Documenting History: Survivor of the Nanjing Massacre

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 5:35pm

On Thursday, Oct. 27th, I witnessed history in the making. Nanjing Massacre survivor Xia Shuqin flew from Nanjing, China to Los Angeles to record a 3-D audiovisual testimony in Mandarin for USC Shoah Foundation’s New Dimensions in Testimony. For those of you who watched USC Shoah Foundation’s Instagram story that day, I was the intern behind the camera

I am a USC senior majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a focus on China and Mandarin Chinese, so being part of this moment was cool for me on so many levels: I got to meet an inspiring woman with a heartbreaking but very important story, put my Mandarin into practice, and watch my first New Dimensions in Testimony recording—what a day!

When I arrived, the recording of session one was already in progress, but before long people began trailing out of the studio; all of a sudden, there was Madame Xia, daughter-in-law by her side and a smile on her kind face. This was something I hadn’t expected from Madame Xia: her gentle nature and contagious compassion. I witnessed a wonderful moment between Madame Xia and USC Shoah Foundation’s Director of Collection Karen Jungblut. During the break between recording sessions one and two, Jungblut approached Madame Xia to encourage her on a job well done and thank her for coming all the way to Los Angeles to share her testimony. Madame Xia then took Karen’s hand, looked into her eyes, and told her how grateful she was that USC Shoah Foundation had arranged this opportunity for her. I was so touched that for a moment I forgot that this exchange was taking place through a translator.

When it came my turn to meet Madame Xia, I tried to muster up my loudest and most eloquent introduction in Mandarin, but in the presence of such a legend it was all I could do not to stand there speechless. After stumbling over my words a bit, I managed to get out a few words of welcome, and talked with Madame Xia and her family about where they were all from and whether or not they had been to the U.S. before, which they hadn’t.

During the filming of session two that day, much of the interview content had to do with Madame Xia’s opinions toward the Japanese. She was very diplomatic in her responses, claiming that there are more good people than bad people in the world, and that Japanese people are generally very good people. She was also asked some biographical information about her family members and a number of other questions. I have to say, I was pretty proud of my ability to understand most of the Chinese, but there were still a few answers I didn’t quite catch.

After session two, it was time to head out, but I left feeling very grateful. As a USC Shoah Foundation intern, I am no stranger to the overwhelming impact that testimony can have, but hearing an in-person account will always be the most moving. What makes New Dimensions in Testimony so powerful is its ability to bring viewers one step closer to these direct-from-the-source moments, moments that change lives and inspire action.

I can only hope that Madame Xia enjoyed her visit to Los Angeles as much as we enjoyed having her here. Word on the street is she even tried In N’ Out!

Madame Xia New Dimensions in Testimony Filming -- Instagram Story

Madame Xia New Dimensions in Testimony Filming -- Instagram Story

USC Shoah Foundation communications intern Holly Blackwelder visited the set of New Dimensions in Testimony to watch Madame Xia Shuqin being filmed.

Holly Blackwelder