The Nanshitou Incident: Interview with Mrs. Wu

  • TypeText
  • Time2019
  • SourceInterview
  • VenueNashitou (Guangzhou, China)
  • CreditMrs. Wu
  • CopyrightLee Kai Chung

Date and time: 17th Nov, 2019, 1600

Interview 1 (Q)

Interview 2 (C)

Mrs Wu (Born in 1927 (A)




I was asked to move to the village, but I refused because I was just a little girl, children would learn to be bad. I didn’t go, later I worked in the refugee camp, where I ate a few taels of rice, just like the imprisoned refugees, I was muddling through those hard days.

When I grew up a few years later, people asked me if I was from that village. I was from there, and my surname was ZHONG. My husband was from the Wu clan in a nearby village, had a few plots of land and grew vegetables or other crops to make a living, finally, he was able to make a good living and join the commune.

Q:What did you do during the Occupation Period?

A:Growing vegetables, fertilising, transporting, and cooking, and someone asked me to bring the crops to Yushan Market [1], which was across the bridge. In the old days, it was called ‘Yushan Market’, but now I am not sure about the name of that place.

Most people survived those hard times. I earnt nine taels of rice for plucking weeds and one kilogram for fertilising crops... The rice was very dirty and unpleasant, and it was the same rice serving those imprisoned refugees.

Q:Were you treated the same as the refugees?

A:Yes…they (the Japanese officers) provided me unclean food mixed with hair, or something else, but I picked the clean rice to eat. It was better than starving to death.

Q:Did they cook the rice for you? Or did you bring your own rice to cook?

A:They distributed to us in plates. Sometimes they only gave us a plate, plus two or three taels.

Q:Have you been to a refugee camp?


Q:Were the refugees imprisoned in their cells?


The refugees were left on their own without enough food. There was no place to wash their faces and no beds. They slept on the floor; they didn't even have a bed. That was the refugee camp, where held many cells, it was used to imprison many communists.

Those communist prisoners wore long gowns, leather shoes, foot shackles and handcuffs and being dragged into the car to the slope, where they were beaten up in middle night.

I was only eight years old at the time (around 1934-1935), and I heard people shouting, "Long live the Communist Party, long live the Communist Party!” I heard it myself and I was really scared, they were shouting "Long live the Communists" and many people were beaten up.

I could hear it at home, I could see and hear, and it was very quiet at night.

I survive, it's really a good time now, the Communist Party Chairman Mao led us through the hardship, it's really a good world now. I am now retired, we don't have to work and we have food to eat, whereas in the old days even when we worked, we didn't have half a meal. In the past we just lived in a house without flooring, and sold our crops to make money, and put bricks on top of concrete to have a place to live. The ground would be soaked in heavy rain. I have five children after I married from to the Wu's family.

Q:Who are the refugees? From Guangzhou or...

A:They all died. We had a towel dispenser and a pool for washing clothes. Now the pool is situated by the main entrance, when people died, they were thrown into the pool, being piled up high, the bodies became rotten and smelly. Later they were carried to the refugee camp for mass burial.

After two or three days, the human fluid flowed down to… there, it was a grain field, and people dare not eat the grain they grew.

I dare not to eat it. Then who would buy it? That pit stank.

Q:Those boats brought the refugees...

A:The refugees were not originally refugees, but Hong Kong people, the motorsailers could not board Guangzhou due to the pandemics; it was raining and the motorsailers had no canopy, the passengers were sick and they had no medicine, so they were dying. The Japanese were afraid that the plague would spread to Guangzhou, and they were all afraid of dying. Eventually, they were lying in the prison cells, there were four blocks of female prison.

Q:That's the pavilion over there, they were sitting inside.

A:When the Japanese were gone, we took the bricks down from the Japanese Hill and sold them, so we could buy rice, although it was never enough to buy a lot. At that time, the price started at one brick per one catty of rice, sometimes one and a half brick per one catty.
I have endured the time and finally have a good life now.

Q:How many people did you see on those motorsailers?

A:They were full of people! Those motorsailers with four sails.

Q:Did they come often?

A:Ten or eight (motorsailers) a day.

Q:How long would the second motorsailer come after the first batch of refugee?

