Welcome, dear readers, to an exclusive interview with a remarkable individual whose words and actions have left an indelible mark on our collective understanding of history and humanity. Today, we have the privilege of conversing with none other than Iris Shun-Ru Chang, a distinguished author, journalist, and human rights activist.
Iris Chang’s name reverberates through time as a passionate advocate for truth, justice, and remembrance. Her groundbreaking work, “The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II,” thrust her onto the international stage, shedding light on one of the darkest chapters in history. With meticulous research and unparalleled attention to detail, Chang recounted the atrocities committed during the Nanjing Massacre, ensuring that the voices of the victims were finally heard.
Beyond her defining book, Chang’s activism extended beyond the boundaries of a single historical event. She fearlessly delved into various topics, unearthing hidden truths, and challenging established narratives. From investigating the despicable practices of Unit 731 to exposing the plight of Chinese laborers who built America’s transcontinental railroad, Chang embodied a dedication to uncovering forgotten stories and restoring their rightful place in our shared consciousness.
However, Iris Chang’s brilliance was not confined solely to her writing. Known for her captivating speeches and unwavering commitment to justice, she became a powerful voice against denial and injustice. Her relentless pursuit of historical accuracy earned her accolades, but it also subjected her to immense scrutiny and personal struggles, illuminating the depths of her conviction.
In this interview, we delve deep into the mind and experiences of Iris Shun-Ru Chang, exploring her motivations, her journey as a writer and activist, and the lasting lessons she imparted. Join us as we honor the memory of this incredible woman and continue her quest for truth, empathy, and justice.
Who is Iris Shun-Ru Chang?
Iris Shun-Ru Chang was a remarkable figure in the world of literature and journalism, leaving an indelible mark with her fearless pursuit of truth and unwavering commitment to social justice. Born on March 28, 1968, in New Jersey, Chang went on to become a highly influential Chinese-American author best known for her groundbreaking work, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II.
Chang’s career took off when she began working as a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, covering various topics ranging from politics to human rights issues. However, it was her extensive research and subsequent publication of The Rape of Nanking in 1997 that propelled her into the international spotlight. The book exposed the horrific atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during the occupation of Nanking in 1937-1938, shedding light on a long-forgotten chapter of history.
This seminal work not only brought widespread attention to the forgotten victims of the Nanking Massacre but also sparked a global conversation about war crimes, historical memory, and reconciliation. Chang’s thorough investigation, combined with her evocative storytelling, resonated with readers worldwide and solidified her reputation as a brave and insightful journalist.
Through her courage, intellect, and unwavering determination, Chang challenged the status quo and reshaped our understanding of historical events. Today, her work stands as a testament to the power of investigative journalism and the enduring influence of those who dare to shine a light on dark chapters of the past.
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20 Thought-Provoking Questions with Iris Shun-Ru Chang
1.Can you provide ten The Rape of Nanking quotes to our readers?
1.The world’s greatest massacre was not the work of a few individuals, but of a nation. The nation as a whole was involved in the massacre.
2. The conqueror writes history; they came, they conquered, and they write. And the conquered peoples write their own version of the conqueror’s record.
3. The Rape of Nanking will always be remembered as one of the worst atrocities in human history.
5. Hearts must be broad enough to see the suffering of all humanity.
6. Let the ordeals of the people of Nanking stand as a fateful sign that war is not the solution to conflicts.
7. History can repeat itself only if we let it.
8. The horrors of the Rape of Nanking were too unspeakable for words, leaving scars that no level of denial could ever erase.
9. If we neglect the lessons of history, we are bound to repeat its mistakes.
10. Even the darkest corners of humanity deserve to be brought into the light of truth and justice.
2. What inspired you to write this book?
I was motivated to write the book as a result of my personal connections to the history and my own experiences. Being of Chinese descent, I had heard stories from my grandparents about the atrocities committed during the Nanking Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, which took place in 1937-1938 during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
My grandfather was a survivor of the massacre, and these stories deeply impacted me. I felt compelled to shed light on this little-known historical event and expose the truth about the brutality and suffering endured by the Chinese people at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.
