SHANGHAI -- Li Xiuying, who survived one of the greatest atrocities of Japan's World War II invasion of China and later became a powerful advocate for victims, died Dec. 4, at age 86, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
She died of respiratory failure in the eastern city of Nanjing, the scene in 1937 of what became known as the Nanking Massacre, Xinhua said.
"As a witness of the massacre, my mother had been fighting to reveal the truth of history," Lu Yongsen, Mrs. Li's eldest son, was quoted.
Mrs. Li was 18 and pregnant when Nanjing, then known by the English spelling Nanking, was overrun by Japanese troops.
In later accounts, Mrs. Li said she was attacked and slashed with swords by Japanese troops while hiding in an American mission school. She lost her unborn baby but survived after treatment by an American doctor, Robert Wilson.
Historians generally agree that the Japanese army slaughtered at least 150,000 civilians and raped tens of thousands of women during the 1937-38 occupation of Nanking. China's Communist government puts the number of dead at more than 300,000 and has made the event a centerpiece of its claims that Japan has never sufficiently atoned for its brutal occupation.
In 1999, Mrs. Li sued a pair of right-wing Japanese authors who claimed she had faked her accounts. The Tokyo court awarded her a $14,000 settlement. In 2003, the Tokyo High Court upheld a lower court ruling that author Toshio Matsumura and Tendensha, the publisher of his book "A Big Doubt About the Rape of Nanking," had damaged Mrs. Li's reputation. In the book, Matsumura called Mrs. Li's accounts inconsistent and questioned if she was the victim believed pictured in a film shot by an American missionary showing a hospital in the aftermath of the massacre.
Her burial Wednesday in Nanjing was attended by nine of her children and more than 10 grandchildren, Xinhua said.