Jiao Chuan Chou Jie Framework
  • Mother of Wounded Warriors
    Mother of Refugee Children

    The Chinese Nightingale

    A Nurse, Educator, Activist, and Philanthropist in the Chinese Women’s Movement During WWII

    “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
                                                         — Elie Wiesel

  • About Jiang Jian
  • The Life Story

    During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) ⇱, Ms. Jiang Jian gave up her comfortable and affluent life to become a nurse, educator, activist, and philanthropist. She volunteered to serve the wounded warriors in military hospitals and established a refugee school for children. In addition to actively engaging in community development and charity programs, she set up and organized a local Women's Association. After years of assiduous work, at age 38, she dedicated her life entirely to the wounded warriors and refugee children. People regarded her as the "Mother of Wounded Warriors," "Mother of Refugee Children," and "The Chinese Nightingale ⇱."

    • Early Life
    • Memoir 1937-1940
    • Will and Death
    • Memorial
    • Jiang Jian's wedding photo and her former residence in Hangzhou
      Jiang Jian's Wedding Photo and Former Residence (photo taken in 2018)
      Address: 3–5 East Taiping Lane, Hangzhou, China

      Ms. Jiang was born the same year when Florence Nightingale: The Wounded Soldiers Friend was first published in London in 1902. Through many generations, the Jiang family has been a respectable member of the Baiquan Township in the Dinghai Distinct located in the coastal area of Zhejiang province, where they flourished and prospered in wealth and knowledge by the East China Sea. As the eldest daughter of Sir Jiang Changchi, Jian's parents passed away when she was five. Her maternal uncle Mr. Wang Qiyu brought her up in his affluent home in Shanghai. Mr. Wang was a famous textile entrepreneur and philanthropist in modern China. Furthermore, the statesman and ambassador of the Republic of China, Mr. Gu Weijun (Wellington Koo) was her distant uncle. At age 14, Ms. Jiang graduated from Shanghai Biwen Women's School. Four years later, she married Chou Mingdong (1898-1982), a medical student at Tongji University in Shanghai who later became a renowned pediatrician. Dr. Chou’s grandfather, Mr. Chou Weiqiao, was a business tycoon in Shanghai. Mrs. Chou adopted her husband’s family name and changed hers to Chou Jiang Jian. The couple was deeply in love, although they didn't have biological children. In 1921, Mr. Chou graduated from Tongji, then studied in Germany and received his Ph.D. in Medicine. Afterwards, Dr. Chou opened offices in Hangzhou and Hankou.
    • Jiang Jian's Memoir
      Jiang Jian's Memoir 1937-1940
      «The Wounded Warriors and Refugee Children»

      In the last three years of her life, when China began a full-scale resistance to the expansion of Japanese influence in its territory after the War broke out in 1937, Ms. Jiang’s astonishing transformation—from a wealthy housewife to a voluntary nurse, headmaster, activist, and philanthropist—was not a mere coincidence. In the times of calamity and repression, when loyalty, passion, and courage join the quest for the good, a hero or heroine is born. Behind Jian’s intrinsic kindliness and unwavering perseverance stood resolutely her beloved husband, Dr. Chou, who also held unflinching devotion to their country and people undergoing immense suffering and adversity.

      Sometime between 1939 and 1940, «Guo Xun» magazine, directed by Mr. Huang Yanpei, invited Ms. Jiang to write an article and share her experiences of becoming a volunteer nurse and educator. However, Jiang Jian’s manuscript The Wounded Warriors and Refugee Children, which recorded the details of her work completed during the war, didn’t reach the magazine due to her unexpected illness and death in 1940. Against many obstacles and risks, Dr. Chou and his family as of today have carefully kept her manuscript intact for eight decades. Some of these extraordinary stories can be found on the Warriors and Children pages of this website.
    • Jiang Jian's Will and Heijiang
      Large: Hejiang Where Ms. Jiang Passed Away (photo taken in 2018)
      Small: The Dictation of Jiang Jian's Will 1940

      It was for the refugee children and wounded warriors that Ms. Jiang volunteered years of hard work with deep compassion until a fatal illness took her life. This courageous lady was diagnosed with cancer at a late stage in mid 1940. Shortly after completing her surgery in the wartime capital Chongqing, the headmaster missed her students and returned home in Hejiang, where her school was located. During the last few months of her life, the elder students took turns to look after her voluntarily.