My determination to bring attention to the forgotten history of the Nanking Massacre and give a voice to the victims was a significant driving force behind my decision to write the book. By meticulously researching and documenting testimonies from survivors and conducting interviews with eyewitnesses, I aimed to ensure that this tragedy would not be forgotten and that its importance would be recognized on a global scale.
Through “The Rape of Nanking,” I sought to educate the world about the events that occurred in Nanking during that dark period and to raise awareness about the horrors of war and the consequences of unchecked aggression.
3. How did you approach researching the events that took place during the Nanking Massacre?
When approaching the research on the events that took place during the Nanking Massacre, it is crucial to adopt a comprehensive and rigorous approach. Here are some steps that could be taken:
Defining objectives: Clearly define the research objectives, such as understanding the historical context, analyzing eyewitness accounts, examining official records, or exploring academic studies.
Identifying primary and secondary sources: Locate and review primary sources, including diaries, letters, photographs, and interviews from survivors, witnesses, and participants in the events. Additionally, consult secondary sources like scholarly books, articles, documentaries, and reputable websites to gain different perspectives and interpretations.
Verifying sources: Verify the credibility and reliability of the sources used. Check for author expertise, academic affiliations, publication reputation, and peer reviews to ensure the information is accurate and unbiased.
Cross-referencing: Compare multiple sources to cross-reference facts, testimonies, and interpretations. Look for consistency across different accounts and consider the context in which they were written.
Analyzing multiple viewpoints: Explore varying opinions and interpretations of the Nanking Massacre by consulting works from different authors, historians, and scholars. Understanding different perspectives can help develop a more nuanced understanding of the events.
Engaging with academic debates: Pay attention to ongoing academic debates and discussions surrounding the topic. Assess the arguments presented by different experts, evaluating their evidence and reasoning.
4. Could you describe the impact of the Nanking Massacre on Chinese history and society?
The Nanking Massacre, which took place during the Sino-Japanese War from December 1937 to January 1938, had a profound and lasting impact on Chinese history and society. Also known as the Rape of Nanking, this tragic event involved the Japanese Imperial Army’s invasion and brutal occupation of the then-capital city of China, Nanking (now Nanjing).
One significant impact of the Nanking Massacre was the loss of human life. Estimates vary, but it is believed that hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were killed, and many others were subjected to extreme violence, torture, and sexual assault. The scale and brutality of this atrocity left an indelible mark on the collective memory of the Chinese people.
Moreover, the Nanking Massacre had far-reaching consequences in shaping Chinese society and its perception of Japan. The trauma experienced by survivors and their families led to long-lasting psychological scars and intergenerational trauma. The heinous acts committed by the Japanese soldiers created a deep sense of anger, grief, and resentment among the Chinese population, fostering a strong anti-Japanese sentiment that persists even today.
The event also played a crucial role in shaping Chinese national identity and unity against foreign aggression. The Nanking Massacre served as a rallying point for resistance against Japanese imperialism and became a symbol of China’s struggle for independence and justice. It helped galvanize support for the Chinese nationalist government and further strengthened the resolve of Chinese people to fight for their country’s sovereignty.
5. Did you face any challenges or obstacles while gathering information for the book?
Gathering information for a book can often be a challenging and complex process. Researching and collecting accurate and comprehensive data requires extensive time, effort, and perseverance. Some challenges encounter include:
Access to information sources: Locating and obtaining reliable sources of information can be difficult, especially if they are not readily available or require special permissions. Limited access to archives, restricted documents, or confidential interviews can hinder the research process.
Validating sources: Ensuring the credibility and accuracy of sources is crucial. Verifying the authenticity and reliability of facts, statistics, and firsthand accounts can be demanding and time-consuming.
Information overload and organization: Dealing with an overwhelming amount of research material can be challenging. Sorting, organizing, and analyzing the collected information to draw meaningful conclusions and maintain a coherent narrative may require meticulous planning and note-taking strategies.
Language barriers and translation: If researching materials in languages other than the author’s native tongue, language barriers can pose difficulties. Translating information accurately or relying on translated sources might introduce potential inaccuracies or nuanced interpretations.
