For this month's Readers' Review: "Drown" -- the debut collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz. Twenty years ago, Diaz published ten heart-breaking tales about a fragmented family from the Dominican Republic finding their way in 1980s America.
Minnie Vautrin was an American missionary and dean of the Jinling Women’s College in Nanjing during the japanese invasion in 1937. She opened the campus to more than 10,000 women and children and saved many Chinese lives. The people of Nanjing called her the Goddess of Mercy, but her regret over not saving more lives eventually led her to suicide. Many Chinese during and after the Cultural Revolution grew up unaware of the heroism of some Westerners during this tragic time in history. Award-winning Chinese-American author Ha Jin wants to put the record straight. He joins Diane to discuss his latest novel, “Nanjing Requiem.” A fictional account of Minnie Vautrin’s story, he says it’s an attempt to “put her soul in peace.”
- Ha Jin author
Growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution, writer Ha Jin first heard of the Nanjing Massacre, but he did not become aware of the heroic role some westerners played until he read Iris Chang’s book “The Rape of Nanjing.” His latest novel centers on Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary who saved thousands of Chinese lives. In an introductory letter, Ha Jin writes, “she suffered and ruined herself by helping others, but she became a legend. At least her story has moved me to write a novel about her. If I succeed, my book might put her soul in peace.”
Giving Up on Writing the Book – Twice
Because Jin’s protagonist, Minnie Vautrin, was a real historical figure, Jin couldn’t invent any happenings for her as a character. He also struggled with creating enough narrative drive for the novel. He made many revisions – at least 30 – and when he sent the manuscript to his editor, he realized the book just didn’t gel. In the end, though, he saw the project through to publication.
Growing up in China During War Time
Jin didn’t have what he calls “a concrete picture of war,” but he has some vague memories. He recalls being taken to a mine in former Manchuria, the northeast region of the country, where he and others were shown a lot of bones. “The Japanese used a lot of miners to get coal, and so a lot of people died in those mines,” he said. He also saw some photographs detailing the Japanese soldiers’ brutality towards the Chinese, including some of naked women who he knows the soldiers raped and killed, their bodies mutilated.
Telling Minnie Vautrin’s Story
Vautrin grew up in a poor family in Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois, and some missionaries who had just returned from China persuaded her to go there to educate Chinese girls. She started a girls’ school in China, taught for many years, and eventually became the dean of Jinling Women’s College. When the Japanese invasion happened in 1937, the campus was eventually used as a refugee camp, and Vautrin did everything she could to help the women and children there.”And she suffered a lot,” Jin said. “She was traumatized by it and eventually she had a breakdown…eventually she took her own life.”
Japanese Feeling Some Remorse
Jin used some accounts from Japanese soldiers’ diaries to help create his story. “There are a lot of Japanese who really felt very guilty about this,” he said. Once the soldiers entered Nanjing, all order collapsed, and, Jin said, “all the evil was unleashed.” One soldier wrote in his diary that there was so much killing, the soldiers were having trouble finding clean water to drink because the water was red with blood. Some veteran Japanese soldiers have since traveled to Nanjing, to the museum of the massacre, to express their regret.
You can read the full transcript here.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Growing up in China during the cultural revolution, writer Ha Jin first heard of the Nanjing Massacre, but he did not become aware of the heroic role some westerners played until he read Iris Chang's book "The Rape of Nanjing." His latest novel centers on Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary who saved thousands of Chinese lives. In an introductory letter, Ha Jin writes, "she suffered and ruined herself by helping others, but she became a legend.
MS. DIANE REHMAt least her story has moved me to write a novel about her. If I succeed, my book might put her soul in peace." The title of the book is "Nanjing Requiem," and Ha Jin joins me in the studio. He is professor of English at Boston University. His previous books including "Waiting," which won the Penn Faulkner Award, the National Book Award, "War Trash" which won the Penn Faulkner Award, and then "Story Collections: Under the Red Flag," which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction and "Ocean of Words," which won the Penn Hemingway Award. You are certainly an award-winning writer, Ha Jin. It's so good to see you.
DR. HA JINThank you. Very happy to be here.
REHMI was interested in the fact that you gave up writing this book twice.
