Book Review: The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang

By Timothy M. Kelly

Opening Remarks

As a rule I don't write book reviews because I think the time spent in writing them could be more profitably spent in reading other books, pursuing my own scholarly interests, or attending to my teaching duties. I am making an exception in the case of Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II,1 however, for two reasons. One, the book has received a number of positive reviews in the mass media,2 become a bestseller, and created a great deal of controversy along the way;3 and two, in her rush to rescue the atrocities of Nanking from historical oblivion Chang has made far too many mistakes to be ignored.

Before proceeding any further I wish to make it perfectly clear to the readers of this review that it is not my intention here to attack Chang personally or to take issue with her politics or agenda. That she advocates a full and sincere apology and financial compensation from the Japanese government for atrocities committed by the Japanese army against the people of China is not my concern. That she wishes to present those atrocities as a forgotten holocaust is not my concern. That she attempts to make a case for a textbook cover-up, for a "cover-up" by certain Japanese scholars and the Japanese government in general is not my concern. Furthermore, I have no intention of arguing for or against the Japanese government's stand on matters related to China (historical or contemporary), nor of taking sides in the Nanking debate among Japanese historians. Now, it is certainly not the case that I have no personal opinions about Chang's political agenda, about the Japanese government's position on matters related to China, or the Nanking debate. I do. In preparing this review, however, I have made a conscious effort to suspend judgment or bracket my own opinions on these matters.

The media feeding-frenzy over The Rape of Nanking and it author, Iris Chang, is not particularly surprising. As cultural phenomena these frenzies are stimulated much less by a sincere interest in a book's content or its author than in viewer ratings, selling copy, and from the publisher's standpoint, selling books. There is a definite pattern in the reviews published in major US newspapers, which, for the record, I read only after reading Chang's book. In short, the reviews are all long on praise and virtually void of negative remarks.4 In light of the discrepancies I found in Chang's book, it makes me wonder whether any of the reviewers know enough about the subject (Chinese and Japanese history, WWII, war crimes, historiography, not to mention the pertinent scholarly literature) to venture an informed opinion about the merits of Chang's book. It would not surprise me in the least if occasionally eating sweet-n-sour pork and / or liking sushi constitutes the sum and substance of many of their qualifications to review The Rape of Nanking. If that sounds harsh, good, that's precisely what I intend it to sound like. The mass media and those who write for it are often incredibly irresponsible and they need to be told so.

With respect to the many errors in The Rape of Nanking, the blame must fall directly on Chang and indirectly on her editors at Basic Books. Chang's claim that certain scholars at big name universities (Oxford, Columbia, and Harvard) "took the time to review my book before publication and to enrich it with their important scholarly suggestions" (p. 230), notwithstanding, the book is still fraught with problems. I have grouped those problems into four categories: simple carelessness, sheer sloppiness, historical inaccuracies, and shameless plagiarism. Of these charges, the last is potentially the most damaging to Chang's reputation and for that reason I will exercise great care in establishing my case against her.

1. Careless Errors

Chang informs her readers, "For Chinese and Japanese names of people, I use the traditional system of listing the surname before the given name" (p.7). This is standard practice and we as readers should be able to take for granted that Chang follows her own policy with the possible exceptions of Japanese-American or Chinese-American names and Japanese and Chinese names in direct quotes in which the given name is placed before the surname in the original text. The following list demonstrates that Chang is inconsistent in her use of Japanese names. These mistakes are minor and easily correctable, but nevertheless they are annoying to informed readers and can be bewildering to the casual reader. Furthermore, their frequency must make one wonder whether Chang and her editors really know the difference between Japanese family and personal names.

