Hei tai yang: Nan Jing da tu sha (Black Sun: the Nanking Massacre) (1995)



Director:     Tun Fei Mou. 

Starring:     Liang Zhang,  Yung Pan,  Shao-tien Hsiung,  Wen-ting Chiang,  Wen-tu Pan,  Hua Shao.

Nanking Massacre, Dec. 1937


Dedicated to all war victims to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the successful conclusion of the Campaign of Resistance.


On September 4, 1937 the Japanese emperor Hirohito issued an imperial directive on the conduct of the Greater East Asia War. It deliberately avoided reference that the Japanese military abide by the rule of warfare set by International Treaties. This set the stage for the forth-coming atrocities in the Nanking Massacre.

On July 7, 1937, the Japanese started the Lugou Bridge Incident. A full scale war with China began. Japan said they would destroy China in three months.

On August 13th 1937, Japanese troops attacked Shanghai.

In November 1937, Shanghai, Soochow and Soongjiang fell. From three directions, troops moved to attack Nanking.

On November 2, 1937, Chiang Kai-shek announced moving the capital to Chungking. General Tang Sung-chi was ordered to protect Nanking.

On December 2, General Matsui Iwane of Japan ordered an attack on Nanking.

On December 5, Japanese troops launched a full-scale attack on Nanking.

On December 11, Nanking was surrounded.

On December 13, Nanking fell.

A young man reports to the Buddhist master that the war is over. It’s quiet outside. The master says no one knows what the Japanese are doing. But aren’t they Buddhists? asks the young man. The master answers it’s not the same.

Japanese soldiers walk down a street littered with dead Chinese civilian bodies. A baby besides it’s dead mother cries.

Grandmother prays for Buddha to protect her family (her son, daughter, granddaughter, grandson and uncle).

The Japanese continue to push down the streets of Nanking shooting down civilians. A Japanese officer cuts off a head with his Samurai sword. The uncle of the Buddhist family comes in to report that there is big trouble outside. The whole city is a disaster, he says. Many parts of the city are burning. Grandmother says that Buddha protected them. The uncle suggests that they go to the refugee zone. The young woman says that the flyers dropped from the Japanese planes said they would not hurt them. They decide to stay in their home.

At the point of bayonets, the Japanese force Chinese soldiers to jump off a high wall to their death.

Lt. General Tanio Hisao: Commander of the 6th Division of the Japanese Army. He gives the order to kill any captured or wounded Chinese soldiers, because some of them are still resisting. One of his officers says they should set up comfort houses (where Chinese women would sexually service the Japanese soldiers). Gen. Hisao says: "Every house in Nanking is a comfort house. Every Chinese woman is a comfort woman."

Syaku Shinso, a Japanese Buddhist monk, is the corpse collector of the Japanese army. He is told to pray for the Japanese dead. The General tells his officers that they are the first army ever to capture Nanking. They will go down in the history books.

Team 3 of the 47th company has overtaken the city walls. The Generals says: "We will make the Chinese fear our power." He makes sure that now the "clean-up" stage of the campaign has started. Japanese soldiers round up Chinese males and start exterminating them. Some are pushed into a cave-like structure and a hand grenade is thrown in amongst them. A fleeing Chinese woman is shot in the back and killed.

A Chinese father who understands Japanese listens to the Japanese soldiers being given orders: "Kill those who open doors slowly! Kill those who run! Kill those who hide! Kill those with short hair! Kill those with their hands in their pockets! Kill, kill, kill, kill!"

When a group of Chinese are herded together, the father tells the people the types of people the Japanese will shoot. The Japanese officer asks the father if he speaks Japanese. When he says he does, the officer says the man will work for the Imperial Army. The father with his son tells the people to huddle together in front of the Japanese soldiers. Then the Japanese open up on the crowd with a machine gun.

Japanese soldiers burst into the home of the Buddhist family introduced earlier. They bayonet the father and smash the mother in the face with a rifle-butt. Grandmother tells Uncle to take the children and run. The Japanese soldiers start raping the mother.