JINBecause -- largely because the protagonist Minnie Vautrin was a historical figure so I couldn't invent any happenings for her as a character. And during the massacre in the first six weeks, it was very tense, a lot of drama was going on. But afterwards they stayed in China for two-and-a-half years more, and there -- there was no major big events that happened to herself so I couldn't create any events like that.
JINThen the question would be how can I come up with enough narrative drive for the novel. So, in fact, I revised many, many times, I think, 32 revisions. I sent the manuscript to my editor and the book didn't gel. It didn't hang together. All the details were there and interesting, but the novel somehow was not unified. Because of that, I couldn't invent anything for her.
REHMTell me about growing up in China. What did you know about that war between China and Japan at the time?
JINEverything was quite vague. I remember we were brought to some mines in former Manchuria and the northeast part of China, and we were shown a lot of bones, because the Japanese used a lot of miners to get coal and so a lot of people died in those mines. But other than that, I really didn't have a -- kind of any concrete picture of the war. And I heard of Nanjing Massacre, but I didn't know any detail at all.
REHMUntil you read Iris Chang's book.
JINYes. That was part -- a major step. Before that, in fact, our side of China, Chinese Americans had always kept that kind of memory alive and they would hold gatherings and meetings in memory of the atrocities and every year. So that was a surprise for me when I had come to the states. And then in 1997, Iris Chang's book came out, and then at that point I began to know there were foreigner involvement in the tragedy. But before that, I never heard of anything. I had never heard of anything about the Westerners' involvement.
REHMBut in addition to the Westerners' involvement, were you stunned, were you shocked, were you absolutely abhorring the tragedy as it was written about and wondering how could this have happened?
JINYes. I was very shocked. In fact, because of the meetings and the gatherings at those events, there were exhibits of photographs and graphics, also a lot of written materials, and that was the first time I came to see these things. So that's why I was very, very shocked.
REHMThe opening paragraph of the book draws us in absolutely immediately. You write, "Finally, Ben began to talk. For a whole evening, we sat in the dining room listening to the boy. He said that afternoon when principal Vautrin told me to go to Mr. Rabe about the random arrests in our camp, I ran to the safety zone committee's headquarters. As I was reaching that house, two Japanese soldiers stopped me, one pointing his bayonet at my tummy and the other sticking his gun against my back. They ripped off my Red Cross armband and hit me in the face with their fists, then they took me away to White Cloud Shrine.
REHMThere's a pond inside the temple, and a lot of carp and bass lived in the water. The monks were all gone except for two old ones who had been shot dead and dumped into a latrine. The Japanese wanted to catch the fish, but didn't have a net. An officer emptied his pistol into the pond, but didn't hit any fish. Then another one began throwing grenades into the water. In a flash, big bass and carp surfaced all knocked out and belly up. The Japs poked us four Chinese with bayonets and order us to undress and get into the water to bring out the fish.
REHMI couldn't swim and was scared, but I had to jump into the pond. The water was freezing cold. Luckily it was just waist deep. We brought all half-dead fish to the bank, and the Japanese smashed their heads with rifle butts, strung them through the gills with hemp ropes, and tied them to shoulder poles. Together we carried the fish to their billets. They were large fish, each weighing at least 15 pounds." That's how Ha Jin opens his new novel "Nanjing Requiem."
REHMIf you'd like to join us, call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Why did you, Ha Jin, decide to focus on Minnie Vautrin's story?
JINThere -- in fact, I was so shocked when I saw those photographs at the gatherings, and I decided -- I began to figure how to write about this tragedy.
REHMDescribe some of the those photographs.
JINYeah. For instance, there -- like the passage you just read, the soldiers carried big fish, you know, they caught a lot of big fish from -- apparently from some Chinese farmers, and they were very happy. And at the same time, there were a lot of women. There were -- in fact, there are photographs captured by the soldiers. Those photographs were taken -- eventually taken from the Japanese soldiers and when they were captured, and the women were naked.
JINApparently some of them were crying, and there are many other -- like in a pond -- the pond was stuffed with dead bodies everywhere, and so a lot of bloody photographs.
REHMThe women had been taken and raped...
REHM...and then killed.
REHMMany of them.
JINMutilated. Their bodies -- I think that the most horrifying part was the bodies were mutilated.
