Zhang said the film will follow 13 young prostitutes struggling to survive during the attack by Japanese soldiers during the invasion.
Bale, the star of the boxing drama "The Fighter," will play an American priest in Nanjing during that time period.
Zhang said he hopes to tell the story of war atrocities in Nanjing, especially to the younger generations in Western countries.
Shooting is slated to begin Jan. 10.
Historians say the massacre, known in the West as the "Rape of Nanking," resulted in the slaughter of at least 150,000 civilians. China puts the number killed at 300,000, making it one of the worst atrocities of the World War II era.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.