A:It came only once, and then it could not sail to Guangzhou.

Q:How many people were there in one motorsailer? Did it carry 100 people?

A:There were about 20 people in a sail, 10 to 8 motorsailers carried quite a lot of people.

Q:So, you had seen it once only?

A:Yes. I saw the motorsailer with one sail and no canopy got soaked when it rained. By the time they reached their destination, almost all the people were dead, so the rest were let go. Those who could survive were sick and without medicine, they all died eventually. It was terrible.

Q:What happened to the people who were trapped in there?

A:They all died as well... and the rest, if they survived, were let go back to Guangzhou.
Anyway, they were all gone. Those who survived were driven away, and those who died, their bodies were picked up by the others.

So now they go to what we claimed as a quarantine station now.

If the refugee was sick, he/she couldn't go to Guangzhou because it was contagious at that time. The Japanese came here for eight years, when I was 18, I got married in this village at 19-year-old, and I ploughed the fields to make a living, joined the commune, and farm, and finally I have good days now. Even if I don't want to work, I can retire and get more than RMB3,000 social subsidy a month, which is enough for us to make a living.

C:Gran, did you see any Japanese injecting drugs into the food at that time?

A:Yes, they did, more or less.

Q:Into the rice?

A:Yes... they put some powder in the rice, a little bit, like some kind of medicine pill. They said it was for disinfection, but we thought it was a way to kill people. They call it 'disinfection'.

C:How did people react when they ate it?

A:A little bit (of the pills) would not cause any effect, but larger dose would make them sick.

C:Like stomach?

A:A little bit, just slightly.

Q:You could not see if the Japanese injected a bit of it. Did you see how the people reacted after having their meals in the cell?

A:I could not go in, I only heard about it. We were farming outside that property. We all went home after then, we couldn't go in, they were all imprisoned. The Japanese had someone guarding it.

Q:Before the Japanese surrendered, were those people still inside?

A:I saw them going back to the paper mill when Japanese surrendered.

Q:What about at that very moment when the Japanese surrendered?


They stayed in the cells. Those who survived returned to the commune.

Those from the Guangzhou Paper Mill had their hands tied up and being fed to the mosquitoes for experiment, but it is not known what they were tested on. At least they would be provided a full meal after then. There was a refugee mother and son who were tied up and had mosquitoes around them. They said they were being used for testing, but I didn't know.

There was a man who was caught by the Japanese and had his thigh tendons cut off.

Q:How were the tendons being cut?

C:Did the person survive or die?

A:It was a vivisection experiment, having thigh tendon cut through. He escaped somehow and never came back.

C: Did he bleed out when he was cut?

A:A: Of course, if you cut the skin, it would bleed and these were the thigh tendons. The green ones.

C:That are the veins.

Q:What other people did they find to experiment on?

A:There were no specific type of people, there were elderlies, also skinny people. But no obese people, they were all skinny and thin.
Were the imprisoned not released?

Q:Were the imprisoned not released?

A:Nah, they were all refugees. How could they be released?

Q:What about the dead people?

A:They were buried. The pond situated where the towels were washed, and they were thrown upside down, then the bodies were sprayed with a layer of powder. The villagers said it didn't work because of the stench was way too strong. Later on, they picked two men from the refugees who were fed well to carry the bodies.
I'm glad I didn't die, I'm lucky, I have a good life now.
I feel awesome now, I can sleep and wake up and have a meal, receive about RMB3,000 retirement income a month, I can have vegetables and meat and breakfast.

Q:Is there anyone (surviving refugees) living along Nanji Road now? Anyone around your age who is still alive?

A:Yes, they have all passed away. People say I have a good fortune.
It has been 70 years after the Liberation (1945), three years of peace and the Japanese came for eight years. I was only 10 years old when the Japanese invaded and I didn't know anything yet.
My brain is still active! I'm 92 years old already.

[1]According to historical records such as the Canton City Record, there were three famous hills in Canton city in ancient times, namely Fanshan, Yushan and Poshan. Yushan was west of present-day Beijing Road and east of Xiao Ma Station, between Xihu Road and Yuexiu Shuyuan Street, which is now near Dafo Temple of Guangzhou, and there is still a Yushan Road in that area.