WWII Massacre

Trip Start Aug 20, 2004
Trip End Aug 28, 2005

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Today was Nanjing, the ancient Chinese capital which was founded around 437 B.C. It has many great sites, but was also host to one of the worlds' greatest atrocities, the Nanjing massacres of WWII. It's strange because in all of my studies and world history classes when we discussed WWII, we never really heard much about China's involvement, but they actually had more deaths than any other country other than Russia. The Japanese invaded China and murdered more than 11 million Chinese citizens, 300,000 of which took place in only one months time in this city of Nanjing - that's like 10,000 people per day and it's not like they were fighting because they had already surrendered the city, so most of the victims were just ordinary citizens. But the Japanese not only invaded, they massacred, brutalized, gang raped, and tortured to the extent that many military leaders were sentenced to death for crimes against humanity and genocide. In fact, this piece of history is still alive today and a huge problem between the two countries as the Japanese habitually write out the massacres from their history books and China goes up in arms every time they do so - it is still a major source of tension between the two neighboring countries. Anyway, the museum is interesting because of its layout, but it's not a particularly attractive museum and they play this overly dramatic and somber music over the PA system when silence would be better served. You start out with a memorial bell and a large cross showing the dates of the month-long massacre, then you walk past an artists rendering of a giant hand and face and the number 300,000 singled-out on a wall. Then you see a bronze walkway with many footsteps, 222 in all, which are the footprints of the only survivors or eyewitnesses who lived to tell the tale of the attacks. You follow these up a staircase and actually end up on the roof of the exhibition and historical museum, but there's an overview of an open area that is actually a graveyard of an estimated 10,000 people, as well as having some artistic renderings and some memorial stones with historical information...others are a statue of a mother searching for her missing family, some relief sculptures of what happened, and a "living tomb", which gives you a glimpse of the graveyard underground, in the shape of a coffin. The living tomb is strange yet compelling because as you walk the few steps down into it there are windows that are open to the outside, so you are eye level with the ground now and you can see hundreds and thousands of bones and skeletons of this mass burial ground where one of the larger slaughters took place. You're literally in a ditch in the middle of a mass grave! This then leads to an excavation site with hundreds of more bodies and you can see some of the markings on the skeletons of men, women, and children that caused their deaths, like bullet and bayonet wounds, beatings that led to cracked skulls, and nails spiked through peoples heads. This also shows how the bodies were just stacked onto one another; disregarded like a human pile of wood. Then you walk through the photographic and historical timeline museum and are presented with graphic photos and information on such standing orders as "all captured women are to be gang raped and then further humiliated or disposed of". No pictures were allowed in this part, which I found a bit strange as all the other museums of this sort allow that (Holocaust, A-Bomb, Civil War, Khmer Rouge museums), but then a last sign complains a bit about how few westerners seem to know about this tragedy, yet they won't let you record some of it and thereby share it and inform others. Anyway, it was a very interesting museum and I learned quite a bit about some WWII history that I honestly had no idea about until I moved to China last year.

To finish, Nanjing is a very frustrating city, as their bus system is completely illogical, combined with the fact that the workers at the hostel continually gave me bad directions, I blew of my later plans out of frustration and the need to be sure to take the 3:30 train to Shanghai. I really did want to see the mausoleum of Sun Yatsen, who is considered by many the "father of modern China", which is a little weird because he was a proponent of and wrote a famous book in the early 1900's about principles for establishing a nation, where he put forth the idea that democracy was the ideal...then 40 or so years later the Cultural Revolution happened and the complete opposite of the ideals of the "father of modern China" were adopted! Regardless, he is supposed to have this incredible mausoleum of white marble with blue-glazed tiles, his coffin, and the complete text of his famous book are carved in the walls of the memorial...but when traveling sometimes you have to miss a few things - I'll just catch it my next time in China!
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trent on

not just Japan
True, true...however, it's really no different than the Chinese government failing to accept responsibility for the atrocities committed against the Tibetan people and its current 'breeding out' policy. Same with the Australians and the Aboriginies and the Americans and Native Indians. Abject cruelty towards others not like the majority seems to be universal.

strayivy on

the education you have received was totally different from mine.maby that'why you words always astonished me

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