REHMWhat else besides those photographs did you rely on to create this historical novel?
JINA lot of written materials. In fact, I give a list at the back of the novel. And in fact, there were sources -- the Japanese, they had done a lot of work in this area and there were publications of their soldiers' diaries, interviews, and so they were very reliable in a way. For instance, a lot of details I just -- most of the details were not imagined at all. They were really -- they were picked from different written records, and some of them are just directly from the soldiers' diaries.
REHMHa Jin, his new novel is titled "Nanjing Requiem." We'll take a short break here. When we come back, more about the novel and your calls.
REHMAnd welcome back. The writer and professor of English at Boston University Ha Jin is with me. His latest novel titled "Nanjing Requiem," and it is truly a story that you focused on Minnie Vautrin. Tell us about her.
JINShe was -- she grew up in a small town called Secor, Illinois, in a very poor -- from a very poor family. At a very early age, I think six, she began to keep house for her father. And later, at the graduation of college from the University of Illinois, she was somehow noticed by some missionaries who had returned from China. She was persuaded to go to China to educate the Chinese girls. So that's how she started her mission as a Christian.
JINAnd she -- first, she lived in Hur (sp?) Bay and started a girl school. I think she work there about -- almost about a decade. Then she moved to Nanjing and -- to serve as the dean of the Jinling Women's College. That's how she became a leader, a well-known figure in the city. And then the Japanese evasion took place in 1937. She was instructed to stay behind to take care of the campus. But that campus was used -- later was used as a refugee camp and she -- basically she did everything to try to help the women and the children.
JINAnd she suffered a lot. In fact, she was traumatized by it and eventually she had a breakdown. She just couldn't continue anymore. She returned to the states and -- for treatment, but that didn't work well. So eventually she took her own life.
REHMHow many people, women, girls, others did she attempt to house at the women's college?
JINAt the peak I think is -- it reached 12,000 at the peak.
JINYes. Originally, they had planned just for 2,000 because they measured. I think it was 16 square feet per person. But there were so many refugees, there was no way for them to reject them. So they just took everybody. So at the peak, it was -- they lost the count and -- but it was about 12,000 at the peak.
REHMThe cruelty of the Japanese during that period is really recreated in your book in the sense that there are some scenes that are difficult to read. And you wrote in a woman's voice.
JINYes. In fact, that was a change. In fact, I -- in the beginning, I just wrote in the third person narrative from Minnie Vautrin's point of view. But...
REHMIt didn't work.
JIN...didn't work and so I had to change the structure drastically and invented a Chinese woman who was her assistant to let her tell Minnie Vautrin's story. Also at some point, she can tell her own story because I think the book needed some of that part because the Chinese were the real victims and they took the brunt of the violence. So it was necessary to have the narrator's story. But she was a supporting character.
REHMWas Minnie Vautrin herself not in danger because she was an American?
JINI think on the whole yes, but she was slapped and punched frequently. In her diaries, that was recorded. They often got slapped by the soldiers -- by the Japanese soldiers.
REHMWe've had a few emailers saying, in effect, "the most horrendous thing about what happened in Nanking," he says, "during the massacre is that the Japanese have yet to acknowledge their involvement in it."
JINI think there has been discussion, I think. And many scholars the -- I think they admitted that this had happened. And as I mentioned just now, the Japanese had done a lot of work. You know, there's soldiers' diaries and interviews. And even Minnie Vautrin's diary was published long ago in Japanese.
JINSo there are Japanese and Japanese. There are (unintelligible) so sure. There is even a school called a fictional school. That means the whole event was purely created, fiction. And -- but on the other hand, there are a lot of Japanese who -- really who felt very guilty about this. I think the fact was at the Tokyo international trial that was already concluded, more than 200,000 Chinese were killed in the city. So there was no dispute about that fact at all.
REHMSo there was literally an attempt to wipe out Nanjing?
JINI think it wasn't -- it might not have been planned. But the soldiers, once they entered the city, everything was -- all the rulers collapsed and all the evil was unleashed. So there was no way to control the soldiers.
REHMGive me a sense of what you read from some of the Japanese soldiers' diaries.
