Nanjing requiem, p.1
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       Nanjing Requiem, p.1

Nanjing Requiem


  ALSO BY HA JIN

  Between Silences

  Facing Shadows

  Ocean of Words

  Under the Red Flag

  In the Pond

  Waiting

  The Bridegroom

  Wreckage

  The Crazed

  War Trash

  A Free Life

  The Writer as Migrant

  A Good Fall

  THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. ALL INCIDENTS AND DIALOGUE, AND ALL CHARACTERS WITH THE EXCEPTION OF SOME WELL-KNOWN HISTORICAL AND PUBLIC FIGURES, ARE PRODUCTS OF THE AUTHOR’S IMAGINATION AND ARE NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS REAL. WHERE REAL-LIFE HISTORICAL OR PUBLIC FIGURES APPEAR, THE SITUATIONS, INCIDENTS, AND DIALOGUES CONCERNING THOSE PERSONS ARE FICTIONAL AND ARE NOT INTENDED TO DEPICT ACTUAL EVENTS OR TO CHANGE THE FICTIONAL NATURE OF THE WORK. IN ALL OTHER RESPECTS, ANY RESEMBLANCE TO PERSONS LIVING OR DEAD IS ENTIRELY COINCIDENTAL.

  COPYRIGHT © 2011 BY HA JIN

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES BY PANTHEON BOOKS, A DIVISION OF RANDOM HOUSE, INC., NEW YORK, AND IN CANADA BY RANDOM HOUSE OF CANADA LIMITED, TORONTO.

  PANTHEON BOOKS AND COLOPHON ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF RANDOM HOUSE, INC.

  GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT IS MADE TO SUPING LU FOR PERMISSION TO REPRINT HIS MAP OF GINLING COLLEGE, COPYRIGHT © 2007 BY SUPING LU, ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TERROR IN MINNIE VAUTRIN’S NANJING: DIARIES AND CORRESPONDENCE, 1937–38, BY MINNIE VAUTRIN, EDITED BY SUPING LU (UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS, 2008).

  LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

  JIN, HA, [DATE]

  NANJING REQUIEM / HA JIN.

  P. CM.

  eISBN: 978-0-307-38101-9

  1. WOMEN MISSIONARIES — FICTION. 2. AMERICANS — CHINA — FICTION. 3. SINO–JAPANESE WAR, 1937–1945 — CHINA — NANJING (JIANGSU SHENG) — FICTION. 4. NANJING, BATTLE OF, NANJING, JIANGSU SHENG, CHINA, 1937 — FICTION.

  5. SELF-ACTUALIZATION (PSYCHOLOGY) IN WOMEN — FICTION. I. TITLE.

  PS3560.16N36 2011 813′ .54 — DC22 2010047608

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  JACKET DESIGN BY EVAN GAFFNEY DESIGN

  v3.1

  For Lisha, who also gave birth to this book

  CONTENTS

  Cover

  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Ginling College 1937

  ONE • The Fall of the Capital

  TWO • The Goddess of Mercy

  THREE • All the Madness

  FOUR • The Grief Everlasting

  Epilogue

  AUTHOR’S NOTE

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  About the Author

  ONE

  The Fall of the Capital

  FINALLY BAN 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 tell 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. There’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’d 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 ordered us to undress and get into the water to bring out the fish. I 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 the 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 fifteen pounds.

