In loving commemoration of Iris Chang -
A Powerful Voice for Victims of the Forgotten Asian Holocaust
1968 - 2004
Best-selling author of The Rape of Nanking left us on the morning of November 9, 2004.
Ms. Chang was born in Princeton, New Jersey and grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. She earned a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Science Writing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. She worked at the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune before devoting herself exclusively to her own writing.
Chang was only twenty-three years old when she published her first book. Relying upon her fluency in Mandarin, she researched in both the US and China the life of Tsien Hsue-shen, the brilliant Chinese-born physicist who helped pioneer the American space age, only to be driven from the space program and the United States by McCarthy-era paranoia. The book was published to wide critical acclaim in November 1995, including a front-page Washington Post Book World review.
Chang became part of a generation of young Americans of Chinese descent organizing in America to protest Chinese government action at Tiananmen Square. This group discovered they shared something else--their parents had all spoken of an event in Chinese history that was more horrific than anything these young people could imagine. The parents referred to it as "The Rape of Nanking." Yet none of them could find books in the library for the general interest reader to tell them anything more about the event. Chang decided to research that story and write that book herself.
"This is a book I really had to write," she said in an interview. "I wrote it out of a sense of rage. I didn't really care if I made a cent from it. It was important to me that the world knew what happened in Nanking back in 1937."
While doing her research, she learned that a German member of the Nazi Party, living in Nanking at the time of the Rape had kept a previously unpublished diary. She tracked down his heirs, and the diary became a key part of the historical record of that event, confirming the horrific stories told by the Chinese.
The Rape of Nanking became an international best seller, remaining on The New York Times best-seller list for many months. The columnist George Will wrote of her book: "Something beautiful, an act of justice, is occurring in America today concerning something ugly that happened long ago and far away. Because of Chang's book, the second Rape of Nanking is ending."
After reading her book, the late historian Stephen Ambrose described Chang as "Maybe the best young historian we've got, because she understands that to communicate history, you've got to tell the story in an interesting way."
For thousands of young Americans students of Chinese descent, Chang became a role model, lecturing to college, university, and general-interest audiences in 65 cities. Her book continues to be required reading in many courses on human rights and World War II history.
Her third book, The Chinese in America, described the determination of Chinese immigrants to take their place in America. Because of her deep interest in human rights, she paid special attention to the many groundbreaking legal cases successfully brought by Chinese Americans against racist and exclusionary laws. Many of these victories remain on the books to this day.
Jonathan Spence, the Sterling Professor History at Yale University wrote of The Chinese in America: "I know of no better introduction to this multilayered and emotionally-charged story."
Chang had begun research on a fourth book that was to focus on the experiences of the men who fought in the US tank battalions in the Bataan Peninsula and their subsequent imprisonment by the Japanese for the duration of World War II. During a research trip, she suffered a breakdown and had to be hospitalized.
Chang was an activist in favor of holding governments and politicians tightly responsible for their actions. She advocated a color-blind society, and she gave generously of her time to the causes she believed in. She was also unstinting in helping other young writers get started on their writing careers.
In August 1991, Chang married Brett Douglas. The couple have lived in California since their marriage. On August 31, 2002, Christopher Douglas, their son, was born.
She is survived by her husband Brett Douglas, her son, Christopher Douglas, her parents, Shau-Jin and Ying-Ying Chang, and her brother Michael Chang.
After her release from the hospital, Chang continued to battle depression. In a note to her family she asked to be remembered as the woman she was before her illness, engaged with life, committed to her causes, her writing, and her family.
