Iris Chang: Divided into the Truth of Nanjing Massacre

December 12, 2017
By Hu ShenqiuEditor: Rong Chen
Iris Chang: Divided into the Truth of Nanjing Massacre. [CGTN]


It is still inconceivable to imagine how a gentle young woman who decided to take on Nanjing Massacre, an event where more than 300,000 Chinese were tortured and murdered by the Japanese army in 1937, ended up dead at the age of 36.

Born in the US, Iris Chang, whose Chinese name was Zhang Chunru, was the daughter of two University of Illinois professors. Chang's mother remembered her as a diligent and passionate person who was deeply curious about Chinese history, and never gave up in her quest for social justice.

Despite her youth, she directed this passion to interrogating the Nanjing Massacre, traveling to China to scour stacks of archives and interview survivors of the massacre.

Penetrating the public consciousness

In 1977, Chang published "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War Two" to mark the 60th anniversary of the massacre. It became an instant best-seller, as a profound chronicle of the unimaginable holocaust by Japan during wartime, and was regarded as the first book in decades to reveal the atrocities.

Along with the international attention, Chang brought the massacre back into the public consciousness, reigniting debate over Japan's responsibility for war crimes.

At the same time, she was also paying a tremendous price for her work, as it was almost impossible for her to separate herself from the tragedy. "The stress of writing this book and living with this horror on a daily basis caused my weight to plummet," Chang once said in an interview.

Become Nanjing Massacre's 'victim'

On a cloudy winter morning in 2004, Chang chose to shoot herself in California. She was only 36, a wife and mother of a two-year-old son. Her death made headlines nationwide and left another wound in Nanjing and across China.

The world struggled to understand how such an energetic and accomplished person could have reached this devastating point. Chang's family were convinced that she was already exhausted, emotionally and physically, before her untimely death. After working incessantly and immersing herself in stacks of documents and photos of the massacre, she could barely take the depth of depravity, which lead to her eventual collapse.

Although Chang ultimately became another victim of the Nanjing Massacre, history has preserved her legacy.

She still lives on in the pages of her Nanjing book, as she once wrote: "My greatest hope is that this book will inspire other authors and historians to investigate the stories of the Nanking survivors before the last of the voices from the past, dwindling in number every year, are extinguished forever."


Iris Chang with her books. [CGTN]


People attending the memorial service to Iris Chang on November 9, 2014, at the Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Los Altos, California. [People’s Daily]


(Source: CGTN)

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