6. How did you decide on the narrative structure for “The Rape of Nanking”?
When approaching the topic of the Nanking Massacre, one of the primary goals was to present a comprehensive account that conveyed the depth and scale of the tragedy. To achieve this, I wanted to incorporate multiple perspectives and sources so that readers could gain a more nuanced understanding of the events.
With this in mind, I chose to utilize a combination of personal testimonies, historical records, and eyewitness accounts from both Chinese and Japanese sources. By weaving together these diverse narratives, I aimed to create a gripping and emotionally resonant portrayal of the horrors endured during that period.
To structure the book, I divided it into three distinct sections. The first section establishes the historical context leading up to the Nanking Massacre, providing essential background information. This sets the stage for readers to comprehend the full impact of the subsequent events.
The second section delves into the heart of the massacre itself, recounting the brutalities inflicted upon the people of Nanking. This part employs personal anecdotes and survivor testimonies to humanize the victims and convey the magnitude of their suffering.
In the final section, I explore the aftermath of the massacre, including the international response and the attempts to seek justice. This segment allows readers to reflect on the broader implications and consequences of such atrocities.
7. What motivated you to focus on individual stories and experiences of survivors?
The motivation behind my focus on individual stories and experiences of survivors stems from the belief that hearing personal narratives is essential for understanding larger historical events. As a writer and journalist, I am deeply committed to giving a voice to those who have experienced significant hardships and traumas.
By focusing on individual stories, I aim to humanize historical events, making them more relatable and accessible to a wider audience. Survivors’ experiences provide a unique perspective on the complex emotions, struggles, and resilience they exhibit in the face of adversity.
Sharing these stories helps to challenge misconceptions, combat indifference, and foster empathy. It allows others to connect with the lived experiences of survivors, enabling a deeper understanding of the consequences of war, violence, or other traumatic events.
Furthermore, by highlighting individual stories, I aim to honor the strength and courage of survivors. Their narratives serve as testaments to the indomitable human spirit, inspiring others while commemorating the resilience and dignity of those who have endured unimaginable suffering.
8. Were there any particular survivor accounts that deeply affected you while writing the book?
In my book, “The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II,” I extensively documented the atrocities that occurred during the 1937 Nanking Massacre. It is evident that survivor accounts deeply affected me during the process of researching and writing the book.
I interviewed numerous survivors of the Nanking Massacre, whose stories provided firsthand evidence of the horrors they experienced. The testimonies of these survivors were powerful and moving, leaving a lasting impact on me and shaping my understanding of the immense suffering endured by the Chinese people during this tragic event.
Through my meticulous research and empathy towards the survivors, I sought to shed light on the forgotten history of the Nanking Massacre and give voice to those who had been silenced for decades. By incorporating their personal accounts into my work, I aimed to create a more complete and compassionate narrative of this historical tragedy.
9. In your opinion, how has the perception of the Nanking Massacre evolved over time?
Initial denial and lack of awareness: After the events occurred in 1937-1938 during the Sino-Japanese War, there was limited international recognition of the atrocities committed in Nanking (now Nanjing). News reports and photographs by Western journalists began to emerge, shedding light on the brutality, but public awareness remained limited.
Acknowledgment and testimonies: In the post-WWII period, with the Tokyo Trials held to prosecute war criminals, the Nanking Massacre gained more attention. Survivors’ testimonies, such as those from Chinese citizens and foreign missionaries, played a crucial role in documenting the extent of the massacre.
Revisionist perspectives and debates: In the 1990s, some Japanese right-wing nationalists began questioning the scale of the Nanking Massacre, arguing that the numbers were exaggerated for political purposes. This led to heated debates among historians and increased public interest.
Broader international recognition: Over time, more scholars and researchers outside of China have conducted investigations, leading to a growing acceptance of the estimated death toll, which ranges from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Today, the overwhelming consensus among historians is that the Nanking Massacre was a horrific event involving widespread war crimes.
Ongoing remembrance and commemoration: Efforts to remember and honor the victims of the Nanking Massacre have increased worldwide. Memorial halls, museums, and educational initiatives have been established, aiming to raise awareness, promote reconciliation, and prevent similar atrocities in the future.
10. How do you approach telling difficult stories like the Nanking Massacre while maintaining empathy and sensitivity towards the victims and survivors?
