Feature: Nanjing Massacre survivor records testimony in LA

by Chenchen Shen

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) — Plainly dressed in a dark gray suit, 87-year-old Xia Shuqin seemed no different from any other suburban Chinese lady. However, her weatherworn face and her determined eyes suggested that her story was different: She had survived the Nanjing Massacre.

It was Dec. 13, 1937. “Around 9 or 10 a.m., the Japanese invaded our house,” Xia remembered vividly. “My father was killed immediately after they broke in. My grandparents, my parents, my sisters, everyone was scared and crying. Seven out of nine of my family members were killed.”

For the first time, Xia was invited to the United States to film a documentary about the Nanjing Massacre by the University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to conducting audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides.

At a welcome gathering last Sunday, Xia shared her story with the Chinese community in Los Angeles for the first time.

Only Xia and her then four-year-old sister survived. “I was stabbed three times and passed out. When I woke up, I found myself covered with blood,” Xia said with tears in her eyes.


Her legs were trembling but she insisted to stand on the stage for the whole speech. “I heard my sister crying and looking for our mom. But everyone else had died.”

It was not easy for an 87-year-old to travel across the world, but Xia made it in order to preserve her testimony, to let more people know what had happened in Nanjing in 1937, since the Japanese government has been consistently trying to deny the Nanjing Massacre.


In October 2015, documents related to the Nanjing Massacre were included in the “Memory of the World” program of theUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). However, the Japanese government kept raising questions about this decision. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed on Oct. 14 that Japan had suspended this year’s contribution to UNESCO.


The USC Shoah Foundation has been working with the Memorial Hall of the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders since 2012, to document testimonies from survivors.

“We hope that the pressure of people knowing the reality of the history will bring pressure on the (Japanese) government, and sooner or later, they will admit to their mistake,” Prof. Amanda Pope, director of the documentary, told Xinhua.

The documentary is called “Two Sides of Survival.” With a new 3D technology, this film offers viewers an interactive experience. “When you come in to see her testimony on film, it will feel like she is actually talking to you,” Pope said.


All the questions viewers may ask about Xia’s experience would be put into a computer. When a viewer asks a question, the computer picks up the key words, like “genocide” or “Nanjing,” and automatically “answers the question” by playing the related interview clips.

“It will look like she is responding to you personally, so it will have a much greater impact,” Pope said.


The Shoah Foundation conducted over 53,000 testimonies of genocide, including the Holocaust, the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the Nanjing Massacre.

“To include the Nanjing Massacre in their project, to present the testimony from a third party, makes it even more undeniable for the Japanese government,” Mark Liu, founder of the Righteous Quest Foundation, told Xinhua.

There are only 113 survivors still alive and the oldest one is over 100 years old, said Lu Yanming, scholar at the Memorial Hall of the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. “The work of collecting testimonies will be harder and harder.”

“I thought a lot before I came here, considering my age,” Xia said, “but I want to tell people about this (chapter of) history. I hope the younger generations will remember this (chapter of) history, to remember how much pain the Japanese invaders brought to us, how deeply they hurt us. I hope they will oppose war and cherish peace.”

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