The Hall of the Victims

A five star hotel 
where Skull Stack Street
meets Charnel Square

(All prose sections in the following are quoted from a catalogue entitled The Interpretive Words for the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, written by Zhu Chengshan for the Memorial Hall Museum, Shuiximen Street, Nanjing, China)

After taking Nanjing on December 13, 1937, the Japanese troops, in flagrant disregard of international conventions, slaughtered over 300,000 disarmed Chinese soldiers and unarmed civilians during six weeks. Over 20,000 rapes and gang rapes occurred in the city. Most of the major massacres took place by the Yangtze, and over 100,000 corpses were thrown into the river. 

The green man walks
and a thousand people hurry
at the mass grave

The command of the 6th Division received an order that says, “Kill all Chinese, regardless of sex and age, and burn all houses.” For details about the sites of massacres, visitors can press the button with the corresponding number.

Japanese invaders thrust bayonet into the man

Plum blossoms
thanks be thanks be
my life so easy

Xia Shuqin:  Her grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, two elder sisters and a younger sister were killed by Japanese soldiers. Her mother and two elder sisters were gang raped. Xia Shuqin was seven. She and her four year old sister were the only survivors. They lived for fourteen days beside the corpses on rice crusts left by their mother and cold water in the vat, until they were discovered by a neighbour. 

Childhood memory -
numbers tattooed on his wrist
the smiley old gent

The statue complex is called Catastrophe of the Ancient City.  This stereoscopic granite sculpture is four meters in height, entitled “Call of the Mother.”

Harassed by sculpture
I turn to the long long lines
of names, names

These are photos of Japanese soldiers raping women which were found on Japanese captives.

Prayer for the dead -
smoke belches from incense fardels
in dense mist

This is Mr. John Rabe, manager of the Nanjing branch of Siemens. He saved and aided over 200,000 Nanjing citizens. He repeatedly protested to the Japanese embassy over Japanese troops’ atrocities and recorded them in his diary. The National Government of China awarded him a medal in red, blue and white. 

Faintly through mist
human voices
a colossal Pusa

This is Ms. Vautrin, an American missionary, who was teaching at Ginling College of Humanities and Science. She set up a refugee camp in the college, protecting over 9,000 women and children.* She was likened by John Rabe to a hen guarding her chicks. She got serious melancholia from too much tension, which failed to be cured after she returned to America, where she gassed herself at home. 

Temple of the Lord of Hell:
in a fantastical cauldron
naked people boiling 

“Mass Grave of 10,000 Corpses”: From here, people can see the cross section of the layers of the victims’ remains. Part of the remains is incomplete and buried abnormally in chaos.

Badly focused
my photographic view
and ill composed

Remains No.5 is the skeleton of a 6 year old, with his skull on his chest, mandible and ribs around. It is attested that its head and neck had been apart before death.

My father a conchie
my mother a pacifist
evil-blind, perhaps

Remains No.8 is the skeleton of an old woman, with upper and lower mandibles apart. It is inferred that she had been choked in her oral cavity before burial…  Remains No.114 is the skeleton of a young female, with a horizontal penetration of a nail in her skull.

Jumble of bones
the guard clockwatching
an evening of skulls

Japan-China Friendship Association has organised some Japanese to Nanjing for planting trees every spring since 1986. They call this activity as “the green atonement.” 

So green the leaves
a light breeze ripples
my heart

Selected Haiku (and a tanka)

Matisse tanka

Calm red inside
and blue veins climb. A woman
touches the fruit bowl.
In the window, trees

More grandson haiku

Before school
ten minutes in heaven
drawing devils

It’s after bedtime -
he proffers a specious argument
with a smile.

he moves his mouth in silence
as the head appears.

Koan retreat haiku

On Here Hill,
at Now o’clock, I meet This.
A chestnut stallion.

A new gentle me -
sheep keep their distance
the crow flaps off

Roshi’s sermon -
a wren at the window
hops from thought to thought

Fire-heat and the lamp’s hiss.
Whilst from the kitchen
the sound of a whisk.