As an author and journalist, I always strive to approach the telling of difficult stories like the Nanking Massacre with utmost empathy and sensitivity towards the victims and survivors. Here are some key principles I follow:
Extensive research: I believe in conducting thorough research to understand the historical context, gathering primary and secondary sources, and interviewing survivors or their families. This allows me to present an accurate and comprehensive account of the events while honoring the experiences of those involved.
Balanced representation: It is crucial to give voice to the victims and survivors by sharing their individual stories, experiences, and perspectives. By highlighting their accounts, I aim to honor their memory and ensure that their voices resonate through my work.
Respecting cultural nuances: When dealing with such sensitive topics, it is important to approach them with cultural sensitivity and respect for the affected communities. I strive to understand the cultural context surrounding the event, the cultural significance of it, and acknowledge the impact it has had on individuals and communities over time.
Maintaining empathy: Empathy plays a pivotal role in conveying the gravity of such tragedies while preserving the humanity of the victims. I attempt to put myself in the shoes of those affected, acknowledging their pain and suffering, and conveying their emotions through my writing.
Ethical storytelling: Throughout the process, I consider the ethical implications of my storytelling choices. I aim to strike a balance between presenting the truth without sensationalizing or exploiting the suffering of the victims. Respecting their dignity and privacy becomes paramount in portraying their experiences.
11. What was the role of international observers during the Nanking Massacre, and how did their presence impact the situation?
During the Nanking Massacre in 1937-1938, which took place during the Second Sino-Japanese War, international observers played a limited role due to various factors. However, some individuals and organizations did try to document and report on the atrocities taking place in Nanking (now known as Nanjing), China.
One of the most notable international observers was John Rabe, a German businessman and member of the Nazi Party. Rabe established the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, which aimed to create a safe area in Nanking for Chinese civilians. The Safety Zone provided shelter, food, and medical aid to thousands of Chinese refugees. Rabe and his colleagues documented the horrors they witnessed, including mass killings, rapes, and looting, and sent detailed reports to their respective governments and international organizations.
Another significant observer was Miner Searle Bates, an American who worked at Ginling College in Nanking. Bates also documented the atrocities and coordinated relief efforts within the Safety Zone. He compiled testimonies, photographs, and other evidence that later served as important sources for understanding the massacre.
Although the presence of these international observers did not halt the violence entirely, their documentation of the events helped raise awareness globally. Their reports were published in newspapers and journals outside of China, exposing the Japanese Imperial Army’s brutal actions in Nanking. The presence of international observers and subsequent media coverage contributed to the growing outrage and condemnation of the massacre.
12. How did you balance presenting historical evidence with maintaining an engaging writing style in the book?
Firstly, I conducted extensive research to gather a wealth of historical evidence and facts related to the topic at hand. This allowed me to present a solid foundation to support my arguments and claims throughout the book. I made sure to include primary sources, such as interviews, diaries, and letters, which provided firsthand accounts and added authenticity to the narrative.
However, it was equally important to ensure that the book did not become overwhelming or dry for readers. I aimed to maintain an engaging writing style by incorporating storytelling techniques. Rather than presenting a mere recitation of facts, I weaved together personal stories, anecdotes, and vivid descriptions to create a more relatable and immersive reading experience. By humanizing historical events and figures, I sought to capture readers’ attention and evoke emotional responses.
Additionally, I employed literary devices, such as foreshadowing, suspense, and dramatic tension, to heighten the narrative’s impact. These tools allowed me to maintain momentum and intrigue, making the historical information more accessible and stimulating.
While it was essential to present historical evidence accurately, I also strived for clarity and conciseness. Complex concepts were explained in simple terms whenever possible, ensuring that readers from diverse backgrounds could comprehend the material without sacrificing intellectual rigor.
13. What are your thoughts on the role of literature in bringing attention to historical atrocities and promoting social justice?
I believe that literature plays a crucial role in bringing attention to historical atrocities and promoting social justice. Literature has the power to delve into the depths of human experiences and emotions, allowing readers to gain insight into the lives of individuals affected by past injustices.
