In a way, it is a numbers game. There are few Jews in China, least of all ethnic Chinese Jews. Even the once-thriving Chinese Jewish community in the city of Kaifeng has disappeared. But there are plenty of Confucians. So it is no surprise that when the mathematician-turned religious scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, decided to bring Jewish thought to China, he chose a book which most resembles the works of Confucius. The Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Fathers, is a collection of philosophical and ethical epigrams and sayings of the ancient Jewish Sages - collected over a period of 500 years from about 300BC. Unlike the other books of the Talmud, the central religious text which Rabbi Steinsaltz has made it his life's work to translate into modern Hebrew and English, the Avot is easily accessible to a modern lay audience. It requires no special scholarship and no detailed understanding of Jewish law or ritual. 'It is the most Chinese part of our literature,' said Rabbi Steinsaltz on a visit to Hong Kong. 'And it's no accident that when the works of Confucius were translated into Hebrew it was done in the style of the Avot.' The translation, sponsored by businessman Michael Leung Kai-hung, was done by Chinese scholar Zhang Ping at Tel Aviv University. 'There's the reverence for tradition, for the father, the relationship between pupil and master and the great importance of wisdom,' Rabbi Steinsaltz said. 'There's an emphasis on correct behaviour: there is a way how to behave. These are also very important ingredients in Chinese culture.' Three female journalists present were a bit upset that the Avot seemed also to reflect the Chinese attitude to women. 'Confucius,' the rabbi acknowledged, 'didn't really care much about women. In our tradition, man and woman were created from the same body. So they're searching for each other.' It was diplomatically put. But, almost the only mention in the Avot to the product of Adam's rib is the injunction not to 'engage much in gossip with women'. Still, that ought not to put the reader off any more than it would deter one from studying Confucius. But who would be reading such a work in Chinese in the first place? The rabbi had no problem with that. The target reader was not, he insisted, the Protestant theologians who had come to hear him speak that day - they could read the Ethics in other languages. Nor was this a missionary work. Jews, said this formerly secular Jew, did not try and convert non-Jews to Judaism. They only tried to bring secular Jews back into the fold. 'China doesn't want to make others Chinese either. In that way we're similar. It's time for a meeting.' A meeting of minds was what he hoped for. The Chinese intelligentsia would read the sayings of the Fathers and find them thought-provoking. 'In one way,' he said, 'it's a very traditional book. But in others, it contains revolutionary ideas. I think if they read it correctly and grasp the ideas, see where the ideas are leading to, it will be worthwhile.