26 Sadao Araki Araki Sadao also incorrectly indexed under "S" (p.289)
30 Tokio Hashimoto Hashimoto Tokio but, correctly indexed under "H" (p.287)
40 Taisa Isamo Chô Isamu
incorrectly indexed under "T" (p.290); Taisa ( ) is an army colonel 5
48 Yukio Omata Omata Yukio not indexed, but correct order in "Notes" (p.237)
203 Yasuhiro Nakasone Nakasone Yasuhiro also incorrectly indexed under "Y" (p.290)
209 Nobukatsu Fujioka Fujioka Nobukatsu not indexed
211 Takehiro Nakane Nakane Takehiro also incorrectly indexed under "T" (p.290)
280 Hiroko Yamaji Yamaji Hiroki (??) "students asked him the same question"; see also Hirokiu (??) Yamaji (p.230)
281 Noboru Kojima Kojima Noboru not indexed
photos Moriyasa Murase Murase Moriyasu
name credited for photos on 12th and 13th pages of photo section

Although the following mistakes could be easily dismissed as typographical in nature, they nevertheless point to Chang's lack of attention to detail.

21 Commander Commodore Matthew C. Perry's proper rank
63 Quing dynasty Qing dynasty x
174 Ito Nobufumo Itô Nobufumi x
230 Kawamshi Kawanishi (?) an optical reader error (?)
256 Fukuda Tokuyasa x Tokuyasu (??)
photos Mainchi Shimbun Mainichi Shimbun newspaper credited for photo on 4th page of photo section

2. Sheer Sloppiness

The profile appearing on the dust cover describes Chang as a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana in journalism, a reporter (briefly) for a Chicago newspaper, the recipient of a fellowship to The John Hopkins University (for writing), and as a full-time author whose first book (Threads of the Silkworm) received critical acclaim. Even after we've dismissed what might be called the publisher "hype factor" or praise for Chang's training and accomplishments, I think it only reasonable to expect a person with such a background to have well above average, if not excellent, writing skills and sensitivity in the use of language. I submit the following examples as evidence that Chang is a less than a polished writer and as further evidence that her editor and proofreaders were negligent in their duties.

Chang writes, "Students were forced to hold heavy objects, sit on their knees, stand barefoot in the snow, or run around the playground until they collapsed from exhaustion" (p.31).
The reference here is to seiza () or the formal Japanese sitting style, in which the legs are folded under the trunk of the body with the knees together and pointing directly forward. In that the buttocks (that is, the portion of the body upon which one sits) come to rest on the heels of either foot, the more accurate expression is: sit on their heels.

Chang writes, "Another rape victim was found with a golf stick rammed into her" (p.94).
Golfers do colloquially refer to their clubs as "sticks," but surely the generic term "golf club" is called for here or possibly "the shaft of a golf club."

Chang writes, "Like most people in the city, Rabe had become so jaded by air raids that the blasts no longer bothered him" (p.115) and "Even Wilson, now a jaded war surgeon, found the intensity of the atrocities shocking" (p.126).
Using the adjective jaded twice in the space of only 11 pages is tiresome. A thesaurus or a style editor with a sharp eye would have helped here.

Chang writes, "Venturing into his house to survey possible damage, he caught red-handed three Japanese soldiers in the process of looting it" (p126).
This is redundant! To be caught red-handed IS to be caught in the process of ....

Chang writes, "Vautrin, the daughter of a blacksmith, was fifty-one years old in 1937. Raised in the tiny farming community of Secor, Illinois, she was sent to live with neighbors when her mother died six years later. In their homes Vautrin was often treated little better than a servant or field hand, and she found herself herding cattle during the bleakest months of winter. Despite the impoverishment of her childhood, she was able to work her way through school, graduating with honors in 1912 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign" (p.130).
Something is desperately wrong with this paragraph! Obviously Vaurtrin's mother died when she was a young girl, but when? six years later than what? In the rewriting process it seems likely that the first sentence was changed from: Vautrin, the daughter of a blacksmith, was born in 1886.

Chang writes, "The Westerners themselves were often sprayed with Lysol upon entering the city" (p.166).
It's incredulous that Chang would use a brand name here. Does she expect her readers to believe that Japanese authorities really sprayed foreigners with the particular product called Lysol? Surely the generic word "disinfectant" would have been more adequate, not to mention accurate.

Chang writes, "The official denials continued even as this book was going to press" (p.204).
Regrettably, Chang does not seem to appreciate the distinction between official denials and denials made by high-profile individuals who happen to be government officials. All statements made by government officials are not "official," that is, representative of government policy. Only those statements made by government officials in the performance of his / her office can be considered "official." My point here is not to obscure the fact that on numerous occasions Japanese government officials have made some stunningly insensitive and irresponsible statements on a wide range of topics, but rather to argue that the context of the statement and the capacity of the speaker cannot be ignored, something which Chang blatantly does.