Path to the farm -
herringbone ruts
glistening with ice

Zazen - I have
“Ordinary Mind”; my shadow
ordinary head

the demon plans a well-received
study of demons.

sit under their stars
sharing our wonder


Maglev train
picnic party - the floating world
on a concrete path

Three people
I judged uncultured
kind to me today

Again and again
the white surf breaks
as we hold from talking

in my stiff fingers
its eager heart

Rain on the window.
The knife in the bowl

Ten thousand bright waves -
the anchor warp squeaks
as we bow to each one.

Lord Plover
in wet ermine
sucks mud

Dad never spoke of love
but now, the tongue risen
the mouth gapes

The curlew’s call
still resonating, I dream
the withered baby

Spotlit, stepping
on a gold-flecked plinth,
the chipped old buddha.

One son missing
the other a fool
Christmas marmalade

Tugged half under,
the mooring buoy
in the spring ebb tide

Incense for John
rising into whatever
the grey sky is

the same notes at dawn
for 10,000 years

Contorted trunk
clambers its twist to
a tuft of birdsong

splash and scream
in an angel’s wing

In the winter wind
between derelict factories

Feeding ducks
the ginger skinhead
opens and shuts his mouth

The wipers sweep, sweep,
on the radio news
an abandoned child

Orange sun white cloud
through the plane’s
egg window

Flapping fingers
stinking of varnish
she laughs at vanity.

Always roaring
the echo in me
of the wind between stars

Fractals in sand -
the ebbing tide
knows how

Picking winter scraps
in The Mower’s blades
old yellow-beak.

Always roaring
faintly in the background
tinnitus of bliss

Ken’s Great Leap
into the all-too-clear
from the unknown

Golden snakes
behind the bins,
the dog eating wasps

Flickering shag -
at first thrilling...
then baffling     

(after Basho)

Under the hill
tarmac whispers
shadows of passing

To stragglebush
the topiarist
brings pride

In a non-world
I taste the salmon sandwich
I didn’t choose

Rounding the headland home
the shushing of ripples
licking the hull

Forgiveness -
and after the rain swallows
feast over fields

That pretty cloud
I saw yesterday
and liked so…

Lying in the grass
watching; hearing 
the skylark disappear

Family barbecue
the moon sails West

clouds sail East

Rain on the frail roof
fiercely drumming
Ancestor Blues

In reverie I feel
her shadow cross my eyelids.
Rockpool scattering

I bow to great nature
and wave a goodbye
to all of you


Handed to her brief

to the usher to the clerk

to the judge – her scrap of plea

Brilliant strand

a man and a woman

bury stones

Closing in

from everywhere

faintly glowing mist

My enemy’s lawyer

with ginger cat fur

on his suit

In a dull voice

he explains the Chinese concept


My new friend

as the day darkens

is his face young or old?

Flying with Orion

over Novosibirsk –

lights in the wilderness

The dead together

wavering in crowds

– autumn grasses

Watching a cat

decide not to jump –

little gust of grief

The foul-mouthed loner

each dawn he sees Jesus

ablaze in the East

Mice have had half the pear

while I dreamed of my parents

caught in the blitz

Stone cloister

devil and saint

softened by time

To her funeral

in the same crowded train

with the same brimming heart


bridging the needles

of rosemary

Missed it

the moment

to join in the laugh

Thin ridge-lines float

on glowing cloud –

the barking of dogs

Not a breath of breeze

crisp iced mud

and a crow caw

Farmyard flints

through the soles of my shoes

the Milky Way

Fleecy lamb

eaten away at the chest

full of rain

My big head:

the hills, the clouds

the winter sun

For the unloved

an immense night sky

creamy with stars

Beginningless kalpas of time perhaps

to the Big Bang

of this ripe nectarine

In the rose garden

a man I don’t much like

enjoying the sunshine

Summer’s end nears

now the slow bee allows

stroking of fur

stars fill the hatchway


to the smell of melon