  “The soldiers had fried fish for dinner but didn’t give us anything to eat. Instead, they made us pick up horse droppings left by their cavalry with our bare hands. At dusk they took us to an ammo dump to load a truck. More Chinese were there working for them, eleven in total. We carried boxes of bullets onto the truck. When the loading was done, three fellows and I were ordered to go with the truck to Hsia Gwan. I was shocked to see so many houses burned down in that area. Lots of buildings were still burning, and the flames snapped and howled like a rushing wind. The electric poles along the way were blazing like huge torches. Only the Yangtze Hotel and a church stood undamaged. We stopped at a little slope and unloaded the truck. Near the riverbank a large crowd had gathered, more than a thousand people. Some of them were Chinese soldiers and some were civilians, including women and kids. A couple of men in the crowd raised white flags, and a white sheet was dangling from a tree. Beyond the people, three tanks with their turrets like large upside-down basins were standing on the embankment, their guns pointing at the crowd. Near us some Japanese soldiers were sitting around a battle flag planted in the ground, drinking rice wine from a large keg wrapped in straw matting. An officer came over and barked out some orders, but the soldiers at the heavy machine guns did nothing and just looked at one another. The officer got furious. He drew his sword and hit a soldier with the back of it. Thwack, thwack, thwack. Then his eyes fell on us Chinese coolies squatting close by. Raising his sword, he gave a loud cry, charged at the tallest one among us, and slashed off his head. Two squirts of blood shot into the air more than three feet high and the man fell over without a whimper. We all dropped to our knees and banged our heads on the ground, begging for mercy. I peed my pants.

  “The soldiers at the machine guns were flabbergasted. Then one of the guns began firing, and the other two followed. In a flash the machine guns posted at other spots started shooting too. So did the tanks. The crowd was swirling around, crying and falling, but the people were trapped. Every bullet cut down several of them. In less than ten minutes they were all mowed down. Then groups of soldiers carrying fixed bayonets went over to finish off those who were still breathing. I was so horrified that I couldn’t stop trembling and crying. One fellow worker grabbed hold of my hair and shook me, saying, ‘Don’t make so much noise—it will draw attention.’ That stopped me.

  “We returned with the truck to carry loot for the soldiers, mainly furniture. They didn’t keep all the stuff and threw lots of things into the big bonfire in front of their regimental headquarters. Over the fire were pigs and sheep and quarters of a buffalo skewed with long steel bars, and a couple of boiling cauldrons. The air was full of the smell of roasted meat. That night they locked us in a room and gave us each a ball of rice and a cup of water. The next two days they took us to the area east of the Central University to carry loot for them again. They stripped every house of its valuables and then torched it. One soldier carried a safe cracker, but most times they didn’t use the tool and just blew the safes open with hand grenades fixed to their bottoms, where the iron was thinner. They were very fond of wristwatches and jewelry—those were what they were after. One of them, a young fellow, even took a baby carriage. I couldn’t stop wondering what he’d do with that. He was too young to have kids.

  “Afterward, they whisked six of us out farther east to Jurong Town, and we worked there for a whole day, moving artillery rounds and shell casings. In the evening they released us and said we could go home. Dog-tired, we slowly started trekking home in the dark. The first
night we covered only ten miles. Along the way every pond and creek had dead bodies in it, humans and animals, and the water had changed color. When we were thirsty, we had no choice but to drink the foul water. Oh, I still can smell the stink of the decaying corpses. Some of them had eyeballs sticking two or three inches out of their faces, probably due to the gas built up inside them. We once came across a young woman’s body with one foot missing, dark blood still oozing out of the stump; on her other foot was a small purple shoe—she had bound feet. Some women were naked from the waist down, stabbed to death after the Japs had raped them. My legs would keep on shaking whenever we passed a pile of corpses.

  “Again and again we were stopped by Japanese soldiers. Lucky for us, the officer who had released us wrote a note, so the guards along the way didn’t arrest us and allowed us to come back to Nanjing. One of the fellows, dehydrated from diarrhea, couldn’t walk anymore. We could do nothing but leave him behind on the roadside. He must be dead now. Not far from where we left him, we stumbled into a little boy, two or three years old, sitting at a deserted bus stop and crying from hunger pangs. I gave him a piece of pancake, but before he could eat it, four Japs came and prodded him with their boots. One of them pulled out his dick and started peeing into the boy’s mouth. The boy was crying louder and louder while the Japs cracked up. We dared not watch for long, so we moved on. I’m sure the other three Japs did the same to the boy. He’d be lucky if they didn’t kill him.

  “Oh, human lives suddenly became worthless, dead bodies everywhere, some with their bellies cut open, intestines spilled out, and some half burned with gasoline. The Japs killed so many people that they polluted streams, ponds, and wells everywhere, and they themselves couldn’t find clean water to drink anymore. Even the rice they ate was reddish because they had to use bloody water to cook it. Once a Japanese messman gave us some bowls of rice, and after I ate it, I had the taste of blood in my mouth for hours. To tell the truth, I never thought I would make it back and see you folks again. Now my pulse still gallops in the middle of the night.”