Chang writes, "My editor, Susan Rabiner, also recognized the historical significance of this book and encouraged me to write it" (p.227-8).
While the events described in her book can be said to be historically significant, for Chang to write that her editor "recognized the historical significance of this book (The Rape of Nanking)" is sheer nonsense and self-indulgent. Chang should have written "the historical significance of the subject matter of this book."

Whereas the above examples focus on words and sensitivity in the use of language, the following examples are indicative of Chang's tendency to report sloppily. Put differently, there is a huge gap between journalistic reporting and academic writing. The major problem with the examples below is one of sources. Of course I understand that in newspapers and weekly newsmagazines reporters often shield the source of their information in order to protect their informants. That said though, I must submit that it is also just as likely that reporters do not name their sources for devious rhetorical reasons of their own.

Chang writes, "In the documentary In the Name of the Emperor, one Japanese historian dismisses the entire Rape of Nanking with these words: 'Even if twenty or thirty people had been killed, it would have been a great shock to Japan" (p.13).
Chang does not identify this historian here or in the Notes section. Who is this historian? Is he/she a major or minor player? What impact has this historian had? Documentary films are not necessarily without an agenda. On page 8, Chang introduced the producer (Nancy Tong) and co-directors (Nancy Tong and Christine Choy). In what context did these directors "make" this Japanese historian issue such a statement? In other words what was their agenda? Finally, it's not particularly evident to me that this statement can only be interpreted as a dismissal of the rape of Nanking.

Chang writes, "When Shanghai finally fell in November, the mood of the imperial troops had turned ugly, and many, it was said, lusted for revenge as they marched toward Nanking" (p.34).
Chang does not document the source of this statement, that is, who said it. This rhetorical device only gives the appearance that Chang is reporting fact.

Chang writes, "Other experts blame the non-Christian nature of Japanese religion, claiming that while Christianity puts forth the idea that all human beings are brothers - indeed, that all things are created in God's image - Shintoism in Japan purports that only the emperor and his descendants were created in God's image" (p.54).
There are several problems here.
1) We ought to notice that Chang's mention of these other experts occurs in the same paragraph and directly after the well-known and specifically named source Ruth Benedict. Is Chang implying that these unnamed other experts are of Benedict's stature? Does this rhetorical device not lead unsuspecting readers to infer unconsciously a great deal about these other experts?
2) Chang does not document where her other experts have made this claim about the nature of Japanese religion. What purpose does this serve? In the paragraph following the above quote it becomes apparent that Chang has sent up these unnamed experts as "strawmen." It allows her to argue against the "inherent danger in [their] assumptions." It's important to not only know who these experts are and where they have made such claims, but also to evaluate the influence of their position or the degree to which their argument has gained acceptance both popularly and in scholarly circles.
3) The claims made by Chang's experts must be seen for what they are: normatively based and polemical in nature. Any discussion of the emperor and his descendants couched in terms of "created in God's image" is simply misinformed. The classical or standard understanding in Shinto is that the imperial line descends directly from Amaterasu, the sun goddess, and that the emperor is a living-god. It should be recalled that after WWII the Allied Forces occupied Japan and required Emperor Hirohito to renounce his status as a living-god.

Chang writes, "Unfortunately, [David] Bergamini's book was seriously criticized by reputable historians who claimed that he cited sources that simply did not exist or quoted mysterious unnamed informants who said amazing but unverifiable things" (p.177).
Who are these so-called reputable historians? Where have they written such critiques of Bergamini's book? Chang herself is here employing unnamed but putatively reputable informants. If Chang is aware that Bergamini's book has been called into question by other historians, it becomes important for her to justify the fact that she cites Bergamini liberally (p.33, 38, 39 (twice), 40, 50 (twice), 52, 71, 73, 96, 107, 161, 174, 175 (twice), 177, 180, and 219). She does write, "In all fairness, it must be pointed out that many of the facts in Bergamini's book are accurate...." (p.275) and that his book is "poorly footnoted, so it must be used with caution" (p.236). How Chang decided what in Bergamini was fact and what was not is unclear. Her comment about the book being poorly footnoted is questionable and arrogant in that it is very likely that she read only the first chapter on the rape of Nanking and skipped the next 1100 pages.