加拿大國殤日前夕, 噩耗傳來, 海外一代哲人, 遽然撤手塵環, 聞者驚震, 哀痛不已。純如女士一生追求正義, 熱愛和平, 為求歷史真相, 上下求索。奮筆直書, 揭軍國狂徒之橫暴, 悲故國黎民之屈辱, 仗義執言, 論斷是非, 唯人道公正是賴。書成風行天下, 讀者無不動容, 紛斥卑污者之惡行, 頌高尚者之偉績。惜路曼脩遠, 憂勞成疾, 其志未竟而魂歸天國, 嗚呼哀哉。純如女士年歲雖少, 可為師長, 立功、立言、立德, 俱為楷模。吾等將繼承汝志, 誓為蒙難受害者討還公道, 以史為鑑, 免蒼生百姓再遭劫難。祈上天護佑, 純如女士主懷安息。
House of Representatives
A Tribute to Iris S. Chang
November 17, 2004
HONORABLE MICHAEL M. HONDA
Mr. Speaker, today I rise in memory of Iris Chang, a courageous historian, author and champion of Asian and Asian American history, human rights and historical redress. During her brief yet remarkable professional career, Iris touched the lives of countless people, shedding light on past injustices and atrocities that had been forgotten or ignored. In her personal life, she was a loving wife and mother, a close friend and an inspiration to many. Iris is survived by her husband, Dr. Brett Douglas, her son, Christopher Douglas, her parents, Shau-Jin and Ying-Ying Chang, and her brother, Michael Chang.
Iris Shun-Ru Chang was born on March 28, 1968 in Princeton, New Jersey. She studied journalism at the University of Illinois, and received her Master’s in Science Writing from Johns Hopkins University. While at Johns Hopkins, Iris was commissioned to research the life of Tsien Hsue-Shen, a Chinese American scientist who was deported to China during the Communist scare of the 1960s and subsequently founded China’s ballistics program. Her research led to her critically acclaimed debut, The Thread of the Silkworm, which addressed the paranoia and racism of the McCarthy era.
As a historian and an activist, Iris fought passionately for historical justice and reconciliation. Her book, The Rape of Nanking, chronicled the horrific capture of Nanking during Japan’s invasion of China in 1937, and was instrumental in educating the international community about Japanese military atrocities during World War II—human rights violations that had gone unwritten and unacknowledged for decades. Her efforts to seek redress for the crimes at Nanking brought her in conflict with the Japanese government and communities worldwide, but Iris was unwavering in her commitment to justice and truth.
In addition to her books, which decried social and historical injustices against the Asian and Asian American communities in the United States and internationally, Iris was also a member of the Committee of 100, a national nonpartisan organization of Chinese-American leaders who work to address issues important to the Chinese-American community. For her work, she earned the Peace and International Cooperation Award from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and was named “Woman of the Year” by the Organization of Chinese-American Women.
Iris will be remembered for her work and service
to the community. Certainly, the millions of people whom she touched through
her writings and her activism will not forget the moral vision she brought on
past injustices to the international community and the public impact of her
work in promoting peace between peoples of differing races and backgrounds.
Her fierce pride of her Chinese-American heritage empowered others with the
certainty that they were truly Americans despite their ancestry. Our
community has lost a role model and close friend; the world has lost one of
its finest and most passionate advocates of social and historical justice.
GLOBE AND MAIL
Friday, November 12, 2004 - Page S9
IRIS CHANG, HISTORIAN: 1968-2004
Inspired by the stories of her grandparents and parents, who survived the 1937 Nanking massacre, she forced Japan to face a shameful Past and yet was denied ultimate satisfaction
Associated Press; with files from Globe and Mail archives; staff
SAN JOSE, CALIF. -- Inflamed by accounts she heard as a child, Iris Chang set out to prevent what she called "the second rape of Nanking" -- the consignment of brutal Japanese atrocities to the landfill of history.
Trained as a reporter, she turned away from everyday news to write such history-based accounts as Thread of the Silkworm and The Chinese in America. In 1997, she published the bestseller The Rape of Nanking and went toe-to-toe with what seemed to be all of Japan.
The product of fastidious research and elegant writing, it described the systematic rape, torture and killing of 300,000 civilians by Japanese soldiers 60 years before in the former Chinese capital.
Widely acclaimed everywhere else in the world, the book was greeted with scorn in Japan. Amid threats from nationalist extremists who still deny that the massacre happened, as well as academics who argued that the incident had been exaggerated, a Tokyo publisher scrapped plans to release a Japanese edition. Through it all, the government maintained a blank refusal to apologize.
At the time, Ms. Chang said it showed that many Japanese remained in denial about atrocities committed by Imperial troops. For her to not write the book would have meant, she said, surrender to a "a conspiracy of silence" that amounted to "the second rape."
"I want the Japanese people to know the truth of the rape of Nanking," she told The New York Times. "Like it or not, this is a part of their history."
