Jewish Hā’ěrbīn

sights / Architecture

Lonely Planet review

The Jewish influence on Hā’ěrbīn was surprisingly long lasting; the last Jewish resident of the city died in 1985. In the 1920s Hā’ěrbīn was home to some 20,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in the Far East at the time.

If you’re on the trail of Hā’ěrbīn’s Jews, then the Hā’ěrbīn New Synagogue is the place to start. The synagogue was built in 1921 by and for the community, the vast majority of which had emigrated from Russia. Restored and converted into a museum in 2004, the 1st floor is an art gallery with pictures and photos of old Hā’ěrbīn. The 2nd and 3rd floors feature photos and exhibits that tell the story of the history and cultural life of Hā’ěrbīn’s Jews. From all accounts they had a splendid life centred on sports, music and business.

Tongjiang Jie was the centre of Jewish life in the city till the end of WWII, and many of the buildings on the street are from the early 20th century. The museum can clue you in to the former location of bakers, kosher butchers and furriers. The old Main Synagogue , built in 1909, now houses a cafe, shops and an excellent little hostel. Close by is the former Jewish Middle School .

Further up Tongjiang Jie is the interesting Turkish Mosque (土耳其清真寺; Tú’ěrqí Qīngzhēn Sì); built in 1906, it’s no longer operating and is closed to visitors.

In the far eastern suburbs of Hā’ěrbīn is the Huángshān Jewish Cemetery , the largest in the Far East. There are more than 600 graves here, all well maintained. A taxi here takes around 45 minutes and costs about ¥100.