  While Ban was speaking, I jotted down what he said.

  1

  MORNING, ANLING,” Minnie greeted me as I was approaching the Central Building, the largest one at Jinling Women’s College. Together we headed for President Wu’s quarters in the Southern Hill Residence, where we were scheduled for breakfast. The late November air was frosty, and I could see wisps of breath hanging around people’s faces when we passed them. A skein of mallards was drifting north, squawking loudly, their wings paddling like tiny oars. Then the whole flock became invisible in the livid sky. The mountainous clouds looked heavy with rain, which meant that no Japanese bombers would come today. So in spite of the cold and damp weather, people would say “Such a nice day” when they met. Overcast skies put everyone in a better mood.

  Dr. Wu had been sorting and packing the school’s papers because she was planning to take some of them away with her. A number of our Chinese faculty members had also been preparing to leave. Many staffers had nowhere to go, yet they too were busy, hiding away food and valuables. Minnie hadn’t packed a thing. As the dean of the college, she wanted to remain behind. She told me, “If I lose anything, I might lose all.”

  Dr. Wu was waiting for us, in cheerful spirits. On the table were toasted slices of baguette, a bar of butter in a dish, a sauceboat of jam, and a jar of mayonnaise. At the sight of the Western breakfast, Minnie’s eyes twinkled. She said, “Wow, I’ve been eating rice porridge and salted peanuts every morning for weeks. Where did you get these?”

  “Madame Chiang gave them to me yesterday,” Dr. Wu answered, adjusting her eyeglasses with her fingertips. She often went to see the first lady, as both of them had been educated in the United States—Madame Chiang had gone to Wellesley and Dr. Wu had earned her PhD in entomology from the University of Michigan. She’d been an executive member of the Women’s War Relief Association headed by Madame Chiang and had held many meetings and rallies to garner support for our army and to solicit donations for orphanages and refugees. Dr. Wu was a minor celebrity, the first Chinese woman who had earned a doctorate in the United States. She was one of the first five graduates of Jinling and had succeeded Mrs. Dennison as its president in 1928, when our government stipulated that all foreign colleges and universities in China must be headed by Chinese citizens. “Sit down. Let’s eat while we talk,” Dr. Wu told us. She was wearing a black silk tunic with a brass button like a huge coin at its neck. Despite being in her late thirties, she looked youthful, with bright vivid eyes and high cheekbones, probably because she wasn’t married and had never been burdened with children and housework.

  I poured boiled water from a thermos into three mugs to dissolve the powdered milk and then handed Dr. Wu and Minnie each a mug.

  “Thanks,” Minnie said, spreading the toast thinly with both jam and mayonnaise. She took a bite. “Hmm, what a treat! I wish there were eggs scrambled with ham, cheese, and mushrooms,” she said in her slightly accented Mandarin. “How I miss a hearty Midwestern breakfast.”

  “Me too,” Dr. Wu said. “I miss bacon.”

  We all laughed. I took a sip of the hot milk, which tasted rich and sweetish. I wished I could save my mug for Fanfan, my two-year-old grandson.

  Our school’s board of founders in New York had just instructed Dr. Wu to join the Jinling group that had recently moved to Chengdu, in western China, while Minnie Vautrin, as she herself had requested, was to stay behind in Nanjing as the head of our college for the time being. Dr. Wu had asked me, and I had agreed, to remain here and help Minnie run the school. The three of us still needed to make plans for safeguarding the campus. The valuables in our vault would be packed in a huge portmanteau to be delivered to the U.S. embassy. We dreaded being looted by Chinese troops, who were notorious for their unruliness, especially when they were frustrated and desperate.

  “The embassy is going to evacuate onto the Panay, I’m told,” Minnie said, referring to a U.S. gunboat.

  “That’s all right.” Dr. Wu sloshed her milk and took a mouthful. “It will be safer to put our stuff in their charge.”