Ms. Chang took inspiration from stories told to her in childhood by her parents, grandparents and other family members who had survived the massacre. She spent three years in research, scrutinized government and private documents in four languages, and toured Japan, Nanking, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
With chilling parallels to alleged modern-day atrocities in Kosovo, Ms. Chang described mass executions of prisoners of war, the rape and killing of women and the burning of homes.
By 1997, Japanese intransigence approached the absurd. Reviewing the book in The Globe and Mail, Jan Wong said the massacre had made front-page headlines in Japanese newspapers in 1937.
In a feat of detective work, Ms. Chang interviewed survivors, saviours and perpetrators. In her search, she discovered the diaries of a German named John Rabe who, as head of an international safe zone, saved hundreds of thousands of Chinese lives. She called him the "Oskar Schindler of China."
A serious-minded businessman who sold telephones for Siemens, he supported Adolf Hitler and became leader of the Nazi Party in Nanking. When the Japanese advanced on the city, many German nationals fled. Mr. Rabe stayed on as the elected head of a "safety zone." He roamed the city trying to prevent atrocities and providing shelter for hundreds of Chinese women. On one occasion, he stopped a rape in progress by bodily lifting a soldier sprawled on top of a young girl.
Ms. Chang told the stories of other foreigners, too. They included an American dean of studies at a women's college who used her campus to shelter 3,000 female refugees and wounded soldiers. Another was Robert Wilson, a surgeon who had once learned geometry from Pearl Buck. For days, he worked non-stop in a hospital emergency room, treating raped women who had had their bellies ripped open, and men charred and disfigured after soldiers had tried to burn them alive.
As for the scale of actual rape, Ms. Chang estimated the number to be 20,000 to 80,0000 victims. She quoted Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, who wrote that Nanking was probably the "single worst instance of wartime rape" -- worse even than more recent atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. The sole exception, Ms. Chang said, was the treatment of women in Bangladesh by Pakistani soldiers in 1971, when an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped.
Producing The Rape of Nanking was a deeply affecting experience for Ms. Chang. After reliving the horrors of 1937 she seemed unable to impassively pass to the side of other such injustices, wherever they may have occurred. After Sept. 11, 2001, she began to speak out against U.S. government mistreatment of Muslims and immigrants. She said incidents of racial profiling had served as reminder of the treatment of the Chinese in America.
"I'm seeing the same kinds of abuses now in the mistreatment of Arab Americans," she said. "The laws that rob any group of their civil liberties will affect us all. As long as any group is being persecuted on the basis of their race or culture, none of us are safe."
Last year, she damned the University of California for banning students from China and Hong Kong because the school feared they might carry the SARS virus. Last year, she told the San Francisco Chronicle that she feared absolute authorities of any description.
"The more concentrated the power in the hands of a few, such as in a totalitarian regime or in a dictatorship, the more likely that this powerful elite will commit atrocities both at home and abroad," Ms. Chang said. "It seems as if almost all people have this potential for evil, which would be unleashed only under certain dangerous social circumstances."
Democracy, she told the Chronicle, could not be taken for granted. "It is still very much a young and fragile experiment. We have to be cognizant of the cyclical nature of abuses of civil rights."
Born in Princeton, N.J., Ms. Chang was raised in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., where her parents taught at the University of Illinois. Ms. Chang later attended the same school to study journalism and fell in love with Bretton Lee Douglas, an engineer whom she later married. After that, the couple moved to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where she earned a master's degree in science writing. In recent years, they lived in Silicon Valley, San Jose, where Mr. Douglas had a job at Cisco Systems.
For her part, Ms. Chang worked briefly for the Chicago Tribune and Associated Press before leaving to pursue her own writing. At 25, she published her first book, Thread of the Silkworm, the story of Tsien Hsue-shen, a Chinese-born physicist who built China's missile program after being driven from the United States during the Cold War.
Last year, she published The Chinese in America, a history of Chinese immigrants and their descendants in the United States.
While the book was another success, Ms. Chang inexplicably suffered a breakdown. During a recent trip to research a book about U.S. soldiers who fought the Japanese in the Philippines during the Second World War, she had to be hospitalized, her editor and agent Susan Rabiner told Associated Press.
In a note to her family, she asked to be remembered as the person she was before she became ill -- "engaged with life, committed to her causes, her writing and her family,'' Ms. Rabiner said.