      In her will, Jiang Jian stated that she wanted to submit the custom-made gold badge contributed by 1200 warriors to the government for an auction, and donate the fund to the Chinese Wartime Refugee Childrenʼs Relief and Education Association (中国战时⼉童保育会). She also hoped to establish a preschool for more children and build a vocational training center for disabled veterans after the Chinese won the War of Resistance. Unfortunately, Ms. Jiang passed away peacefully at age 38 surrounded by her loving family and students on October 5th, 1940.
    • Jiang Jian's Memorial
      Large: The Central Daily News published special memorial issues in 1940.
      Small: Ms. Deng Yingchao’s article in the Xinhua Daily's special memorial issue

      The news of Jiang Jian’s death spread quickly. People from all walks of life felt an intense sorrow for her departure and paid their respects to this admirable nonpartisan woman. Among those who suffered the most were her students in the Fifth Sichuan Chapter Refugee School for losing their beloved “Mama.” The wounded warriors in the whole country organized memorial ceremonies and mourning rituals. The First Lady of the Republic of China Ms. Song Meiling—the President of the Chinese Wartime Refugee Childrenʼs Relief and Education Association (中国战时⼉童保育会)—sent condolences, so as the Association branch of the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region occupied by the Communist Party of China. The Association scheduled simultaneous memorial services to be held in all Refugee Schools in the nation on November 5th, 1940. Five days later, a public memorial service took place in Hejiang, where she passed away. Among the attendees was Ms. Liu Qingyang who represented the Association and delivered a eulogy. Soon after, people in the wartime capital Chongqing gathered together to attend the second public memorial service on November 20th. Ms. Song Meiling sent a horizontal biane as a gift for the service, on which four characters were written meaning “long live the spirit.” Major news media have published editorials, special issues, and articles of condolences, such as Central Daily News, Xinhua Daily, Xinshu News, Ta Kung Pao, and more. Many political and cultural elites have written memorial articles and songs for Jiang Jian, among whom were Ms. Deng Yingchao, General Feng Yuxiang, Mr. Zou Taofen, Ms. Shi Liang, Ms. An E, just to name a few.
    • Jiang Jian and Wounded Warriors
      Ms. Jiang Jian and Wounded Warriors 1937
    • Jiang Jian Taking Care of a Wounded Warrior 1937
      Jiang Jian Taking Care of a Wounded Warrior 1937
    • Wartime Hospital and Receiving Station
      Large: A Hospital of Wounded Warriors During the War of Resistance
      Small: Wounded Soldier at Receiving Station in Jiujiang 1938 («China at War» Utley)
    • Newspaper announcements of the nationwide memorial ceremonies organized by wounded warriors in October 1940
      The Central Daily News and the Xinhua Daily announced the nationwide memorial ceremonies organized by wounded warriors in October 1940.
    • General Feng Yuxiang's poem Ms. Jiang Jian
      General Feng Yuxiang dedicated three poems to Ms. Jiang. The third poem is “Ms. Jiang Jian” composed in 1944 and later published in his travel journals.
    During her voluntary service as the chief nurse, about 1200 warriors raised funds and purchased a custom-made gold badge and a red flag for Jiang Jian, along with a horizontal biane for her husband on which four characters "急公好义" were written meaning “enthusiasm on public welfare, compassion in helping others.” Ms. Jiang wore this gold badge often as shown in some of her photos.

    When General Feng Yuxiang heard the story of the Mother of Wounded Warriors, he was deeply moved. The General and his wife Li Dequan met Ms. Jiang in early 1938 and composed a poem Mrs. Chou, in which he praised her as the “Chinese Nightingale.” After Jiang Jian passed away, he wrote two memorial poems with great respect—Mourning "The Mother of Wounded Warriors" 1940 and Ms. Jiang Jian 1944.
  • The Wounded Warriors

    Flowing the Marco Polo Bridge Incident ⇱ in 1937, the horrifying atrocities committed by Japan stirred a nationwide resistance in China. Jiang Jian once said, “The rise and fall of the nation is the concern of every citizen. All men and women share a common responsibility for the fate of their country. I shall no longer stay as a well-to-do housewife.” With Dr. Chou’s strong support, Ms. Jiang gave up her affluent life and became the chief nurse voluntarily taking care of wounded warriors at the Fifth Infantry Military Hospital in Hankou during the Battle of Shanghai ⇱. She looked after thousands of warriors as if they were her own brothers and donated medical supplies much needed in the hospital. Ms. Jiang and her nurses didn’t take a day off during the six months. Her disinterested love and perseverance touched so many people that the soldiers called her “The Mother of Wounded Warriors,” which was quickly spread throughout wartime China. When Ms. Jiang passed away, the wounded warriors in the entire nation organized memorial ceremonies and mourning rituals.