Actual footage of the carnage is shown and it looks worse and more massive than the acting scenes shown in the film.

Sasaki, officer in the 16th Division of the Japanese Army has his picture taken by Japanese war journalists. Standing by dead Chinese bodies he says he feels invigorated. They have made history. He says: "The Japanese Empire will control all of Asia." He also says if their intimidation methods work all of China will soon surrender.

Lt. General Nakajima Kyogo, Commander of the 16th Division of the Japanese Army goes into the former Nationalist Government Building. He is taken to Chian Kai-shek’s original office. The General decides to make his headquarters here.

Uncle hides his young nephew and niece behind a bunch of discarded doors. He tells them he will be back. Uncle sees Chinese soldiers standing against a wall and a Japanese machine gunner shooting them down.

An officer reports to Gen. Kyogo on the progress of Sasaki’s team. Their troops started out from the Tse-ging Mountain. They annihilated the enemy camp. The tanks moved towards Xia-kwan at 10 a.m. and mowed down the retreating Chinese soldiers on the river bank. The 38th Division has occupied the northern city walls. They then moved into Yi Jiang Men. The 6th Division charged from the south to attack the Chinese army. The 11th fleet sailed to the Upper Yangtze River and attacked the Chinese gun ships. Kunizaki Shitai reached Pu-kou at 4 p.m. In short, the city has been surrounded and annihilated.

In the city there are still over 50,000 Chinese soldiers. Another officer reports that Sasaki’s group killed 20,000 and captured thousands. The order of Asakanomiya Hatohikoo is that all POWs are to be killed. That settled, they move on to the problem of some Chinese soldiers hiding as civilians in the refugee zone. The General tells the officers to start a killing competition and headquarters will reward the winners.

The 6th division of Tani Hisao was the first to occupy The China Gate. This makes General Kyogo mad and he says it was his men that entered first the National Government’s compound. He goes to tell the officers to hand over all trophies of war to headquarters and divide the rest among themselves.

A pregnant woman is surrounded by Japanese soldiers. She kneels before them to beg for her life and she is kicked in the stomach. Uncle tries to fight one of the soldiers but is hit with the butt of a rifle. The woman’s stomach area is slashed open and the baby skewered and held up for viewing by the other troops. Uncle screams with indignation and horror.

Corporal Noda Iwa bangs away with his sword on a huge Chinese sculpture. He is very proud that he has killed over 100 Chinese with his army sword. The journalist tells the men that he sent out the pictures yesterday and soon the Corporal will be a famous hero in Japan.  Corporal Mukai Toshiaki performed the same feat as the other corporal. He says he has killed 105 and now his target is 150. Lt. Tanaka Gunkichi killed over 300 Chinese with his Sukehiro sword. For this his men look up to and admire him. So the reporters run off to photograph the lieutenant. The corporals observe that journalists are so perverted.

A white man with a beard named John Rabe stops one of the officers. He explains that he is head of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. He says he is German and Chairman of the International Committee. He introduces Dr. George Fitcher an American and the Assistant Administrator. A safety zone has been approved by Japanese Headquarters. Chinese refugees will stay there. The officer says: "Understood!" They say that there are some disarmed Chinese soldiers among them, but they hope the soldiers will obey the international rules. With his hand the officer just slashes at the map of the zone and proceeds forward. Virtually right next to them, the Japanese are killing civilians. John Rabe asks the officer why they are doing this, but the officer does not want Rabe to bother him.

Takayama Kenshi, a samurai speaks with his good friend Kyogo congratulating him on his collection of Chinese artifacts. He admires a Japanese sword. They discuss which Japanese sword maker was the best. The samurai says that the General’s sole emphasis on the killing power of a sword leads men to only know how to destroy. "Then it becomes evil." The General, however, is not interested. He only cares about the "Holy War" against China. He wraps his savagery in high-sounding, moral words. But the samurai says there’s a difference – a difference between short versus long term goals. He says the General’s vision is limited, whereas his heart should be unlimited. He wants an enlightened approach to winning the peace. The General laughs at him.