JINFor instance, in the beginning there are few details and the boy said -- Ben said there was so much killing that they couldn't find clean water to drink. But that was -- yeah.
REHMThere was blood flowing in the water.
JINYeah. And because all the cooked rice were red -- was red. But that was recorded by the Japanese so there -- in a diary, you know, a soldier's diary.
REHMDid any of the Japanese soldiers express regret?
JINYes, yes. And there are, in fact, some older soldiers, veterans -- not many, but there's some -- they would go to Nanjing to face the museum of the massacre to express their regret.
REHMTell me why you focus this on the Jinling Women's College? Was it truly the wealthy of China?
JINIn fact, it was intended -- yes, and was -- in fact, was a sister school for Smith's College and really was American school, American women's college. So I think that's why I decided on this school as the setting because probably this was also American experience. These missionaries, they -- really they are part of the tragedy. Many of them were traumatized, troubled and, I mean, mentally disturbed later on.
JINAnd at the Tokyo trial because the American missionaries had kept a lot of evidence, raiding records, photographs, even film footage. And so the court couldn't decide on the scale and the magnitude of the tragedy. The Chinese hadn't collected much evidence at all because when they were fighting, they didn't -- couldn't imagine some day they would try these war criminals. So really this event -- this tragedy was part of American experience as well.
REHMAnd as you say, Minnie Vautrin came back here to the states extraordinarily upset…
REHM...extraordinarily troubled. And she finally took her own life because she felt she had not done enough.
JINYes. I think that was the part because she belonged to the church and she was not supposed to kill herself so she couldn't be held up as a model. But to my mind, also to a lot of local Chinese, she was a hero. She really -- she was a hero. And I think briefly after the massacre, she -- for a few years, she was known as a goddess of mercy. But when the communists came to power, her name was suppressed in the media by the result -- where I grew up, I never heard of her, any of the Americans involvement at all.
REHMNo American involvement.
JINNo, no. Only the negative part, how Americans (word?) the Japanese. Only the negative.
REHMTell me how she managed with that many people. How did she manage to get food in? How did she manage toilet facilities? What did they do?
JINI know. See, that's why I said it was part of American experience because for instance, let's just take food, for example. No Chinese could transport the food at all because the Chinese was -- if the Chinese drove a car and the Japanese would take it away so only foreigners could drive. As a result, the missionaries, a few of them, like Sarah Bates and Louie (unintelligible) Mills and many of them, they drove to deliver grain and fuel. They had to use coal and wood to cook otherwise.
JINSo the basic work was done by missionaries. And just imagine that zones called Nanjing International Security Zone. That sheltered a quarter of a million civilians. Imagine just that work, just to provide food and fuel. Not to mention the facilities for, you know, the other kind of sanitary maintenance. It was enormous amount of work, huge amount. Really it's unimaginable.
REHMI can't imagine how they did it.
JINThey really -- I think I read some small memoirs written by some of the victims. They said Minnie Vautrin was extremely efficient in maintaining the order. Everything somehow was planned very carefully on the campus. And apparently these missionaries, they were very efficient. They were -- they work very hard, too.
REHMI want to go back to Alleng, the young woman who was the fictional assistant to Minnie Vautrin. You created her and you wrote in her voice. How difficult was that for you?
JINThat part was not that difficult because after that, in fact, when the manuscript was returned because it didn't work, I told my editor give me two more years and I would try to finish it. But once I started, everything just came together very rapidly.
REHMWhen you began to write in the first person.
JINYeah, to rewrite it. Yes.
REHMWere you thinking in Chinese and writing in English? What was happening?
JINIn English, but what happened was everything -- I had already absolved everything inside -- in me. So everything just came out. So I realized that all the mistakes and the wrong turns had been homework. So everything came together very rapidly. I finished the book in four months. But before that of course a lot, a lot of labor just to find the details, the right details.
REHMHa Jin and we're talking about his newest novel titled "Nanjing Requiem." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to open the phones. We have a caller in Dallas, Texas. Good morning, David. Thanks for waiting.
DAVIDGood morning, Diane. I learn so much from your show every morning. Thank you for everything that you do.
REHMOh, you're most welcome. Thank you.