Through storytelling, literature can shed light on forgotten or marginalized narratives, ensuring that these historical atrocities are not erased or diminished over time. By examining the struggles, suffering, and resilience of individuals and communities, literature helps to humanize the victims of these atrocities, fostering empathy and understanding among readers.
Moreover, literature can serve as a powerful tool for raising awareness about social issues and promoting conversations around justice and equality. It has the capacity to challenge prevailing narratives, question established norms, and inspire readers to question and reevaluate their own perspectives. By offering alternative viewpoints and presenting a range of voices, literature encourages critical thinking and fosters a sense of collective responsibility.
In addition, literature has the potential to ignite social change by inspiring activism, encouraging introspection, and motivating readers to take action. By creating emotionally resonant stories and characters, literature can evoke strong emotions and empathy, which can stimulate readers to stand up against injustice and advocate for positive societal transformation.
14. How did you ensure the accuracy and credibility of the information presented in your book?
Ensuring the accuracy and credibility of information in a book requires a thorough research process and rigorous fact-checking. Here are some steps that can be taken:
Extensive research: The author should conduct in-depth research on the topic, consulting a wide range of reliable sources such as academic papers, books, reputable websites, and interviews with experts. Multiple perspectives and viewpoints should be considered to present a comprehensive view.
Identifying reliable sources: It is crucial to verify the credibility and reputation of the sources used. Academic institutions, established experts in the field, government publications, and well-respected organizations often provide reliable information. Peer-reviewed journals and publications can also help ensure accuracy.
Cross-referencing: To enhance credibility, information from multiple sources should be cross-referenced. This helps identify any inconsistencies or biases and ensures that the facts presented are supported by multiple reliable sources.
Fact-checking: Authors should carefully fact-check all information before including it in the book. This involves verifying details, statistics, dates, names, and any claims made. Fact-checking can include contacting experts or individuals knowledgeable in the subject matter.
Editorial review: A thorough editorial process involving professional editors and subject matter experts can help identify any inaccuracies or potential biases. This review process enhances the overall credibility of the book.
15. Looking back at your career as an author and journalist, what are some of the most important lessons you have learned?
Looking back at my career as an author and journalist, there are several important lessons I have learned:
Research is paramount: Thorough research forms the foundation of any piece of writing or investigative journalism. It not only helps in crafting well-informed stories but also ensures accuracy and credibility.
Empathy and human connection matter: Writing about people’s lives and experiences requires empathy and understanding. Connecting with individuals on a personal level allows for a deeper understanding of their stories and enhances the ability to communicate their experiences effectively.
The power of storytelling: Stories have a unique way of resonating with readers. Crafting compelling narratives enables me to educate, inspire, and bring attention to important social issues. A well-told story has the potential to create lasting impact and effect change.
Adaptability is key: The media landscape is constantly evolving, and as an author and journalist, it is essential to adapt to new technologies, platforms, and mediums. Embracing change and being open to new approaches helps me reach a broader audience and stay relevant in today’s fast-paced world.
Persistence and resilience: Writing can be challenging, and rejection is a part of the process. However, it’s important to embrace constructive criticism, learn from setbacks, and persist despite obstacles. Developing resilience and maintaining a sense of purpose are crucial for long-term success in this field.
16. What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to tackle sensitive and historically significant topics in their work?
Tackling sensitive and historically significant topics in writing requires careful consideration and thoughtful approach. Here are a few pieces of advice that aspiring writers can keep in mind:
Thorough research: Before delving into a sensitive or historically significant topic, invest time in conducting extensive research. This includes studying primary and secondary sources, interviewing experts, and immersing oneself in the subject matter. A solid understanding of the topic will help maintain accuracy and credibility throughout the writing process.
Cultivate empathy: When writing about sensitive topics, it’s crucial to approach them with empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of those affected by the topic and strive to understand their experiences, perspectives, and emotions. Empathy will enable you to handle the subject matter with sensitivity and nuance.
Respectful representation: Representing historically significant events or marginalized communities in an accurate and respectful manner is essential. Be mindful of stereotypes, biases, and generalizations that may perpetuate harmful narratives. Seek authentic voices from the communities involved and consult with sensitivity readers who can provide valuable insight.
