The Rape of Nanking (book)

Template:Message box The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (ISBN 0-465-06835-9) is a 1997 book by Iris Chang (張純如), which presents a history of the 1937-1938 Nanjing Massacre. This book is by no means the authoritative book on the subject; however, according to William C. Kirby who was a Professor of History at Harvard University, "Ms. Chang shows more clearly than any previous account just what (the Japanese) did." It is one of the first major books to introduce the Nanjing Massacre to Western and Eastern audiences alike as it has been published in several languages.

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A photo the accuracy of whose caption in the book is disputed.


When Iris Chang was a child, she heard from her immigrant parents, who had escaped from China via Taiwan to the US in Second World War, how the Japanese “sliced babies not just in half but in thirds and fourths”. As the introduction to her book wrote: “Throughout my childhood Nanjing Datusha (Nanking Massacre) remained buried in the back of my mind as a metaphor for unspeakable evil.” But when she searched the local public libraries in her grade school and found nothing, she wondered if these terrible things had ever happened, why there was even no book about it in US? As she said “I was suddenly in a panic that this terrifying disrespect for death and dying, this reversion in human social evolution, would be reduced to a footnote of history, treated like a harmless glitch in a computer program that might or might not again cause a problem, unless someone forced the world to remember it.”


The book sold more than half a million copies when it was first published, and Chang became an instant celebrity in America. Hillary Clinton invited her to the White House and Stephen Ambrose, the doyen of US historians, described her as “maybe the best young historian we’ve got”.

This book is the main source of fame for Iris Chang, who is deeply respected in China and among overseas Chinese for raising awareness of the Nanjing Massacre in the Western world. A memorial service was held in China by Nanking Massacre survivors at the same time as her funeral in Los Altos, and the victim memorial hall in Nanjing will add a wing dedicated to her in 2005.


As to be expected from a subject of high sensitivity, Chang's book has provoked widespread response from readers and critics alike.

Some US and Japanese scholars have disputed the accuracy of the book, claiming it contains many serious factual errors. Critic Timothy M. Kelly says a "lack of attention to detail" calls the book's credibility into question and presents a case that Chang plagiarised passages and an illustration from Japan's Imperial Conspiracy by David Bergamini. [1] (

In Japan, while much of the criticism came from right-wing nationalists, Chang was also attacked by "liberals, who insist [the massacre] happened but allege that Chang's flawed scholarship damages their cause." (Los Angeles Times, June 6 1999).

Chang responded to criticisms of the book in a 1998 letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, in which she said there was no evidence that photographs in the book had been fabricated; that the photographs were properly captioned; that the Japanese Foreign Minister at the time, Koki Hirota, had given a figure of 300,000 civilians killed; and that her critics in Japan were right-wingers who denied the existence of the massacre and, in some cases, of the Holocaust [2] (

The Japanese translation was halted because of disagreement between Chang and Kashiwa shobo, the publisher. As a result of the controversy and evidentiary disputes surrounding the book, Kashiwa shobo had planned to publish a critical commentary about some factual errors in the same volume.

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