JINAnd thank you, Ha Jin, for your book. I'm originally from New Zealand and I went to Nanjing about ten years ago. And there I went to the Nanjing Holocaust Museum and I learned about the Rape of Nanjing for the first time. I'd never been exposed to anything like that before and it was a very powerful experience and an incredible way to learn about that event.
DAVIDWell, I just think it's a shame that there's such a lack of education in the Western world about this event. And so I thank you for your contribution and I would encourage everybody to read and learn about what happened in this incredible chapter in Chinese history.
REHMThank you, David.
JINOh, thank you very much, David. And in fact as I said just now this was really an international experience, not only the Chinese. And there were Germans, even a Russian man who tried to help the Chinese. And I think really we should -- that's why I want to write this book from an American woman's point of view and to put this event in the context of the international context.
REHMWhat were the events that led up to the Rape of Nanjing?
JINBefore that there was an attack on Shanghai. The Japanese had planned to just take the city in a week or two. But the battle lasted more than three months and they suffered heavy, heavy casualties.
REHMThe Japanese did.
JINYes. And they didn't expect the Chinese would be so stubborn. And so that was the immediate event. The Chinese retreated but earned time for further battles. And the Japanese really intended to proceed to seize the capitol of China to teach a lesson, very bloody lesson to intimidate, to fight in the Chinese to make them surrender. So that was the intention at the time.
REHMCould it -- could the Rape of Nanjing have been avoided?
JINYes. I think that was the part of the Chinese part. They made a mistake -- I mean, the Nationalist government, they should not have put up a defense there. Geographically that city was very, very difficult to defend. All Chiang Kai-shek's German advisors urged him not to do that. Some Chinese generals were also opposed to the plan. But somehow they really did put up a defense -- built defense work around the city and inside the city. As a result a lot of civilians were killed, wiped out.
REHMSo do you believe it was Chiang Kai-shek's mistake? Was it the general's mistake? What was it?
JINFor the first thing, it's the Japanese because of the invasion, that was (unintelligible) it was not justified.
REHMOf course, of course.
JINThat was part of it. Also the Japanese troops were not well supplied. They were instructed to live off the land. But imagine if you took everything from the civilians, how could you control the men? And so all of that -- as a result, all the violence was unleashed. And basically they kill and burn all the way to Nanjing.
REHMHa Jin and we're talking about his new novel "Nanjing Requiem." When we come back, your calls, email. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMIf you've just joined us the wonderful writer -- award-winning writer Ha Jin is with me. His latest novel titled "Nanjing Requiem," all about the invasion in 1937 of Nanjing by the Japanese. The slaughter that took place, the refuge that many thousands of Chinese took at the American Women's College in Nanjing.
REHMHere's an email from Matthew who says, "Wasn't there a Nazi German there who was helping the refugees?"
JINYes. His name was John Rabe. And he was the local Nazi leader in Nanjing. But he was a businessman for the company -- a German company businessman. And he was -- in fact he was loved by the local Chinese because he opened his house. He used his house to shelter a lot of the civilians. And he was also the head of the whole -- all of the foreigners, the Safety Zone Committee. And the Nanjing -- the Chinese mayor had escaped. So as a result, John Rabe was called the mayor by the Chinese.
REHMSo the mayor had actually escaped.
JINYeah, the real mayor escaped.
REHMAnd John Rabe became the mayor.
JINBecame a mayor. But it was a nickname. But he wouldn't let the Chinese to call him because he wouldn't offend the populated municipality. So -- but the -- in private most people referred to him as the mayor.
REHMDid he and Minnie Vautrin collaborate in trying to help these people?
JINYes. But he -- yes. He was very active, but he stayed in Nanjing two months after (word?) left. So basically the work was left for the Americans to do. All the Americans and their missionaries stayed for another two years. So John Rabe, initially he was very active. But he was summoned back by his company -- by the German company.
REHMSo he was not there for the entire time.
REHMOne of the incidents that really troubled Minnie Vautrin was that the Japanese came and demanded prostitutes.
JINYes, yes. And this was recorded in her diary in December 24, 1937. She mentioned it and then she would mention it again.
JINHow many did the Japanese take?
