Zhou Mo

Zhou Mo

For me, who grew up in Nanking, the deepest impression from my childhood is the air defense alarm that sounds throughout the city every December 13th. This moment of remembrance of the people killed was the scar of the city. When I left China at the age of 18, I was surprised that few people in the Western world knew this story. Since the Jewish people have been reporting extensively about the Jewish Holocaust for decades, and since it has been recorded precisely, I thought a lot about how I, as a Chinese and Nankinger, could tell this story to the world. When I was directing a play in the United States about the life of the Chinese-American writer Iris Chang, I learned that it was she who discovered the diaries of John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin. With her book The Rape of Nanking – The Forgotten Holocaust, she presented this tragic story to the world for the first time in English.

Overwhelmed by the psychological strain of her task, Chang took her own life. As I read her suicide note, I felt an inner force grow that would lead me to complete her mission. The opera 170 Days in Nanking – The Diaries of John Rabe tells the story of the massacre of Nanking from the perspective of witnesses. What happened before the eyes of the international friends Rabe, Vautrin and Magee was an extremely critical moment in Chinese history. What interested me was their willingness to stay in Nanking. Nanking’s city walls from the early Ming Dynasty are still standing by our side. What could they tell us?

After a ten-year break, I took this opportunity to work again as an opera director. It became clear to me that the many years of perfection were nothing but preparation for this one play. Without this opera I would probably never have realized how much I love the city of Nanking and how deep my sympathy is for it.