Ignatius Ding, a close friend who founded Global Alliance for Preserving History of World War II in Asia, told the San Jose Mercury News that Ms. Chang had seemed defeated. "She was really in a slump and very depressed."
A retired engineer who financed Ms. Chang's early research, Mr. Ding said he remembered her study, the room where she wrote, as "being like a shrine," its walls plastered with research, maps and documents. "She would sit in there and just look at all those photographs. She was like a zombie.''
Chang was born on March 28, 1968, in Princeton, N.J. She died of a
self-inflicted gunshot wound on Nov. 9, 2004. She was found dead in her car on a
side road near her home in San Jose, Calif. She is survived by her husband and
Sing Tao Daily 20 November, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Iris Chang's suicide stunned those she tried so hard to help -- the survivors of Japan's 'Rape of Nanking'
- Kathleen E. McLaughlin, Chronicle Foreign Service
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Nanjing, China -- When Iris Chang arrived here in the sweltering summer of 1995, locals were at once surprised and bemused that the sweet, ponytailed, young American planned to take on the darkest period in the city's modern history --
the 1937 wartime massacre when Japanese invaders killed some 300,000 people and raped, burned and pillaged the Chinese capital, then called Nanking, into ruins.
When she left a month later, historians, friends and colleagues were so impressed with her single-minded focus, they harbored little doubt the 27-year- old Bay Area writer would focus a global spotlight on what Chinese call the "Great Nanjing Massacre." They were right. When Chang's book, "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II," was published in 1997, it became an instant best-seller, generated international attention and reignited debate over Japan's responsibility for war crimes.
Chang, who lived in San Jose, shot herself to death Nov. 9 in her car, parked along a rural road south of Los Gatos. The news hit Nanjing fast and hard. This bustling city of 6 million glimmers with modern construction and growing wealth, but scars from the Japanese occupation linger barely beneath the surface. Many wonder if the gentle, sympathetic young woman, known here as Chang Shunru, was the massacre's latest victim.
"It all had such a huge impact on her mind," recalls Duan Yueping, then assistant curator of the Memorial Hall of the Nanking Massacre Victims, who worked every day with Chang, guiding her to massacre sites and through stacks of documents and photos.
Duan, a tough middle-aged woman who studied the Nanjing atrocities for years and considers herself a seasoned pro, still has nightmares from the stories she's heard and photos she's seen. Chang, she says, worked incessantly in Nanjing interviewing survivors, immersed in graphic pictures and documents, all the while agonizing over why the story was not widely known outside China. By the time she left Nanjing, Duan says, Chang was physically weak but even more committed to telling the story.
"The subject matter had to affect her. Perhaps she could not bear it," Duan says, her eyes filling with tears as she pulls out a picture of herself and Chang at a dinner in Nanjing.
"We just can't understand why such a great young writer and lovely person would leave the world so early," Duan says, shaking her head.
In her Nanjing book, Chang 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."
Two of the city's last living victims do know that Chang's work changed their lives.
Ni Cuiping was 11 years old when Japanese soldiers slaughtered her parents and six other family members, stabbed her repeatedly with a bayonet and left her for dead. There was no money or means for medical treatment during the siege, so she healed slowly and badly. Nearly 70 years later, her left shoulder is mangled from the stab wounds that left her whole arm underdeveloped and useless.
"My body is a witness to the Japanese atrocities," says Ni.
Chang's book -- the first widely published English-language history of the massacre -- brought global attention to the plight of survivors like Ni. Though there were extensive trials after the occupation ended, Japan paid no reparations and international politics kept the massacre under wraps for decades while survivors, many unable to work because of their disabilities and social stigma, languished in poverty. Chang videotaped their stories, wrote them down, and, most importantly, gave them a voice around the world.
"We wanted the whole world to know," says Ni, who visited San Francisco with Chang for a war-crimes conference in 2001.
Iris Chang has faded from the memory of Xia Shuqing. Her mind, especially this time of year, is occupied with other things. Xia was a girl of 7 when Japanese soldiers broke down her door, shot her father to death, raped and killed her mother, then murdered five other family members. She, too, was bayoneted repeatedly and left for dead. It all happened in December of 1937, and when winter approaches, it's difficult for Xia to think of other things.