Kyogo asks Kenshi to go with him to watch him test his sword. A number of Chinese captives have been blind-folded and are kneeling. Off goes a head. Kenshi walks away. Just to test his Kamagura sword, Kyogo personally killed seven Chinese during the Nanking Massacre.

The Buddhists priests and students are taken outside one by one. And one by one they are shot dead. The master is the last to die. He looks in the eyes of the Japanese soldiers who will shoot him. He then stares into the eyes of the officer in charge. The Chinese monk is shot in the back of the head by the officer. (An actual photo is shown of such an event.)

Uncle is finally caught. He shouts to his nephew and niece not to come out of hiding.

Hundreds of men are taken to a huge field. There they are mowed down by machine guns. There were many women, old men and children among them.

The two Japanese generals get together and argue who was first in victory. They insult each other and their respective staffs laugh at the other side when it is their turn. The generals brag about who has the biggest killer in their unit.

An officer comes in to tell the generals that the Emperor is very satisfied with how quickly Nanking was conquered. He wants all the men to know this. But now they must turn their attention to the refugee zone. On the surface they will act like they respect the rules put forward by the International Committee. But in practice they will do what they want. They say that German John Rabe is ridiculous the way he waves the Nazi flag around. And they have heard of a troublesome American woman who is working with the refugees.

The American woman is working with refugees when the Japanese arrive and start shouting at the refugees. She tells them that they cannot do this. The officer says they will use her as a comfort woman. They leave, but the officer says he will see her tonight.

Japanese soldiers go through the refugee camp looking for Chinese soldiers. A white man explains to Rev. Magee that among the captives are many civilians. He also mentions that Dr. Wilson at Gu-lou Hospital is working very hard to save lives. Actual footage of a doctor treating the injured patients brought to him by Rev. Magee is shown. Many have terrible, gaping wounds and/or horrible burns.

At a huge warehouse full of Chinese men, a few at a time are taken outside and shot. One of the Chinese men says the men are being shot, but the others say it is impossible to kill so many and without any reason. Uncle is one of the men. Some of the men talk about charging the guards, but others are afraid. Uncle hears them and stands up. He tells the Japanese he has a stomach ache. The officer asks if there is any one else with a stomach ache? Others stand up. The officer and the soldiers fire into the air. The standing men sit down. But they want Uncle to come with them.  An officer pulls Uncle out of the line of ten of those to be shot. Uncle sees the men of the line being mowed down by machine gun fire.

The Japanese corpse collector sees some suspicious movements outside and goes to investigate. He corners one of the Buddhist students, but he only tells him to get out of town. Uncle is used as an errand boy.

Young Chinese half-naked women are kept in rooms of the comfort houses. The women are taken out, raped and then murdered. A man starts fighting the soldier burning down his house. He is pushed into the fire by the soldier. On fire the man gets up, grabs the soldier and with him jumps back into the fire.

Foreign journalists will be attending the Japanese victory celebration and so they have to clean up some of the streets disposing of the myriads of corpses. An officer says that they haven’t stopped clearing corpses. The workload is just too heavy. They are running out of room for the corpses. Tani Hisao has suggested dumping the corpses in the river. But there are already floating corpses of men, women and children. It looks bad for the Japanese. A suggestion is made to burn the bodies first so they are unrecognizable and then throwing them into the river. They will use coolies to transport the corpses. Then they will kill the coolies.

Now their attentions turn to the refugee zone. They complain that those foreigners are troublesome, always protesting about the actions of the Japanese. The officers are told to forget the foreigners and just keep raiding the zone.  The Japanese grab a bunch of Chinese police in uniform called in by the International Committee to help them control the crowds. It’s approved by headquarters. The Japanese just push the protesting Reverend out of the way. (At the Chinese War Crimes Tribunal Tani Hisao said at 1 p.m. on December 15, 1937, 2,000 Chinese policemen were captured and executed en masse at Han Chung Gate.)

Other mass executions continue. December 17, 1937, the Japanese Army’s ceremonial entrance into Nanking takes place. The ceremonial head is General Matsui Iwane, Commander of the Japanese Expeditionary Forces in central China. (Actual footage is shown from that ceremony.)

