Odysseus, the proud and heroic king of Ithaca, and commander of the Greek army in the Trojan War once said, “ Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone and wonder who we were?”
Mankind has always been, since the discovery of wheeling a blade, responsible for the unthinkable and inhumane atrocities that have taken place in history. History has never been able to tell the tale of every person that has been a victim of some of these heartbreaking and life changing events. But there are always the few who are lucky enough to have their story told such as Jai, a woman who suffered during the Rape of Nanjing.
Nanjing was one of China’s most prosperous and industrial cities before the invasion of the Japanese. Jai loved the city and all of the different activity that took place there on a daily basis. There were different shopping stores on Hunan Road and Xinjiekon, along with entrepreneurs celling a variety of different things from clothing, to flowers, and even jewelryNanjing was also famous for its satins and brocades in textiles, along with producing and exporting porcelainware (china) paper and ink-sticks for Chinese brush writing.
Jai’s favorite part of Nanjing, was the ports and ships. Her and a friend named Fan would always rush to see the different silks and fragrances, that appeared. “They look so beautiful and breathtaking,” said Fan, who was always a lover of dresses and in particular, the color pink. “You say that every time about any dress” said Jai in a joking manner. “I know but I can’t help it,” claimed Fan in excitement.
Both girls’ families did well, but no well enough to have such luxurious clothes. “ I love looking at the dresses because I know this is as close to I’ll ever get to a dress like this ever in my life, and I want to cherish every second of it.”
“My father would have to catch twice as many fish for me to ever wear something such as that,” said Jai. Both girls began to laugh and headed into a large crowd that was heading to the city. Jai and Fan managed to find a separate Rickshaw, which was a two or three-wheeled passenger cart pulled by one man with one passenger. Seeing all the people walking around the city, the different shops and even rickshaws for that matter, made it seem as if Nanjing was like New York City, but not as large of course.
The girls finally arrived in the shopping district of the city when Fan, smiling with her dimples showing said to Jai “I never want our lives to change Jai, never!” in a playful and exciting tone. “Neither do I Fan, neither do I.”
Unfortunately, things would not “stay the same”. China broke out into a civil war between the national government of China, lead by Chiang Ki Shek whose headquarters were in Nanjing, and the communist party of China, which was lead by Mao Zedong (Figure 1 on left). On top of a full on civil war taking place, China had to draw attention to the empire of Japan. In 1931, Japan invaded Chinese Manchuria following a bombing incident at a railway controlled by the Japanese.
Jai who was 12 at this time, couldn’t understand why all the fighting amongst Japan and the Chinese themselves, was even taking place. “Father why must everyone fight? Can’t we all just get along?” cried jai with tears streaming down her face. “Jai’s father, a short and modest man, with a clean shaved face and dark hair, held his confused and sad daughter in his arms.
“My love, it is just not that simple anymore,” explained her father. “Japan is trying, in their best interests, to control and make us apart of their country”. Gazing at him with still confusion, Jai asks again “But why father? They already have Japan so why do they want us to join their country?”
“A lot of this” Jai’s father explained “is resulting from the first time we fought Japan which was years before you were born”. The Qing Empire of China and the Empire of Japan fought, primarily, over influence of Korea. After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land and naval forces and the loss of the Chinese port Weihaiwei, the Qing government sued for peace in February 1895. The war demonstrated the failure of the Qing Empire’s attempts to modernize its military and fend off threats to its sovereignty. For the first time, regional dominance in East Asia shifted from China to Japan.
Seeing the worry and frightened gaze from Jai, her father smiled at her, giving her the impression things would be okay. “Please do not worry about this Jai. This will most likely blow over in a few months and things will be normal again.” In relief and now joyous, Jai smiled back at her father, “thank you father, you’re right.” Her father gave her a giant hug, but knew the truth: things were only going to get worse for China. The worse had yet to come.
By the summer of 1937, the battle for Shanghai began (See Figure 2 on the right)+. It was a tough battle fought by the Chinese, who put up stiff resistance against the Japanese Army, which had expected an easy victory. After finally defeating the Chinese at Shanghai in November, 50,000 Japanese soldiers then marched on toward Nanjing.
The Japanese General Matsui Iwane was leading his men closer to Nanjing with specific orders for his men. “General, what would you have us do while entering the city?” asked one of his foot soldiers. “Kill all actives,” said the general. “We need to show the Chinese the brute strength of the Empire of Japan and, of course, who is the most superior nation in all of Asia. Kill all the women and children you see, have some fun with it if you wish, but make sure there is not a living soul by the end of this campaign.”
Fearful of losing them in battle, Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the removal of nearly all official Chinese troops from the city, leaving it defended by untrained auxiliary troops. Chiang also ordered the city held at any cost, and forbade the official evacuation of its citizens. Many ignored this order and fled, but the rest were left to the mercy of the Japanese.
Jai, who is now 18, was one of the unlucky souls who could not escape and was trapped in the city. Her and her husband Niu decided to stay since they refused to leave Jai’s parents, who were older and unable to travel. “Please, I beg you, do not waste your time trying to protect our lost and weaken souls,” exclaimed Jai’s father in frustration. “No father, we can’t leave you and mother here to suffer at the hands on the Japanese!” yelled Jai who was angry that her parents wanted her to leave them behind. “Plus,” said Niu, “We’re family and family needs to stick together in times such as these.”
“Yes, but you also need to protect yourselves,” demanded Jai’s mother. “Your father and I have lived a long and happy life, have done all the things we dreamed of, and are simply tired out. You and Niu are just starting out, and need to cherish every second of it before it’s too late.” “We could always go to the Nanjing Safety Zone,” said Niu. A small group of Western businessmen and missionaries called the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone set up a neutral area of the city that would provide refuge for Nanking’s citizens. The safety zone, opened in November 1937, was roughly the size of New York’s Central Park and consisted of more than a dozen small refugee camps. On December 1, the Chinese government abandoned Nanking, leaving the International Committee in charge. All remaining citizens were ordered into the safety zone for their protection.
“A wonderful idea Niu, but we wouldn’t be able to make to walk with it being so far,” said Jai’s mother in disappointment. “ If we wanted to find refuge, we could always go to Hutchinson International,” said Jai’s father. Hutchinson International was a major British company with significant industries and investments in China.
“Yes, I say we go there for refuge. It’s large enough to accommodate us and isn’t far!” exclaimed Niu. “Alright it’s settled, we make for Hutchinson International,” said Jai in relief.
December 13, 1937, after only four days fighting the untrained auxiliary troops, Japanese troops smashed into the city. “Kill them all!” cried the Japanese commanders with swords pointing in the air. People began running wild all over the city. The screams from the women and children punctured the eardrums of civilians everywhere. A city that was once prosperous was now being destroyed. Buildings were burnt down, shops were looted and destroyed, and the street venders were no longer in existence, along with the bright colors and fragrances that illuminated the air.
The soldiers first concerns were with elimination of the 90,000 Chinese soldiers that surrendered. To the Japanese, surrender was an unthinkable act of cowardice and they would look upon the Chinese POWs with utter contempt, viewing them as less than human, unworthy of life. The elimination of the Chinese POWs began after they were transported by trucks to remote locations on the outskirts of Nanking. As soon as they were assembled, the savagery
began, with young Japanese soldiers encouraged by their superiors to inflict maximum pain and suffering upon individual POWs as a way of toughening themselves up for future battles, and also to eradicate any civilized notions of mercy.
Smiling Japanese soldiers could be seen, using live Chinese POW’s for bayonet practice, decapitating them and displaying severed heads as souvenirs, and proudly standing among mutilated corpses. Some of the Chinese POWs were simply mowed down by machine-gun fire while others were tied-up, soaked with gasoline and burned alive.
Jai and the rest of her family began making their way to Hutchinson International. People around them were being mowed down with heavy machine gun fire from the Japanese. A man running in front of Jai had his head blown off; blood stained her face and the top of her dress near her breasts, making an elegant white dress now a blood stained rag for the deceased. The bodies were piling up by the second on the streets, and buildings and homes were destroyed and burned, making Nanjing a lifeless bone yard (see figure 3 above).
Jai and her family managed to safely arrive at the Hutchinson International headquarters, where hundreds of other citizens hid in fear of the Japanese. It was here that Jai began hearing about the different atrocities that were being done by the Japanese soldiers in the city. “Rumor has it that the Japanese have killing contests, where they try to kill as many people as possible in the most horrific way!” cried an elderly woman who appeared to be in her 60s.
It was here, too, that Jai learned that an old family-friend of theirs was one of the many casualties in the invasion. Ms. Zhen, who was in her eighties and a neighbor, thought that because she was old, she could remain at home and be fine. In actuality, she was brutally murdered by the Japanese, with her stomach-slashed open. There was also a tea specialist who the family did not know by name, but knew from seeing him in the city, who could not bear leaving his home. The Japanese also murdered him.
By the second night in Hutchinson, Jai already began to break down in tears, not because of the horrific atrocities taking place but rather, because her beloved city and country was being destroyed. The streets she once use to walk as a little girl with Fan were now covered in the blood and cuts of innocent Chinese men, women, and children who had no business being a part of the war between Japan and China.
Along with the horrific killing that took place, soldiers raped all they saw in sight. Old
women over the age of 70 as well as little girls under the age of 8 were dragged off to be sexually abused (Figure 4 bottom right). More than 20,000 to 80,000 women were gang-raped by Japanese soldiers, then stabbed to death with bayonets or shot so they could never bear witness. Not even pregnant women were spared by the Japanese. In several instances, they were raped, then had their bellies slit open and the fetuses torn out.