    • Jiang Jian, Dr. Chou Mingdong, and their Refugee Children
      Large: Ms. Jiang Jian, Dr. Chou Mingdong, and their Refugee Children
      Small: The Headmaster and the Honor Students
    • Jiang Jian, Students, and Teacher
      Large: Headmaster Jiang Jian and Her Students
      Small: The Fifth Sichuan Chapter Refugee School's Students and Teacher
    • Jiang Jian and the Student Performance Team
      Large: Ms. Jiang and the Teachers Leading the Student Performance Team 1939
      Small: The Fifth Sichuan Chapter Refugee School's Fitness Class
    • The Second Generation film press release and Dr. Chou Mingdong bought sweet crisped rice bars for the children
      Large: The press release of «The Second Generation» documentary film 1940
      Small: Dr. Chou often gave delicacies to the children, such as the crisped rice bars.
    • Central Daily News memorial issues and all Refugee Schools held simultaneous memorial services
      Large: The Central Daily News published special memorial issues in 1940.
      Small: All Refugee Schools held simultaneous memorial services on Nov 5th, 1940.
    • Xinhua Daily memorial issue and Ms. Deng Yingchao’s  article
      Large: The Xinhua Daily published a special memorial issue in 1940.
      Small: Ms. Deng Yingchao’s article “Mourning the Death of Jiang Jian” in this issue
    During her tenure, Ms. Jiang’s school became one of the best among the 48 Refugee Schools at that time and was commended by the Association. Not one child died or fled. Due to the limited support from the government, these Refugee Schools largely depended on donations. In addition to raising funding alone from all possible channels, Ms. Jiang subsidized the school at her own family’s expense. Not only did she worked persistently to meet higher standards on living and education for her students, but also kept them safe from the frightening bombing operations conducted by the Japanese Air Forces. Over the weekends, the headmaster often organized student teams to voluntarily perform anti-Japanese resistance programs in public space, such as speech, singing, and dancing. She also brought students to visit wounded warriors in the nearby Fifth Infantry Military Hospital. Furthermore, Ms. Jiang set up the Hejiang Women's Association to mobilize local women to care for refugee children.

    In 1939, Chinse film director Pan Jienong selected Ms. Jiang’s school to make The Second Generation, a documentary film released internationally to raise funding for the Association. Meanwhile, Mr. Tao Xingzhi, a prominent educator and reformer, chose nine gifted children from her school to enroll in the Chongqing Yucai Secondary School.
  • The Refugee Children

    As the war ⇱ persisted, misfortune and desperation were dark clouds looming over innocent civilians in the old Middle Kingdom ⇱, where one of the greatest mass migrations in human history was on the move. A 1946 survey estimated that 95 million Chinese wartime refugees were in flight, among whom 1/3 were children. In Spring 1938, people in Wuhan were united to carry out relief work for the half-million refugee predicament and stood together against the impending Battle of Wuhan ⇱. Although Ms. Jiang was one of the initiators of the Chinese Wartime Refugee Childrenʼs Relief and Education Association (中国战时⼉童保育会 ⇱) founded in Wuhan, never would she have thought that escorting 100 refugee children on her way to Chongqing, who were entrusted by the Association in May 1938, unfolded a new chapter in her life. Two months later, she established the Fifth Sichuan Chapter Refugee School in Hejiang ⇱ and voluntarily served as the headmaster until her death in 1940. Ms. Jiang didn’t have biological children, but her motherly love has won the children’s hearts nevertheless. Her students called her “Mama.”

  • The Mothersʼ Movement

    From a housewife to a heroine, Jiang Jian’s remarkable transformation, with the unconditional support by her husband and family, would not have been possible without the invincible force of the Chinese Womenʼs Movement started in the dawn of the 20th century. Behind Ms. Jiang’s incredible achievement underlies the Mothersʼ Movement—a major achievement of the Chinese Womenʼs Movement in the first half-century. Because of its large scale and sophisticated operation system, perhaps the Mothersʼ Movement, which reflects universal ethical values, is an unprecedented accomplishment in human history. Unfortunately, no studies in English are hitherto available.

    • Overview
    • Beginnings
    • Development
    • Ending
      • The Chinese Wartime Refugee Children’s Relief and Education
        The President and Executive Committee of the Chinese Wartime Refugee Children’s Relief and Education Association in Wuhan, 1938
      • Japanese troops killed many Chinese children
        Long before the War, during the 1931 Mukden Incident, Chinese children in Liaoning province were slaughtered and burned by the Japanese Army.
      • Transferring refugee children
        Many refugee children were transferred to safer regions such as Sichuan by boat along the Yangtze River.
      • Refugee Schools
        More than 60 Refugee Schools became homes for the refugee children to study, play, and grow.
      • The Women’s Life Magazine
        «Women's Life» Magazine (1935-1941), Editor-in-chief Ms. Shen Zijiu. This magazine played an important role in advocating the Mothers' Movement.

