The summer leading up to the massacre had been hot and dry. Floods can be devastating, but in Chinese history it is droughts which really bring out the crazy. Whispers swirled regarding the Catholic orphanage outside the East Gate of the city. The nuns took in many children, but few of the children were ever seen again alive. Meanwhile their cemetery filled with tiny, shallow graves.
There were rumors that the nuns murdered the children and used their hearts and eyes for medicine and sorcery. When people stopped handing over orphans to the sisters out of fear, the nuns started the questionable practice of offering cash rewards. This had the immediate—although unintended—consequence of starting a thriving business in stolen children.