Engage in dialogue: Sensitivity around certain topics often arises due to their historical significance. Engaging in open conversations with experts, historians, and individuals directly affected by these topics can offer valuable insights. Actively listen, learn from their experiences, and incorporate different perspectives into your work to ensure a well-rounded portrayal.
17. What do you hope readers will take away from “The Rape of Nanking”?
I hope that readers take away several key lessons from my book. Firstly, it is essential to remember and acknowledge historical events, especially those marked by immense suffering. By learning about and understanding past horrors, we can work towards preventing such atrocities from occurring again.
Secondly, “The Rape of Nanking” emphasizes the importance of empathy and compassion for the victims of war crimes. It invites readers to empathize with the survivors and their families, providing a platform for their stories to be heard and acknowledged.
Thirdly, by exposing the truth about the Nanking Massacre, the book aims to encourage justice and accountability. It calls upon individuals, communities, and nations to confront and address the dark chapters of their history honestly, acknowledging the harm caused and taking steps towards reconciliation.
Ultimately, I hope that readers will come away from “The Rape of Nanking” with a renewed commitment to human rights, a deeper understanding of the consequences of unchecked violence, and a determination to promote peace, justice, and compassion in our world.
18. How has writing this book shaped your perspective on humanity and the potential for both good and evil?
Writing a book about a complex topic such as humanity and the potential for both good and evil can have a profound impact on MY perspective. Exploring these themes in-depth requires delving into the depths of human behavior, motivations, and societal structures. It can reveal the inherent complexities and contradictions within individuals and communities.
Through writing this book, I come to realize that humanity has the capacity for immense goodness and compassion. It can demonstrate the resilience, empathy, and kindness that people exhibit even in the face of challenging circumstances. By highlighting acts of bravery, selflessness, and altruism, the book can inspire readers to believe in the inherent goodness that exists within each person.
At the same time, writing about the potential for evil exposes the darker aspects of humanity. It can shed light on the destructive forces that drive individuals and societies towards cruelty, discrimination, and injustice. This exploration may uncover uncomfortable truths about the depths to which humans can sink when driven by hatred, greed, or ignorance.
Overall, writing a book on these topics can shape my perspective by providing a nuanced understanding of the complexities of human nature. It offers an opportunity to reflect on the potential for both good and evil that resides within us all.
19. What impact do you hope your book will have on readers, particularly in terms of understanding history and promoting social awareness?
The impact I hope my book will have on readers is twofold: enhancing their understanding of history and promoting social awareness. First and foremost, my intention is to provide readers with a deeper understanding of historical events and their significance. Through meticulous research and storytelling, I aim to bring history to life, making it more accessible and engaging for readers.
By delving into the untold stories and perspectives that often remain hidden in traditional historical accounts, my book seeks to challenge preconceived notions and shed light on lesser-known aspects of history. It aims to inspire readers to question prevailing narratives, encouraging them to explore multiple perspectives and uncover the complexities of historical events.
Furthermore, I aspire to promote social awareness through the pages of my book. By examining the societal and cultural contexts surrounding historical events, I aim to foster empathy and encourage readers to reflect upon the impact of these events on individuals and societies. Through this lens, readers can develop a greater appreciation for the interconnectedness of past and present, allowing them to draw relevant lessons that can inform their understanding of contemporary issues.
20. Finally, can you recommend more books which you think can influence readers like The Rape of Nanking ?
“A History Of The World In 6 Glasses” by Tom Standage, it takes readers on an intriguing exploration of the social, cultural, and political impact of key drinks throughout history.
“The Information” by James Gleick, it takes readers on an intellectual journey that spans centuries, exploring the fundamental nature of information and its profound impact on humanity. Drawing from fields as diverse as mathematics, linguistics, computer science, and biology, he weaves together a captivating narrative that illuminates the intricacies of this intangible yet powerful force.
“Embracing Defeat” by John W. Dower, it presents an in-depth analysis of the multifaceted challenges faced by the defeated Japanese society during the seven-year occupation led by the United States. Drawing from an extensive range of primary sources, including diaries, letters, government documents, and popular media, he delves into the complexities of post-war Japanese culture, politics, and identity.