General Iwane says that in war killing is unavoidable but they must observe international law. An officer objects that the Emperor’s directive did not mention international law. The officers are upset. They say all they are asking for is a little relaxation of the rules. The General replies: "You mean slaughtering, burning and raping are mere relaxation of the rules?" The officers offer all kinds of lame excuses for the soldiers’ behaviors.

Lt. General Asakanomiya Hatohikoo, an uncle of Emperor Hirohito, asks: "What about morality?" "What morality?" asks an officer. Lt. General Anan in charge of the Rear Services says that: "Among ourselves we must act morally." But most of the officers seem to be of the opinion that they want to continue murdering and raping innocent people. Outside one of them asks: "With too many restrictions how can we fight?" One jerk says they should kill and destroy everything in Nanking.

The Japanese take a lot of women in trucks with the promise that they will receive food and money for their labor. (Undoubtedly, they are being taken to comfort houses.) Uncle makes his escape to check on his niece and nephew. He doesn’t find them in their hiding place.

Iwane talks one on one with his assistant officer. He says that he was only criticizing the conduct of the officers because he wanted to hear them express openly their feelings about the situation.   The Chinese will learn from their punishments how to behave. The Japanese are like parents spanking their errant children. But, he says, he cannot openly support murder and rape. "Everyone must act his role." He says at the conference he let everyone have their say. He thinks Kyogo and Hisao both have potential.

Japanese troops chase a woman. She runs into the refugee zone and the American woman stops them. The officer laughs at her and she slaps him. He starts ripping the American flag. The American calls them "Japanese pigs," so the officer pushes her down and they try to grab the fleeing woman. But she takes off again. The chase is on once more.

The woman runs into a house and gets away. So in the house the Japanese kill the husband, throw the baby against a table and rape the wife. Then the baby is placed in a pot full of boiling soup. The fleeing woman runs into a house where, unfortunately forher, there are Japanese soldiers.  They grab her, kick her and stab her. (Documentary footage of Ms. Hsiu-ying at Gu-lou Hospital is shown.)

A group of Muslims start finding and burying the Muslim dead. A large troop of them carrying the corpses on stretchers to the burial grounds. They run into a Japanese unit. The officer grabs the corpse of a baby from the lead Muslim, throws it on the ground and shoots it. The Muslim picks up the corpse and with his fellow Muslims continues their march.

Mail call for the Japanese. One soldier cries because his brother died on the battlefield. And Japan is having to tax its people heavily and his family is finding it hard to make ends meet. One of the soldiers says that they were told they could go home after the fall of Nanking. So why are they starting a new war? An officer hears these remarks and scolds the whole group for their negative attitude.  A minister and John Rabe save two young women from the clutches of the Japanese. The minister is taking care of Uncle’s niece and nephew.

Now that the Japanese have been given permission to send war trophies back to their families in Japan they start going crazy looking for items of value. They even take sacred scrolls saying they will bring big money back home.

General Tani Hisao’s unit is being moved to another operation. They are taking around a thousand Chinese women (ages 14 to 40) with them. His rival Kyogo is staying put to hold Nanking. He tells his staff that they must get rid of the refugee zone to stop the foreigners from interfering.

Everyone in the refugee zone now must register. The people get mad at the Chinese father with his son who works with the Japanese for bringing the bad news. The translastorssays if the complainer in the audience has any guts he can refuse to register tomorrow. That shuts the man up.

More mass executions. Actual footage of the Chinese registering and getting personal I.D.s is shown. The complainer from the other day refuses to bow to a high-ranking Japanese officer. The order is given to burn the trouble maker. Gasoline is thrown on him and he is set afire. Uncle is in the crowd watching all this.

There are thousands of dead Chinese along the river bank. Gasoline is poured over them. The bodies are set afire. From the fire of one torch about a mile of bodies goes up as the fire spreads down the embankment.

