I recently read a BBC News article by Michael Goldfarb, which spoke of his trip to China and the vast similarities and differences he found between the Chinese culture and infrastructure, and that of Britain and North America. He of course speaks of the gigantism that he found – the number of people, huge buildings and city works, and of course the dense impenetrable air pollution. But on a tour of Shandong University in Jinan, he found something he truly did not expect. In the centre of a 27-story building with a giant clock topping it, is the university’s department of religious studies. The department also houses the Centre for Judaic Studies, China’s one and only department of Jewish studies.
Of all places to have a Judaic Studies centre, China is not high up on anyone’s list. Mr. Goldfarb found out though that there is quite the connection between Confucian and Jewish culture.
It was explained to him that the core of Confucianism and Judaism is ethical. They both stress the importance of the relationship between man and man, and are based on the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. In addition, the fifth commandment enjoins Jews to honour their fathers and mothers. Confucianism also emphasises filial piety – but in a way Jewish parents can only dream of.
Mr. Goldfarb continues on detailing his adventures in China and the similarities between Judaism and Confucianism, and the Chinese way of life. The one area that doesn’t seem to cross over though? The jokes. The Chinese have a sense of humour, most definitely, but the traditional combination of complaining and joking all at the same time? They don;t seem to get. Maybe something is lost in the translation 🙂