All posts by vcrefugeesolidarity


For more research and literature on the subject of Chinese refugees:

The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, The Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938-1950 (Micah S. Muscolino)

In a Sea of Bitterness: Refugees during the Sino-Japanese War (Keith Schoppa)

Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees and the Making of Modern China (Stephen R. MacKinnon)

Runaway Wives, Urban Crimes and Survival Tactics in Wartime Beijing (Zhao Ma)

Drowned Earth: The Strategic Breaching of the Yellow River Dyke, 1938 (Diana Lary)



Vassar Miscellany News, Volume XXV, Number 31, 12 February 1941

Article Summary: The Vassar Emergency Relief Drive was organized “to meet the constant demands for foreign war relief.” Ellen Coan ’42, during the drive’s opening salute, stated that “Not only will the Drive be Varsar’s collective expression of sympathy for the innocent victims of war, but it will also be the individual expression of each contributor of his belief in the supreme worth of every human being.”

“We at Vassar are relatively secure. We cannot vividly imagine the conditions prevailing in the war-torn areas of Europe and China.”


The Vassar Miscellany News, Volume XXIII, No. 45, 26 April 1939

Article Summary: Sponsored at Vassar by the Community Church, a drive was organized by the National Intercollegiate Christian Council, the American Student Union, and other national youth organizations to raise money and awareness for war-stricken Chinese students. A significant portion of this drive was concerned with war orphans and refugees.

“Students can best serve their country by completing their education.”

“It is Vassar’s privilege to be able to stand by our fellow-students in China in their efforts to train and educate themselves.”

The Chinese Refugee Crisis (1937-1945)

Province or City Number of Refugees Percentage of Population
Jiangsu 12,502,633 34.83
Nanjing 335,634 32.90
Shanghai 531,431 13.80
Zhejiang 5,185,210 23.90
Anhui 2,688,242 12.23
Jiangxi 1,360,045 9.55
Hubei 7,690,000 30.13
Wuhan 534,040 43.56
Fujian 1,065,469 9.25
Guangdong 4,280,266 13.76
Guangxi 2,562,400 20.37
Hebei 6,774,000 23.99
Beijing 400,000 15.45
Tianjin 200,000 10.00
Shandong 11,760,644 30.71
Henan 14,533,200 43.49
Shanxi 4,753,842 41.06
Manchuria 4,297,100 12.12
Suiyuan 695,715 38.20
Chahar 225,673 11.08
Total 95,448,753 26.17


Japanese forces capture Hanyang.

The flooding could not stop the enemy for long, and today they have claimed victory in what will be known as the Battle of Wuhan. It took them four months to surround Hubei’s capital, delayed by having to make their approach around the river’s waters. This is the outcome that people are dying for. The number of casualties and displaced are in the millions now, many having perished on the journey away from their villages.

Evening Post

Those who have walked, whether they are still walking or not, truly understand strength and resilience. The winter that is now approaching threatens to add to the already unimaginable loss. The cold will be difficult, perhaps impossible, without the home, or the mother, or the food stores one once relied on. They will never see any compensation or aid from their government. The burden of this mass displacement will be felt for generations, and many survivors will doubt the worth of the flooding strategy for the rest of their lives.

They will remember that all affected by the flood fought their hardest to be alive, and we should remember them as well.

Washed Out

One month after the floods.

By now, any hastily-packed supplies are growing scarce, if not completely depleted already. Food is gold, and options are limited. For some, bark and weeds is all that is available to ease their hunger pangs.

However, even in wartime, children are wanted and may be traded for food or money, hopefully to someone that can provide for them as well. Parents may promise to retrieve them once they are in a stable position, but there is no guarantee of finding the buyer again. Having made this choice, divided families must continue their journey, hoping that it was the right one.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 4.58.32 PM
Asahi Shinbun

It is becoming clear that, due to the massive flooding, they can never go back to the villages they knew. There is simply nothing to return to, and only memories are left of their homes. The only option is to keep walking toward something better.


The dyke holding back the Yellow River is breached.

It has taken five days of drilling and picking, but the floods that will drive Japanese forces away from the North have finally begun. This is risky and will only slow down the enemy, not stop them, but there has been crushing pressure to make a move, and this will have to be it. Understanding the cost of their drastic decision and the suffering it will soon cause, the government informs its people that the Japanese have broken the dam instead.

Group of Chinese refugees walking away and looking back
Shenghuo Magazine

Hundreds of thousands drown as the waters reach them. Those who can run, must. Those who have time to pack carts, do. A few extra minutes of preparation will translate into higher chances of survival down the road, and much must be left behind. This includes relatives and friends unable to withstand what will likely be a long journey. Sudden goodbyes are given to grandparents and those who became sick or injured at an unlucky time.

Families scatter, and everything is uncertain.