communists, and refugees from Nazi Germany. They witnessed one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese history, their lives forever affected by what they saw and experienced. In vivid portrayals the author masterfully allows us glimpses of such women as Emily Hahn and Ruth Weiss, or men like Harold Isaacs and Theodore White and how they viewed “their” China. Many like Willy Tonn regretfully left the China they had come to consider their own. Others like Israel Epstein and Sidney Shapiro remained in the country which they loved and where they felt they belonged. This is a superbly stimulating book.” —Irene Eber, Louis Frieberg Professor of East Asian Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

About the Author

Matthias Messmer was born 1967 in St. Gallen, Switzerland. He received his M.A. in Political Science, Law and Economics (St. Gallen) and Ph.D. in Social Sciences (Konstanz). His research is focused on intercultural subjects and topics related to China and Chinese culture. Dr. Messmer is also affiliated with the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) as Senior Research Fellow and his projects include cultural documentation and criticism in the form of writing and photography. He has previously published books (in German) such as Soviet and Post-Communist Antisemitism (1997) and China–West-Eastern Encounters (2007).

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