The Untold Story of a Chinese City’s Diverse Past and Resilient Spirit
“Tombstone Histories” by Dan Ben-Canaan is an enthralling exploration into the intriguing history of Harbin, a prominent Chinese city with a diverse and fascinating past. Founded in northeastern China in 1898 by Russians and other settlers, Harbin became a flourishing multicultural hub, housing as many as 38 distinct national communities. However, the turmoil of war and revolution eventually shattered their vibrant existence.
In this account, Ben-Canaan delves deep into the lesser-known aspect of Harbin’s history: its role as a sanctuary and transit hub for Jews fleeing the horrors of pogroms and anti-Semitism in Europe. “Tombstone Histories” portrays the Jewish experience in Harbin, providing an unprecedented glimpse into their daily lives within this distant and foreign land. The book explores how these individuals navigated and adapted to an unfamiliar environment, demonstrating the resilience and determination of the human spirit.
Featuring the personal accounts and memories of nearly sixty families, “Tombstone Histories” unveils the lives of the wealthy, the destitute, and those in between. The book transcends mere historical documentation by breathing life into these individuals, enabling readers to gain a profound understanding of their unique experiences and the broader spectrum of the human journey, with an emphasis on the concept of survival.
In “Tombstone Histories,” Dan Ben-Canaan weaves together the captivating narratives of a once-diverse and vibrant city, transforming what might otherwise be a series of tombstones into a poignant testament to the indomitable human spirit.
Dan Ben-Canaan has been a resident of China for over twenty years, developing an in-depth understanding of the country and its people since the late 1980s. He is the esteemed founder of the Sino-Israel Research and Study Center, where his research delves into the history of Northeast China, formerly known as Manchuria. His areas of expertise include Harbin as a transcultural and international city, the history of Jews in Harbin and China, as well as Chinese perceptions of the Jewish people. Among his notable publications are “Echoes of Harbin: Reflections on Space and Time of a Vanished Community in Manchuria” and “The Kaspe File: A Case Study of Harbin as an Intersection of Cultural and Ethnic Communities in Conflict 1932-1945.”