  “Where should we hide our cash?” I asked.

  We all believed that soon no bank would be open in town and there would be widespread shortages. Dr. Wu smiled and suggested that we leave one hundred yuan in the vault and hide the rest, more than four thousand in total, in different places known only to Minnie and me. Minnie asked me, “Isn’t Mrs. Dennison’s silver in the vault too?”

  “Yes, what should we do about that?” I said.

  “Is it an expensive set?” asked Dr. Wu.

  “I don’t know.”

  “It’s her wedding silver,” Minnie replied, “a fancy set, probably worth four hundred yuan.”

  “Pack it into the portmanteau,” said the president.

  Minnie briefed us about the work that the International Committee for the Nanjing Safety Zone had been doing. That relief association had just been established by some foreigners who were remaining behind despite their embassies’ urging them to leave. The Safety Zone would be a neutral district in the center of Nanjing, in an area of about two and a half square miles, where foreign embassies, consulates, and some mission schools were located; it was meant to provide sanctuary for noncombatants. The city officials supported the foreigners’ effort and had given them eighty thousand yuan in cash and forty-five tons of rice and flour to set up camps for refugees. Thank heaven the rice crop was good in the Yangtze Valley this year. So there was plenty of rice in the city, but trucks were at a premium and often commandeered by the military, and so were unavailable for transporting the promised rations into the neutral zone. Some departing troops would have burned hundreds of tons of rice stored near the riverside in Hsia Gwan if the Safety Zone Committee had not intervened. Generalissimo Chiang had personally offered a hundred thousand yuan to the committee as well, though to date only forty thousand had been delivered. The Japanese authorities, whom the committee had contacted
by way of the U.S. embassy, did not respond directly to the proposal concerning the neutral zone but stated that the Imperial Army would “try to respect the district as far as consistent with military necessity.”

  The Safety Zone Committee was composed of fifteen men—Americans and Europeans, most of them missionaries, as well as some businessmen and academics. It was chaired by John Rabe, a fifty-five-year-old German and the representative of the Nanjing office of Siemens, the company that had built our city’s telephone system, maintained the turbines of our power plant, and supplied modern equipment for our hospitals. Rabe also ran a small German school, which he would open, together with his home, to the refugees. There were no women on the Safety Zone Committee, because it was understood that its members might have to run unimaginable risks, including confronting the soldiers in person. Two American women, however, were actively involved in the relief work: Minnie Vautrin and Holly Thornton, a widow of forty who was now a naturalized Chinese citizen. Holly, a friend of mine, was a part-time English broadcaster. Both Minnie and Holly were on the Nanjing International Red Cross Committee, which was headed by Reverend John Magee. Some of the American men were on both the Safety Zone Committee and the Red Cross Committee.

  Having heard Minnie’s report about the relief work and the prospect of using Jinling as a refugee camp for women and children, Dr. Wu lowered her head, her hair short like an overgrown crew cut and her eyes dim and watery. She turned pensive for a moment, then said to Minnie, “Do whatever you feel is appropriate and necessary. I can’t stop thinking about how badly the foreigners were treated here ten years ago. Now, only a group of foreigners can help the refugees. What a shame.”

  Dr. Wu was referring to the attacks by the Chinese army on foreigners in 1927. In March of that year, the troops had gone on a rampage, plundering, burning, and destroying foreign schools and residences. It was believed that the Communists had instigated the violence to frame Chiang Kai-shek and damage his relations with the West. Some soldiers beat up foreigners and assaulted women. A platoon broke into Jinling and carried off several microscopes from a biology laboratory and some staffers’ personal belongings. At Nanjing University six foreign men were shot dead. I remembered how some missionaries had climbed down the city wall and scrambled onto American and British gunboats, which had been laying down a barrage inside the city to keep the Chinese troops from approaching a group of foreigners trapped on a hill. Eventually all the Westerners fled Nanjing, and Minnie and our other foreign faculty members went to Tsingtao and dared not come back to teach. It looked as if that was the end of their mission work here, but some of them returned six months later. Minnie was the very first to come back, eager to complete the construction of a dorm building and the rose garden.

 
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