Sometimes, after storming into a house and encountering a whole family, the Japanese forced Chinese men to rape their own daughters, sons to rape their mother, and brothers their sisters, while the rest of the family was made to watch. On the seventh day at the Hutchinson headquarters, about 6-7 Japanese soldiers stormed in with guns and knives hanging by their waists. They took six or seven maidens from the crowd of refugees where Jai was one of the unlucky maidens.
Niu and other men began yelling in protest for the soldiers release their women. The soldiers refused and began shooting in the crowd that was around them, killing whoever was in their way. Chaos broke out with a mix of guns shooting, men lying on the ground dying and suffering, and women and children crying in fear. None of this, however, stopped the soldiers from their original goal of entering the headquarters.
One Japanese soldier, who was chubby and with a beard, forced Jai into an empty room. Once they were alone, the soldier took out his knife and forced her to take off her pants. “Just make this easy for the both of us and strip,” demanded the soldier. Jai, frightened and speechless, did what he said, and slowly began taking her cloths off. The soldier began smoothly rubbing Jai as tears began to stream down her face. It was not the fact she was being raped she cried but rather, she was robbed of something that was pure and special, something that is meant for people that are in love. Once the soldier was done having his way with Jai, he got dressed and said, “Now see, that wasn’t so bad now was it?” and left. Jai walked back to the barracks she was staying in, and didn’t say a word to anyone for the rest of the day.
In order to avoid the Japanese soldiers coming again to hurt Jai and the other women, the manager of the Hutchinson International moved the women to the cellar of the Egg Beating room. The women in the cellar were (if not yet) victims of the Japanese for different reasons. Jai and the other women lived in the cellar for more than a year until it was deemed safe to be in public once again. Jai tried going back to her barracks where her family was, but nobody was there. Jai looked around calling for family and even asked people she knew for help. “Pardon me Mr. Len, could you please tell me where my family is and if they are okay?” asked Jai in worry.
“Why yes, my dear, I saw your family just yesterday and they all seemed to be doing well,” said Mr. Len in a delighted voice. “Oh, that’s terrific to hear! Did they tell you where they were heading?” asked Jai in an anxious voice. “I believe they said they were heading to your home,” said Mr. Len. “Okay thank you for your help and take care of yourself!” exclaimed Jai and she ran out of the building and into the streets of Nanjing in search of her family.
Walking out in the streets for the first time in a year, Jai could not believe what she saw. On her left and right, bodies of men, women and children were piled up on one another like sandbags and the streets were scorched in red and in the remains of the fallen. Jai walked down one street that was covered with bodies that were decapitated and had the private parts of their body cut off. The buildings were all burnt down and had a stench of burnt human flesh with the ashes of the innocent scattered in the streets.
As Jai was making her way home, she noticed a rather odd sight. In the middle of the street laid a woman who seemed to be Jai’s age in an elegant bright pink dress. She had long black hair that draped past her shoulders. As Jai walked closer toward the lifeless body, she noticed that she knew this woman. This beautiful, lifeless body belonged to Fan. Jai ran with tears streaming down her face towards Fan, distraught over her beloved friend. She flipped over her body and saw a knife placed in her stomach and her pink dress drenched in blood. Jai held her in her hands, sobbing with Fan’s blood on her hands and lap, wishing she could be with the dead at peace. Jai left her body and said her final goodbyes, and continued on to finding her family.
Jai finally arrived home where her family sat with their heads down and hopes low. Jai slowly walked over to them without saying a sound as they all looked up at her. Nobody said a word as they watched her walk over. She sat next to her mother and began weeping in her arms. Her mother, father, and Niu moved over to comfort her and hug her. Still, no one said a word as Jai continued to weep. What could be noticed on the porch away from everyone’s attention were bloody footprints: Jai’s footprints from walking in Nanjing. For the blood would forever be stained on her body, representing the horrific atrocities that took place in Nanjing, and it would also represent the victim that would forever be inside of her.
- Jai and her family are fictional characters that are based off a real family and their encounter with the Japanese during the invasion of Nanjing.
- Fan is also a fictional character but is not based off a real individual from Nanjing
 Ruru Zhou, Nanjing Facts, China Highlights, 2015, http://www.chinahighlights.com/nanjing/nanjing-facts.htm
 Nanjing Facts
 “Second Sino-Japanese War”, New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Second_Sino-Japanese_War
 “Scarred by History: The Rape of Nanjing,” BBC News. BBc, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/223038.stm
 Sino Japanese War
 Sino Japanese War
 Sino Japanese War
 “The Rape of Nanking 1937-1938 300,000 deaths,” The History Place, Genocide in the 20th Century, http://www.historypalce.com/worldhidtory/genocide/nanking.htm
 Nanjing Massacre
 “Never Will I Forget,” Facing History and Ourselves, 2016, https://www.facinghistory.org/nanjing-atrocities/atrocities
 Scarred by history
 The Rape of Nanking
 The Rape of Nanking
 The Rape of Nanking
 Never Will I Forget
 Scarred by History
 Never Will I Forget
 The Rape of Nanking
 Scarred by history
 Never Will I Forget
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