JINThey had -- they took away 21 -- or initially they demanded 100. And then Minnie Vautrin gave them the provision -- the permission unconditioned that the women would agree to do the work. But the truth was there was no way to decide who was a prostitute. So I think she was troubled. In fact, she didn't say this but I -- when I was reading the diary very carefully and I found out she took to her bed immediately after that. The next day she was ill. And so I -- so to my mind she was really troubled, very, very troubled by this.
REHMDid any of the women return?
JINAnd that part there was no written record but there was a mad woman who appeared -- who reappeared. This was recorded in her diary as well. And the woman claimed that she belonged to the college but nobody could tell who she was.
REHMAnd she claimed that she had been one of the ones who had been prostituted?
JINNo, she didn't claim that. She just claimed that she belonged to the college.
JINShe was insane at the time she was demanded. And she just insisted that she was from that college. But apparently she was a refugee. Nobody could decide where she -- who she really was.
REHMDid they take her in?
JINI think -- yes, yes. And at the time basically they had to take everybody because people lost their homes and their -- nowhere to go especially for women and the kids. And that camp -- let me repeat this -- that camp was only for women and the kids. So as a result they have to keep it open constantly.
REHMAll right. Let's take a call from Arlington, Va. Good morning, Ethan.
ETHANHi. Good morning, Diane. I love your show and, Ha Jin, I really appreciate your books. And "War Trash" is one of my favorite books.
ETHANI was -- I went to graduate school at the University of Illinois and I worked with Iris Chang's mother, Yeng Yeng (sp?) . So I got to know Iris a very little bit. And my question is while she was doing the "Rape of Nanjing," she received, you know, a lot of pressure from the Japanese. And I was wondering if you have experienced the same thing.
JINNot a lot, but of course, I got bad reviews. In summary, they would say the book basically didn't have a single good bone in it, sure. And that was kind of expected. But, you know, this is at the very beginning stages so I can't tell.
REHMBut will the book be translated into Chinese?
JINThe Chinese edition was out, in fact, even before the English.
REHMAnd what about to Japanese?
JINI don't know and -- I really don't know. They had published four of my books. I hope this book can be translated...
REHMThe Japanese had...
JINYes, but I don't know about this one.
REHMYeah, yeah. What was Iris' mother like, Ethan?
ETHANOh, she was a really sweet person. She was a very hard worker and, you know, she loved her daughter very much. She was a very strict mom. But, you know, she used to tell us stories about - you know, she was in China. She was very young during the war but, you know, she used to tell us stories, you know, about, you know, the bombings and things like that. And to this day, as far as I know, she will not buy Japanese stock.
JINNo, I understand that. And, in fact, Iris Chang she was really a big hero to Chinese. A lot of -- especially to the citizens of Nanjing. She was -- really she's a household name. There was a statue -- her bronze statue at the Holocaust museum there.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling, Ethan. To William who's in Ann Arbor, Mich. Good morning, sir.
WILLIAMThanks very much, Diane. It's very -- it's a pleasure to be on your show today.
WILLIAMI wanted to ask your guest a question. I'm a descendant of a general that was in the Nationalist Army named Tong Andow (sp?) and I was just curious if you had any information about whether General Tong was involved in either the planning or defense of Nanjing before the massacre.
JINWas the general's name Tong?
WILLIAMTong Andow .
JINTong Andow. I think he was involved, but I didn't go -- I don't remember a lot, but I think he was involved, yes. There were a lot of -- hundreds of generals, I think, involved in this -- the defense work.
WILLIAMYes, thank you very much.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling. And to Hanover, N.H. Good morning, Rolland.
ROLLANDOh, yes. A pleasure to be here. I want to say that I teach Chinese history so this is a subject of great interest to me. I met Iris Chang at a wonderful conference that was held by students at Princeton University. I think it was in the late '90s. And it was the first international conference on the Nanjing massacre.
ROLLANDAnd they invited Japanese to come, as well as, of course, Americans and so on. But only one Japanese professor was willing to come and he was considered rather a fringe person, somewhat liberal. But when he actually gave his talk, he had a very low number of victims and this seems to be part of the huge debate in Japan is that, you know, what can we really be held accountable for. And most people, you know, dismiss it. And, you know, it's not taught in Japan so it's a huge problem.