3. Historical Inaccuracies

In the following examples we will see that Chang's discussion of Japanese history exhibits several gross errors. While Chang perhaps hoped that the expert on Japan who reviewed her manuscript would have caught these mistakes, such was not the case. Somewhere in the Preface, Author's Forward, or Acknowledgements it is standard practice for authors to make a statement relieving consultants of responsibility for any factual or interpretive errors in the manuscript. Chang did not make such a statement; she only says that the three experts who reviewed her book did "enrich it with their important scholarly suggestions" (p.230). This acknowledgement simply does not go far enough.

Chang writes, "By the late 15th and early 16th centuries Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa family, who sealed off the island nation from foreign influence" (p.21).
There are several problems with this sentence.
1) The late 16th century, not the late 15th, was a period of tremendous political intrigue and upheaval in Japan. There were a number of major players (Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi in particular), but even Japanese school children know that the Tokugawa family did not govern Japan in the late 16th century. The beginning of the Tokugawa era is usually dated 1603, that is to say, early 17th century, when the Emperor appointed Tokugawa Ieyasu to be shôgun.
2) The official seclusion policy Chang alludes to was not instituted until 1639.
3) It should also be noted that the Dutch, who were not excluded, served as Japan's "window to the west," so to speak. Their influence should not be underestimated, especially in the fields of science and medicine.

Chang writes, "In July 1853, he (Matthew Perry) sent two ships belching black smoke into Tokyo Bay -- giving the people of Japan their first glimpse of metal-clad, steam-powered ships. Surrounding himself with some sixty to seventy aggressive-looking men armed with swords and pistols, Perry strode through the capital of the Shogun and demanded meetings with the highest-ranking officials in Japan" (p.21).
The capital Chang refers to here is Edo, the present-day Tokyo. The historical truth is that Perry never set foot in the capital. He was officially, though reluctantly received, after some delay, on the beach at Uraga, some 35 miles from Edo at the entrance to Edo Bay, which has since been renamed Tokyo Bay. At the completion of the ceremonies Perry ordered his fleet of four vessels to a new anchorage about ten miles into the Edo Bay. He later proceeded in the Mississippi further into the bay to a point where he could see the Shinagawa area of Edo.6

Chang writes, "In an era later known as the Meiji Restoration, Japan resounded with nationalistic slogans, such as 'Revere the Emperor! Expel the barbarians!' and 'Rich country, strong army!'" (p.23).
Chang's statement has several problems.
1) There is no era in Japanese history known as the Meiji Restoration. The Meiji era was 1868 to 1912. Prior to it was the Tokugawa era (or Edo era) 1603-1868. Meiji Restoration refers to the replacement of the faltering Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868, that is, the restoration of the Emperor to power. The aim of the movement that brought this restoration to fruition was to restore the emperor to the center of the Japanese polity and to retain political hegemony of Japan by expelling the foreigners who had intruded upon them since Perry and forced Japan to enter into unequal treaties with them.
2) Rather than being a popular slogan chanted at mass rallies or pasted on billboards, "Revere the Emperor! Expel the barbarians!" was the political doctrine of the pro-imperial or anti-shogunate movement.7
3) The "Rich country, strong army!" slogan was originally "used by the Japanese government in the Meiji period to promote strategic industries and strengthen Japan vis-à-vis the Western powers." Later in the Meiji era it was interpreted so as to justify Japan's aggressions vis-à-vis its Asian neighbors.8

Chang writes, "This was later called the first Sino-Japanese war" (p.24).
Chang's use of the passive voice here tends to give her statement a factual tone and allows her to avoid saying who uses this designation -- the first Sino-Japanese war. It is certainly not the case that such a designation is used in Japan, where this war is referred to as the Nisshin Sensô ( ). Literally this must be rendered the Japanese-Ch'ing [Qing] War. By way of contrast, the Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan uses the designation the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 - 1895.

Chang writes, "The second Sino-Japanese war was no longer reversible" (p.33).
Because Chang previously used the first Sino-Japanese war, it follows that she would use this designation. Again, it is not the case that this designation is used in Japan, where it is called the Nitchû Sensô ( ), literally, the Japanese-Chinese War. The Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan uses the designation the Sino-Japanese War of 1937 - 1945.

Chang writes, "In March 1944, the United Nations created the Investigation of War Crimes Committee ..." (p.169).
How is this possible? The United Nations was not chartered until October 24, 1945. Chang again has her facts wrong.

Chang writes, "In 1957 Japan even elected as prime minister a man who had been imprisoned as a class A war criminal" (p.182).
We must note Chang's deliberate misrepresentation of historical fact here as well as her reluctance to name the prime minister in question. The prime minister Chang could have easily named is Kishi Nobusuke ( 1896-1987). It is true that he was arrested after the occupation of Japan, but Kishi was never tried, let alone convicted of any crime. Why does Chang fail to mention this? Being arrested and imprisoned as a suspect in any wrongdoing is quite different from being convicted of that wrongdoing and sentenced to prison. Chang implies that Kishi was in prison as a convicted class A war criminal when in fact he was only a suspect. Chang's failure to recognize this difference demonstrates the cavalier journalistic trend in her writing.

4. Shameless Plagiarism

In the "Introduction" Chang justifies the need for her book in part by explaining that the many comprehensive books of the history of WWII fail entirely to mention Nanking, or at best, barely mention it. At the time it struck me as strange that nowhere in the "Introduction" does Chang mention the extended treatment of the rape of Nanking comprising the first chapter of David Bergamini's Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, an account I remembered having read about 25 year ago. I was somewhat relieved when I found Chang's first citation of this book on page 33. In the pages that followed Chang cited Bergamini a few more times so I decided to dust off my copy of the book and refresh my memory. Quite by accident I discovered that Chang's description of the events paralleled Bergamini's very closely. The more I compared the two texts the more uncomfortable and, frankly speaking, alarmed I became with what unfolded before my eyes.

As an educator I have on occasion had the unpleasant duty of taking students to task for attempting to pass the work of another off as their own. In academia plagiarism is just not tolerated and I would imagine that the same is true in journalism. The cases I've assembled below demonstrate a clear pattern of wholesale and unacknowledged borrowing from the work of another. That Chang cites Bergamini in many places does not mitigate the case against her. It is precisely the way in which she cites him and doesn't cite him that is the problem.

Case 1. Chang does not indicate anywhere that she borrowed the map appearing on page 36 from another source. One need not be an expert at cartographic analysis to determine that Chang's map is a virtual copy (with very minor cosmetic alterations) of the map in Bergamini.
(Chang p.36)[size reduced to 70% of the original]

(Bergamini p.18)[actual size in original]

Case 2. Chang clearly borrows information from Bergamini, but does not cite it.
(Chang p.33) But conquering China proved to be a more difficult task than the Japanese anticipated. In Shanghai alone the Chinese forces outnumbered the Japanese marines ten to one, and Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Nationalist government, had reserved his best troops for the battle.
(Bergamini p.9) As Japanese intelligence well knew, [General] Matsui would have a hard time of it. Chiang Kai-shek had saved his best troops from commitment in the war in North China and was pouring them into the action in Central China at Shanghai.
(p.10) When Matsui received his orders from Emperor Hirohito, the Japanese Marines in Shanghai were fighting for their lives. Chiang Kai-shek's troops outnumbered the marines ten to one and had collectively about half the firepower of the Marines.

Case 3. Chang does not credit this description to Bergamini.
(Chang p.37) Heading this force was Lieutenant General Yanagawa Heisuke, a bald, short man, with literary interests.
(Bergamini p.14) The over-all commander, who personally led the major south prong of the task force, was himself a reactivated general, a small, bald, studious-looking man named Yanagawa Heisuke.

Case 4. Chang's citation merely mirrors Bergamini's. This suggests she acknowledges that the "not good" quote comes from his book rather that the original source used by Bergamini himself. This is perfectly fine as far as it goes, but it fails to acknowledge that the rest of the information also comes from Bergamini.
(Chang p.39) On the palace rolls, [Emperor] Hirohito had singled out [Prince] Asaka [Yasuhiko] as one of the members of the royal family who possessed an attitude that was "not good" and apparently gave his uncle the appointment at Nanking as an opportunity to redeem himself.
(Bergamini p.23) Afterwards, in a memorandum for the palace rolls, Hirohito had singled him [Prince Asaka] out for censure as the one imperial kinsman whose attitude was "not good." He had been given this present disagreeable duty at Nanking as an opportunity to make amends.

Case 5. Chang's citation merely mirrors Bergamini's here too. This suggests she acknowledges that the "sparkle before the eyes of the Chinese and make them place confidence in Japan" quotation comes from his book rather that the source used by Bergamini himself. This is fine, but it fails to acknowledge that the rest of the information comes from Bergamini.
(Chang p.39) Wary of the imperial newcomer [Prince Asaka] and the potential for the abuse of power, [General] Matsui issued a set of moral commandments for the invasion of Nanking. He ordered his armies to regroup a few kilometers outside the city walls, to enter the Chinese capital with only a few well-disciplined battalions, and to complete the occupation so that the army would "sparkle before the eyes of the Chinese and make them place confidence in Japan." He also called a meeting of staff officers before his sickbed and proclaimed: [long quotation]
(Bergamini p.23) Prince Asaka's appointment to the front, overriding all other authority in a wave of imperial influence, gave the sick General Matsui premonitions that his command was about to be abused. He ordered his armies to pull up and regroup three to four kilometers outside the Nanking city walls, to go into the city with only a few well-disciplined battalions, and to make sure that the occupation was carried out in such a way as to "sparkle before the eyes of the Chinese and make them place confidence in Japan." Then he called the staff officers of his legions together at his sickbed in Suchow and issued them a most extraordinary tablet of moral commandments: [long quotation].

Case 6. Following the long quotation of commandments (which she does cite) is another paragraph Chang lifts from Bergamini without the benefit of citation. Chang's use of "the story goes" is yet another rhetorical device of a reporter.
(Chang p.40) On December 5, the story goes, Prince Asaka left Tokyo by plane and arrived on the front three days later. In an abandoned country villa near the field headquarters some ten miles southeast of Nanking, Prince Asaka met with General Nakajima, his colleague from his Paris days, who was now recovering from a wound on his left buttock. Nakajima told Asaka that the Japanese troops were about to surround three hundred thousand Chinese troops in the vicinity of Nanking and that preliminary negotiations revealed that they were ready to surrender.
(Bergamini p.24) Prince Asaka left Tokyo by plane on Sunday, December 5, and arrived to take command at the front three days later. He found his old companion of Paris days, the sadistic Nakajima, installed in an abandoned Chinese country villa near advanced field headquarters some ten miles southeast of Nanking. Nakajima was laid up with a painful flesh wound in the left buttock received that Sunday. He reported to his former princely patron that the Japanese forces had broken though everywhere at the outer Nanking perimeter and that some 300,000 Chinese troops were about to be surrounded and pinned against the Nanking city walls. Preliminary negotiations indicated that they were ready to surrender.

Case 7. In this example Chang merely indicates that the quote "Great Field Marshal on the Steps of Heaven - banzai - ten thousand years of life!" is from Bergamini, when in fact the entire description right down to the color of Matsui's horse is shamelessly cut and pasted from Bergamini's.
(Chang p.50) The killing and raping subsided when Matsui Iwane, still weak from his illness, entered the city on the morning of December 17 for a ceremonial parade. After recovering from his bout of tuberculosis, he traveled upriver on a naval launch and rode by car to the triple archway of the Mountain Gate on the east side of Nanking. There he mounted a chestnut horse, wheeled it to face the direction of the imperial palace in Tokyo, and led a triple banzai for the emperor for Japan's national radio broadcast company: "Great Field Marshal on the Steps of Heaven - banzai - ten thousand years of life!" He rode down a boulevard that was carefully cleared of dead bodies and flanked by tens of thousands of cheering soldiers and arrived at the Metropolitan Hotel in the northern part of town, which held a banquet for Matsui that evening.
(Bergamini p.40) On Friday morning, December 17, the rape of Nanking slackened during the ceremonial entry into the city of General Matsui. Still feverish after the latest flare-up of his chronic tuberculosis, Matsui was brought upriver in a launch, put in a car, and driven around the battered triple archway of the Mountain Gate on the eastern side of the city. There he mounted a fine chestnut with a narrow white stripe or race on its nose. ... (p.41) The boulevard before him was lined with tens of thousands of soldiers. He reared his horse and wheeled it smartly to face the palace in Tokyo far away to the northeast. c General Matsui broke in at once in a thin strained voice: Dai Gen-sui Heika (Great Field Marshal on the Steps of Heaven) - banzai - ten thousand years of life! ... Matsui headed his horse down the boulevard and proceeded along a carefully cleared route, past tens of thousands of cheering soldiers, until he arrived at the Metropolitan Hotel in the north of town.

Case 8. The following is actually a continuation of Case 7, but I have chosen to list it separately because of Chang's attempt to cover the trail of her plagiarism. To wit, unlike Cases 4 and 5 where Bergamini is at least partially cited, in this instance Chang ignores him completely in her two citations (p.238 n.51), and instead cites only the original sources for the quotation from Bergamini's notes.
(Chang p.51) When Matsui began to comprehend the full extent of the rape, murder, and looting in the city, he showed every sign of dismay. On December 18, 1937, he told one of his civilian aides: "I now realize that we have unknowingly wrought a most grievous effect on this city. When I think of the feelings and sentiments of many of my Chinese friends who have fled from Nanking and of the future of the two countries, I cannot but feel depressed. I am very lonely and can never get in a mood to rejoice about this victory." He even let a tinge of regret flavor the statement he released to the press that morning: "I personally feel sorry for the tragedies to the people, but the Army must continue unless China repents. Now, in the winter, the season gives time to reflect. I offer my sympathy, with deep emotion, to a million innocent people."
(Bergamini p.41-2) On awakening in the Metropolitan next morning, Matsui was melancholy. One of his civilian aides asked him why and he replied, "I now realize that we have unknowingly wrought a most grievous effect on this city. When I think of the feelings and sentiments of many of my Chinese friends who have fled from Nanking and of the future of the two countries, I cannot but feel depressed. I am very lonely and can never get in a mood to rejoice about this victory.
Even in his press release that morning, though he dutifully trumpeted official Toko policy, Matsui let a note of sadness creep into the bombast: Future Army operations will depend entirely on what attitude Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist government take. I personally feel sorry for the tragedies to the people, but the Army must continue unless China repents. Now, in the winter, the season gives time to reflect. I offer my sympathy, with deep emotion, to a million innocent people."

Case 9. As in the previous case, in her citation (p.239 n.52) Chang ignores Bergamini completely, and again cites only the original source. Chang attempts here to mask the very heavy extent to which her own account relies on Bergamini's and to give the impression that she has herself examined manuscripts of testimony given at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.9
(Chang p.52) On New Year's Day, Matsui was still upset about the behavior of the Japanese soldiers at Nanking. Over a toast he confided to a Japanese diplomat: "My men have done something very wrong and extremely regrettable."
(Bergamini p.45) Privately, over a New Year's toast, Matsui told a Japanese diplomat, "My men have done something very wrong and extremely regrettable."

Closing Remarks

It has been my intention in cataloguing the above examples to demonstrate that Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking contains a number of errors. I have no doubt that Chang spent countless hours conducting interviews, gathering information, reading and analyzing documents and diaries, not to mention preparing the manuscript itself. Her efforts deserve credit and her book is not without merit. When I finished reading it, however, I couldn't help but think that Chang's passion for the subject and desire to get the book to press in the year of the 60th anniversary of the Nanking atrocities dominated her priorities, as well as her publisher's. There are just too many mistakes to conclude otherwise. Despite that fact that it has been published, in its present form The Rape of Nanking is merely of rough draft quality.