"I was half-blind, I've cried so many times over these years," says Xia, her eyes welling.
Ni says that, at one time, she would shake with fear trying to speak of the Japanese invasion and the slaughter of her family. Because of the work of Chang and others, she and Xia feel strongly today and speak openly of their horrors. Though they are financially better off and more comfortable from donations and help after Chang's book, both women still want Japan to issue an official apology, something for which Iris Chang fought passionately.
Chang ended her life before she saw any apology; Japan has issued no formal statement regarding her death. Her loss has left another wound in Nanjing and across China. Her death made headlines nationwide, with newspapers referring to her in reverent tones as a modern-day heroine. In Nanjing, the city was abuzz, from taxi drivers to shopkeepers, about what may have led to such a sad ending for the "young warrior," named alongside NBA star Yao Ming as one of the most famous young Chinese today.
Besides giving international attention to a story that has long been a bruise on China's national psyche, Chang added immensely to the overall body of research about the Nanjing Massacre. Historian Sun Zhaiwei, a professor at the Jiangsu (Province) Academy of Social Sciences, was one of the first people to meet Chang in Nanjing. Sun noted that Chang uncovered the historically invaluable 2,000-page diaries of German John Rabe, a Nazi who saved tens of thousands of Chinese from certain slaughter by creating a Nanjing safety zone marshaled by the city's then-few expatriates.
Others can't help but compare Chang's fate with that of another American, Minnie Vautrin, who lived in Nanjing during the Japanese occupation and led a safe house effort that saved thousands of lives and thousands of Chinese women and girls from systematic rape by Japanese soldiers. In her book, Chang wrote how Vautrin returned to the United States and killed herself a year later, exhausted and haunted by the images of those she could not save.
Chang's close friend Ignatius Ding, a retired Cupertino engineer who sponsored some of her early research, said the parallels between Vautrin and Chang are strong. Both were deeply passionate and involved, both took the events to heart and both eventually collapsed under the weight. A Chinese garden in Norfolk, Va., that contains a memorial to Minnie Vautrin plans to add a memorial to Iris Chang, including her as the latest victim of the Nanjing Massacre.
Although Chang's work was dismissed as amateurish by some historians and Japanese scholars, Sun, considered one of China's foremost authorities on the Nanjing Massacre, said Chang's real contributions were invaluable.
"I could not believe it was true when I heard the news," says Sun, clutching a photo of himself and his daughter with Iris Chang in the United States. "I sincerely believe that her contributions to Nanjing and to world peace will always be with us."
In tribute to Chang, the victims' memorial hall in Nanjing held a service at the same time as her funeral in Los Altos on Friday. The stark memorial hall, filled with documents, photos and human remains, will add a wing next year dedicated to Iris Chang.
Memorial hall director Zhu Chengshan said Chang's book brought immense attention to the place, boosting international recognition and funding. The number of visitors each year to the hall, built near one of Nanjing's mass graves, has doubled to 1.2 million people since the book was published.
"We all think she contributed so much. Her spirit will never die, especially in this fight," says Zhu. "Her influence won't die."
Page E - 1
11月9日，張純如女士結束了自己36歲的生命。在人們想象里，這個寫下《南京大屠殺》的女子，應是戰士一般堅強的；在親朋摯友的記憶中，她是充滿熱情、沉穩而美麗的。他們不能相信張純如是以這樣的方式離去的，就像他們不能相信她已永遠離去。張純如離世已經8天，她的丈夫道格拉斯努力地用他計算機工程師的冷靜和理智回憶愛妻的一言一行。 兩歲的兒子還不知母親已去世 有很多時候，37歲的道格拉斯說著說著就要哽咽──尤其是提到他和張純如兩歲的兒子克利斯多福的時候。 道格拉斯說，克利斯多福年紀那麼小，但是他知道媽媽身體不好，媽媽病了，所以爸爸媽媽把他送到伊利諾州的奶奶家。奶奶服務於幼稚園二十多年後退休，這些個月把小孫子照顧得很好，“但是，沒有，我們沒有告訴他…，”道格拉斯的淚水湧上來，他說：“等他大一點，我會帶他到媽媽墳上去。”
OTHER LINKS RELATED TO IRIS: