HANGZHOU, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) -- Eighty years after its fall to the Japanese, east China's Hangzhou city paid tribute to an American missionary who helped save the lives of tens of thousands of people during one of the darkest periods of the city's history.
In an event held on Sunday, teachers, students and historians of Hangzhou recounted the heroic deeds of Edward H. Clayton, who after the city's fall in 1937 established a refugee camp at the city's Wayland Academy, a school he founded, to provide shelter to more than 10,000 women and 2,000 orphans over the next four years.
"As Japan hadn't declared war against the United States and Britain at the time Japanese troops captured Hangzhou, sites run by Americans and the British became temporary safe havens for refugees and injured soldiers," said Zhou Donghua, a historian at Hangzhou Normal University.
In 1944, Clayton published a memoir titled "Heaven Below," recollecting his 30 years in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, including life after the city's fall.
Shen Hong, a professor at Zhejiang University, came upon the book in 2007 and Clayton's stories became better known to Hangzhou residents. They hailed him as the "Oskar Schindler of Hangzhou," after the German industrialist who helped save the lives of more than a thousand Jews during the Holocaust.
Teachers at Hangzhou No. 2 High School, a successor to Wayland, have started translating "Heaven Below" into Chinese in hopes of keeping the memories alive.
In a visit to Vanderbilt University, Clayton's alma mater, Shen found among the archives two long letters Clayton sent home during WWII. They detailed the atrocities the Japanese had committed as well as the difficulties the missionary endured to keep the refugees safe.
"From Clayton's letters, we know that he and his wife could have left China after the war broke out, but they chose to stay and offer humanitarian aid to women and children at the risk of their own lives," said Shen. "This heroic deed should be remembered by generations to come."