Uncle comes to the American woman (Miss Bates they call her) to ask her if she has seen his nephew and niece. The boy had a lucky charm around his neck. No she hasn’t.

Uncle’s mother is raped. Uncle sees the aftermath and rushes into the room. He receives a sword cut across the left side of his face that kills him. He is thrown among other dead bodies.

The Japanese journalists arrive to take pictures of the soldiers using live Chinese for bayonet practice. But they are too late. So they get the Chinese translator and have him pose as a man about to have his head cut off. The father has his son wait for him as he kneels down and put his head forward acting like he is about to have his head cut off. The executioner gets ready and swings for the benefit of the photographers. He deliberately misses. The journalists need another shot, so the man swings away again, but this time he lops off the head of the Chinese translator while his son watches.

The Japanese catch two women in line trying to smuggle goods. They beat and kick the women. One woman’s clothes start to fall off. A Buddhist monk places some clothes over the woman. For punishment they strip the monk and have him lay on top of the woman. He jumps off the woman and has his genital cut off for doing so. A dog eats a dead human.

Uncle’s nephew and niece are spotted by two soldiers. They run for it with the soldiers chasing them. The corpse collector hides them in his basket. The children are shocked by his saving them.

A survivor of the mass burning of bodies at the river embankment later testified that the Japanese burned 5,00 corpses and injured persons. Only he and a few others managed to survive.

Grandmother has dressed her three dead family members in good clothes. She pours oil on them to burn the bodies. The niece and nephew make it back to grandma’s house. They start crying when they see what has happened. Grandmother says that she cannot go on living. Two Japanese soldiers arrive, grab the niece, place her on a table and start raping her. Grandmother forces the boy outside. She then lights the bodies on fire. The soldiers catch on fire and burn to death outside the house. Grandmother and the niece perish in the fire as the house burns down.

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1937, foreigners in Nanking held a simple religious service praying for peace and safety. Nakajima Kyogo held a celebration party at the same time. By contrast, the massacre of Chinese in Nanking continued. More actual footage and photos are shown of the many atrocities committed by the Japanese interspersed with scenes of the Japanese celebrating and the foreigners holding a prayer vigil.

The young nephew has to continue alone.

After Nanking was occupied by the Japanese Army, massive burning, killing, raping and plundering continued for six weeks. Males, females, old and young — none were spared. The atrocities were even worse than that shown in this film. This was not a war. It was an intentional, planned and organized massacre.

According to the verdict of the war crimes tribunal in 1947, the Japanese Army was judged to have raped over 20,000 women and killed 300,000 Chinese during the Nanking massacre. One-third of the city was destroyed. Property was plundered at unestimated losses. No family was spared.


Matsui Iwane – hanged on December 23, 1947.

Tani Hisao – executed on April 26, 1947.

Mukai Toshiaki, Noda Iwa, Tanaka Gunkichi – executed Jan. 28, 1948.

Nakajima Kyogo – died of natural causes in 1945.


Good film and should be viewed by more people.  One hears a lot about the evil deeds of the Nazis.  Much more rarely does one hear about the evil deeds of the Japanese fascists.  Well all you really need is this one film to know just how evil the Japanese under fascism were.  I was dreading watching the movie because I knew some of the things the Japanese had done in what is sometimes called "the rape of Nanking".   And it's true that the film shows one atrocity after another being committed.  Nevertheless, there are worse historical films as regards violence.  At least there were no drawn out torture scenes in this film.  Usually the Japanese just took you out and shot you or shot you were you stood.  Maybe because I had already read so much about the Japanese atrocities, I didn't find the film all that upsetting.  I wrote a lot of notes, but it was like I felt a moral obligation to get the story of these poor victims down on paper.  I don't imagine that many people order this film to watch on a Saturday night.  So if you have a weak stomach, you can read about it instead of having to view it.  The film does not completely devastate us.  There is some hope presented at the end.   Besides the atrocities, the story follows an extended family reacting to and/or receiving the horrors of the shameful behavior of the Japanese.  (It's interesting how the movie successfully combined the real history and the acting scenes.  They did a good job.) 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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