ROLLANDBut he gave a very low number. And because it was near New York a lot of Chinese Americans and Chinese immigrants and so on came to the conference. And when he said that he thought only about -- I think he said about 60,000 could be proven to have been killed, you know, by documents they -- of course he was rowdily booed. Can I make a comment about Iris Chang?
ROLLANDWell, I thought she was absolutely fabulous. She gave by far the most impassioned powerful speeches. There must've been 20, 30 speakers. And she was just amazing. I was quite struck with her passion. She said that the reason she took it up is because her parents had talked about it so much and she felt obligated to look into it.
JINYeah, sure. And, in fact, really I have been aware of the dispute over the number of victims. But really that was not important for me because in one person the intensity of the pain and of all humankind can contend to be one person's body in the mind. But let's face it. The Tokyo International Trial already concluded that at least 200,000 civilians were killed. So that was a fact and already established internationally. So I think that was the basis for -- I wouldn't go argue about other things. I just would say this is the bottom line we have to stay with.
JINAnd also I think because I mentioned it in the book, when the Nationalist Army wanted to try to resist the Japanese advance, they opened the dike of the Yellow River. That act alone killed more than a half million people. So while I was working on the book I had -- I kept thinking, which one of the victims would suffer more? The flood victim or a person killed by the Japanese in Nanjing? For me the two died and they suffered the same kind of pain. To the victims they had the same kind of agony. So for me, it was the individual. The one person died -- I mean, that man (word?) me.
REHMSo no wonder the Chinese would boo this man who was claiming a death toll of 60,000. But at the same time I understand and appreciate your passion for the single individual...
JINYeah, single person, yeah.
REHM...no matter how he or she died. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Tampa, Fla. Good morning, Denise.
DENISEYes, good morning, Ms. Rehm and to your esteemed guest. I'd like to mention Gladys Aword (sp?) who was also a Christian missionary to China at that same time. She was a parlor maid in London and I think the person my mother most admired. She used to say, how could a little parlor maid from London ever get to China, but she did. She's credited with saving Chinese children by bringing them over the mountains at the time of the Japanese attacks.
DENISEAnd I was wondering if your guest might be able to find any more documents in China about Gladys Aword. I have never read a book, but I suppose the Missionary Society might've published something. But this gentleman has such talent, I'm sure he might be able to present it in a more passable form. And I did see the lady. She spoke at our old Presbyterian church in Belfast, Northern Ireland. And I saw her two days later in Woolworth shop in the high streets very near the old building established in 1770.
DENISEMy big regret is I did not speak to her. If I'd been the person I am today, I would've gone and invited her home for tea.
JINI think -- yes, and there are -- in fact, even if the college -- the women's college was an American college, but there were a good number of British faculty and women professors teaching there.
REHMHad you read about anyone taking these children over the mountain to save them?
JINOver mountain -- I don't remember, but I think there were children -- children were taken -- transferred to another city by the missionaries. That was clear, yes.
REHMAll right. And finally to Goshen, Ind. Good morning, Jacob.
JACOBYes, good morning to you. Thank you for including me, and my respect to both of you.
REHMYou're most welcome.
JACOBYes. If I could just add an anecdotal bit. In our own family my Aunt Lenora and her siblings were sent ahead to the United States by their dad, Loyal Bartell (sp?) who was a longtime missionary born in China himself. And in 1948 the family was just sent ahead to leave when the communists came in. And he then spent the rest of his life in China pretty much alone, I guess, from his family. But had the privilege of living through the rest of his life in China with his Chinese Mennonite brethren there.
JINYes. A lot of missionaries -- I think that is a very kind of amazing phenomena. After a period of time they -- somehow they become partly Chinese.
REHMHa Jin, having done so much research, having now completed this book and seeing its publication, how has it affected you to have this knowledge that you did not have?
JINI think -- you know, it's very -- this is what -- it's a very depressing book in a way because, I mean, working through it and it was -- it was painful, very painful. But after I finished the book I felt I really -- I had done my best. I gave everything to the book. But still whenever people mention something, some details in the book and I couldn't help being reminded of it because all the things were still inside -- in me. So that tend to get me emotional.
REHMI do understand. Ha Jin and his novel is "Nanjing Requiem." He is the national book award-winning author of the book "Waiting." Thank you so much.
JINThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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