Seventeenth-Century Chinese Torah Scroll
Chinese Torah Scroll, in Hebrew. Kaifeng, China, mid-17th century.
Manuscript on vellum comprising 68 skins, each skin 59 cm in height with 49 lines of text per column. (BRMS 59)
This Torah, written in unpointed Hebrew on a scroll of sixty-eight parchment skins measuring ninety-six feet in length, was number twelve (yod-bet) of the thirteen scrolls originally held by the synagogue established in 1653 in Kaifeng, China. Acquired by the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews in 1851, it apparently was sold by the Society sometime after 1929. In 1955 a bookseller in Pennsylvania, unaware of the scroll’s Chinese origins, sold it to Thomas Harrison. Following Harrison’s death in 1963, the scroll came to Bridwell Library through the Thomas J. and Bea L. Harrison Trust. It was identified as one of the Kaifeng scrolls by Michael Pollak, of Dallas, in 1972.
The large mid-column void seen in the text graphically identifies the commandments of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:1-17).