The kid glove treatment that Chang and The Rape of Nanking have received in other reviews is ultimately a disservice to her and the reading public. Her book is most definitely not "a truly remarkable work of scholarship" nor is it entirely "compelling and historically truthful."10 I think this book could be better, much better, and it would surprise me if Chang herself would disagree. For the purpose of telling her side of the story of what happened at Nanking in 1937-8, there is a great deal in the book worth salvaging and some areas that require major surgery. A quick editing job will not do. If Chang is really interested in producing a work of the highest quality, I would suggest 1) she consider writing a completely revised edition, and 2) she find both a content editor and a style editor who are knowledgeable about the subject, take pride in their work, and aren't afraid to tell her what's crap and what's not. I would further suggest to Chang and her editors at Basic Books that they acknowledge the problems with The Rape of Nanking by making a comprehensive list of errata available on the Internet in printer-friendly format and updating it when necessary.

Distasteful as the task was, in this review I also presented evidence of plagiarism in Chang's use of Japan's Imperial Conspiracy by David Bergamini. In comparing her text side-by-side with Bergamini's it is clear that Chang's "borrowing" was not accidental or inadvertent. To my mind there is nothing that can be said in her defense, but I would imagine there are those who would offer excuses. Think what you will. As for me, I don't have any misgivings in stating that it was a matter of poor judgment on Chang's part to not document fully and meticulously her dependence on both Bergamini's research and his very words. At the very least it has made me wonder whether or not she took such liberties with other sources. In the end what's unfortunate is that poor judgment has undermined Iris Chang's creditability as a researcher, writer, and spokesperson for her cause.


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1 Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, New York: Basic Books, 1997.

2 For a review from The New York Times and The Washington Post.

3 For a venomous and very personal attack of Iris Chang and her book, see Hata Ikuhiko's article "Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking is the height of grotesquerie full of countless fake photos". For a more level-headed, but equally critical discussion, see Hata's article "The Nanking Atrocities: Fact and Fable" in Japan Echo 25/4 (August 1998), which is also available on the Internet. In a work that has only recently come to my attention entitled "Za reipu obu Nankin" no kenkyû ( ) [(Iris Chang's) The Rape of Nanking Examined] (Shôdensha, 1999), Higashinakano Shûdô ( ) and Fujioka Nobukatsu ( ) devote their energies to refuting Chang's entire book, including the photos.

4 I submit the following quote from CND (China News Digest) of February 24, 1998 as evidence of what I have termed media feeding-frenzy: "Media coverage has been extensive. The Rape of Nanking was excerpted by Newsweek on December 1, 1997 and favorably reviewed or featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times and many other major newspapers. On February 19, the Pulitzer-prize winning commentator and nationally syndicated columnist George Will devoted his entire column to praise Chang and her book. Iris Chang has also been on Good Morning America, Nightline, C-Span's Booknotes, the Jim Lehrer Newshour and other TV programs to discuss the Rape of Nanking."

5 David Bergamini, Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, p.24. According to Bergamini, Chô was a Lieutenant Colonel or Chûsa ( ).

6 Hugh Borton, Japan's Modern Century: From Perry to 1970, p.33.

7 For more details see Sonnô jôi ( ) in Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan.

8 Fukoku, kyôhei ( ), Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan.

9 I am aware Chang claimed in a taped telephone interview with CND (China News Digest) on February 3, 1998 that she "went through Tokyo war crime trial transcripts." I am very skeptical that she went through the 150,000 pages of trial transcripts. For the sake of argument I will concede that she may actually have examined the documents related to her citation in Case 9. That she "found" those particular documents in the first place, if she did, however, is due to the fact that they were cited by Bergamini. For a transcript of the interview.

10 See the quotes from Christian Jessen Klingenberg and James MacKay in the section "Praise for The Rape of Nanking" at the beginning of the book.

References Consulted

Bergamini, David. Japan's Imperial Conspiracy. New York: Pocket Books, 1972. (originally published by William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1971).

Borton, Hugh. Japan's Modern Century: From Perry to 1970, 2nd edition. New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1970.

Kasahara Kazuo, editor. Nihon shi kenkyû (Studies in Japanese History). Tokyo: Yamakawa Shuppansha, 1977.

Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. Kodansha Ltd., 1983.

Sansom, George. A History of Japan: 1615-1867. Rutland VT and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1974.

©2000 T.M. Kelly
This paper was published in Edogawa Joshi Tanki Daigaku Kiyô no.15, March 2000 (Edogawa Women's Junior College Journal).
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