60 years later, China remembers Nanjing atrocities Eds: INSERTS 2 grafs after 7th graf pvs, ```It's a ...' to UPDATE with memorial in Nanjing. Picks up 8th graf pvs, `Officially, the ...'

NANJING, China (AP) _ Six decades haven't erased the pain for Jiang Gengfu, whose eyes fill with tears as he recounts seeing his mother shot to death by Japanese soldiers that bitter winter 60 years ago.

Japanese troops that captured the then-Chinese capital of Nanjing on Dec. 13, 1937, found Jiang's family hiding in a ruined house. One tried to rape his mother. She resisted, and became one of the first casualties of what Chinese call the ``Nanjing Massacre'' and others call the ``Rape of Nanjing.''

``The Japanese shot her twice. She died instantly,'' the 67-year-old Jiang said, his voice breaking.

The rampage of murder and rape against a defenseless city continued for three months, claiming at least 150,000 lives _ or perhaps twice that number. It would become for Chinese an enduring symbol of the savagery of Japanese occupation.

Even as old age claims its last survivors, the horrific event resonates with younger Chinese resentful at Japan's reluctance to come to terms with its wartime past and uneasy at its growing economic and military might.

``It's a symbol of the fact that World War II did not end in any kind of satisfactory way between China and Japan. In a way, it's still not over,'' said Stephen R. MacKinnon, a historian at Arizona State University who is writing a book on the Sino-Japanese war.

Today, about 3,000 people gathered at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall to mark the anniversary of the start of the violence, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Survivors described their ordeal and lit an ``eternal flame'' in tribute to the dead. At 10 a.m., sirens throughout the city sounded for three minutes.

Officially, the issue is closed. Japanese commanders blamed for the violence were executed as war criminals. Beijing settled its claims for war reparations when it opened diplomatic ties with Tokyo in 1972.

But Chinese activists, many born decades after Nanjing, have continued to agitate for Japan to compensate survivors. The issue fueled student protests in the mid-1980s.

That has created a thorny problem for Chinese leaders, who can't risk appearing unpatriotic by muzzling activists but don't want to offend Japan, a major investor and aid donor. Activists, left alone most of the time, are put under guard or removed from Beijing when Japanese officials visit.

Japan has begun to acknowledge its atrocities, mentioning Nanjing in school books. But the text is vague, suggesting the civilian deaths occurred in battle. And as recently as 1994, a Japanese Cabinet minister was forced to step down after claiming the incident was a hoax.

Scholars also are divided over the death toll. Chinese and some Western historians say as many as 300,000 were killed _ accusations some dismiss as exaggerations.

Zhu Chengshan, director of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, angrily dismisses such discussion as trivial and irrelevant.

``It is history written in blood. ... Even 300 deaths would be a massacre,'' he said in an interview.

The Nanjing memorial is a starkly beautiful complex of galleries and walkways of rough granite blocks, surrounded by beds of stones representing the dead. It was built on a former mass grave where some 8,000 bodies were exhumed. Opened in 1985, it was the first permanent public site devoted to the massacre.

In its most harrowing display, glass walls in one underground gallery reveal the jumbled bones of dozens of victims left in the earth.

Other galleries display photos _ many taken by the Japanese themselves as souvenirs _ of soldiers raping Chinese women or shooting, bayoneting or beheading captured Chinese soldiers.

About 1,800 people who were in Nanjing at the time are still alive, according to Chinese officials. About 180 of them suffered injuries.

Pan Kaiming, a vigorous 80-year-old former autoworker whose calling card says ``Nanjing Massacre Survivor,'' said he narrowly escaped execution on Dec. 14, 1937. Japanese soldiers lined him up with 300 others and opened fire with machine guns. He awoke under a pile of bodies.

``Slowly, slowly, I made my way out,'' he said in an interview. ``My coat was completely soaked with blood. I thought I was a ghost.''

Pan went to a river to wash, but found it filled with the blood of hundreds of corpses that had been dumped in. He escaped by passing himself off as a messenger for a Japanese officer.

Jiang, who saw his mother killed, was taken in by Buddhist monks after soldiers drafted his father as a laborer. At the war's end, only two of his six siblings were alive.

Jiang said he was consumed by bitterness for decades, and balked in 1965 when the Chinese Communist Party asked him to help organize a Sino-Japanese youth gathering.

``I didn't want to. My leaders had to talk to me three times to get me to obey,'' he said. ``I hated them, because I wanted revenge.''

But today, Jiang said, he has made peace with the past and doesn't hold the Japanese public responsible.

``When we judge these things, we should separate the Japanese army, the Japanese people and the people who make policy decisions,'' he said.

However, he added, ``Personally, I think they still need to pay compensation, because they started the war.''