      During the Hundred Days' Reform in 1898, new ideas of modernization challenged the roots of the Chinese Fengjian system, which inspired the social change to empower women. The 1911 Xinhai Revolution and the 1919 May Fourth Movement cracked the mainspring that kept the mechanism of the Middle Kingdom in motion. As a result, the reformed political, social, economical, and educational frameworks kindled a vigorous Women’s Movement in China, whose major achievements included the Mothersʼ Movement during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Some scholars suggested that the Mothersʼ Movement might have advanced the Chinese Womenʼs Movement at that time by unifying women from all social classes and political parties to rescue refugee children. Since the movement launched in 1938, in the following eight years, about 30,000 refugee children were rescued and educated in over 60 Refugee Schools throughout China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia organized by the Chinese Wartime Refugee Childrenʼs Relief and Education Association (中国战时⼉童保育会) supported mainly by donations. One year after the war ended and Japan surrendered, the Association and these schools successfully fulfilled their mission and disbanded in 1946.
      • Bloody Saturday photograph, August 28, 1937
        "Bloody Saturday" Photograph, A Crying Baby Ping Mei Amid the Bombed-Out Ruins of Shanghai South Railway Station, August 28, 1937
      • The Inaugurations of the Association
        Large: The Inaugural Ceremony of the First Hankou Temporary Refugee School
        Small: The Inaugural Ceremony of the Association, Hankou, 1938
      • Transfering Refugee Children in Hankou to Safe Regions
        The children of the First Hankou Temporary Refugee School were walking to the pier to be transferred to safe regions in 1938.

      At the end of 1937, the fall of Shanghai and Nanjing to the Japanese led to the notorious Nanjing Massacre. During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), the “Three Alls Policy”—kill all, burn all, loot all, a Japanese scorched earth policy adopted in China, was responsible for the deaths of millions of Chinese civilians. Mass evacuation, forced displacement, and deportation of millions of people took place across the country. According to statistics, the 63 million refugees constituted 15% of the total population in wartime China, and children under 15 years of age took up one-third of the total refugee population. Some refugee children died in the war zone, some were taken away to Japan, some were drained to death, whose blood was taken to support wounded Japanese soldiers. At this pivotal moment, the Chinese women first acted and took this issue as one of the most important wartime tasks. Several active women's groups and individuals launched a campaign of the wartime refugee children’s relief association and advocated a large-scale systematic evacuation of refugee children to safe areas so that they could be nurtured and educated for the future of the nation. On January 20th, 1938, the «Women's Life» magazine, edited by Ms. Shen Zijiu, published "The Origin of the Chinese Wartime Refugee Childrenʼs Relief and Education Association" written by Mr. Shen Junru. This article listed the 182 initiators of the Association (中国战时⼉童保育会), among whom was Jiang Jian. The inaugural ceremony of the Association was held in Hankou on March 10th, 1938. The First Lady of the Republic of China Ms. Song Meiling served as the president and Ms. Li Dequan the vice president. Supported by all political parties, the Association was established under the Chinese Women's National Wartime Relief Society (中国妇女慰劳自卫抗战将士总会) organized by Ms. Song.

      Fundraising and relief work started immediately after the inauguration of the Association. In less than two months, the First Hankou Temporary Refugee School opened on May 1st, 1938. For a short period, it became the new home of thousands of refugee children who were rescued from the war zone. Due to the War and years of natural disasters, the government subsidy was limited. About 75% of the Association’s operating funds depended on donations. Under such extremely difficult conditions, the Association established 14 branches and 61 refugee schools in mainland China, Hong Kong, and the Nanyang region. The children ranged in age from preschool to teenagers, although the majority of them were in primary education. Not only have the refugee schools raised these children, but also educated them so that they could use their skills and talents to build a new China. In addition to adapting regular schools’ curricula, the Association published its own textbooks suitable for the refugee children. Supported by well-known educators such as Mr. Tao Xingzhi, the refugee schools implemented pedagogical approaches to cultivate talent and independent spirit on one hand and teamwork ability on the other. Moreover, a variety of teaching methods were carried out to stimulate the children’s patriotic and national spirit, such as storytelling of the motherland, following the situation of the War, singing songs of the War of Resistance, and hosting fundraising public performances to support the War of Resistance.

      When the War ended in 1945, the Association (中国战时⼉童保育会) rescued about 30,000 children in eight years. The majority of them grew up to be strong and capable. Based on statistics, it was an astonishing achievement that over 6,000 children were enrolled in advanced studies and more than 2,000 were in arts. The Association and its schools successfully fulfilled their mission and disbanded in 1946.

      Because Ms. Song Meiling was the President of the Association and part of its leadership was also the Kuomintang—the ruling party during the War, these once refugee children were mistreated after the People's Republic of China was established by the Communist Party in 1949. Many of them have been persecuted to death and committed suicide during the Cultural Revolution. It was until 1985 when Ms. Deng Yingchao—the Chairwoman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference—affirmed the historical significance of the Association, the reputations of these innocent people were reinstated and the studies of the Mothers’ Movement began to unveil its mystery.

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