Thank goodness yesterday was nice to walk around Zhongshan Mountain National Park with its Ming Tomb, Linggu Temple, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum, and later in Fuzi Confucius Market because of torrential rains today. A perfect gray and depressing day to visit the somber Memorial Hall of The Nanjing Massacre. From 1931-1945, over 35 million Chinese were wounded or killed by the Japanese when they invaded China. Can you even wrap your mind around that number? 35 million Chinese? That is a little more than a tenth of the entire American population. Arguably, the single most horrific event during the Japanese occupation is called the “Rape of Nanjing.”
The Japanese invasion began in Shanghai and troops worked their way through Suzhou and Wuxi until they reached Nanjing. They captured Nanjing (formerly Nanking) on December 13, 1937 by entering through three different gates and immediately began massacring unarmed soldiers and civilians. Several soldiers were in charge of what they called “The Killing Game” which began by saying, “I bet I can kill 100 people faster than you can.” This escalated into unparalleled atrocities.
- The Japanese raped, and gang raped, over 20,000 women and children during the first three-weeks.
- There were 28 major massacre sites.
- 300,000-400,000 Chinese civilians were killed individually or in group massacres in six weeks.
- Someone was killed every 12 seconds.
The Japanese drowned, beheaded, bayoneted, shot and set people on fire. One of the most horrific events actually had photographs taken by the Japanese inside the Memorial. The Japanese tied 100 people together, poured Kerosene over them and set them on fire. Beyond belief and incredibly nauseating looking at photographs of the charred remains.
The Memorial Hall of The Nanjing Massacre was a most sobering and sad experience that began outside. Black and grey marble with a few bronze statues showing the misery created by this ordeal and it felt as if the skies were crying. The dark stones between the walkways are meant to resemble the ashes of the victims and are not supposed to be walked on. You enter the Memorial and begin walking down one level in darkness with a feeling of oppression as the walls close in on you.
The walls are lined with photographs, videos and displays that take you through the beginning of the Japanese invasion to the end of the war. Before the Japanese downfall, a dozen brave foreigners and Chinese set up an International Safety Zone. Several hundred thousand people were given sanctuary in this zone until the Japanese came in and created mayhem, disregarding the fact that it was a Safety Zone. Minnie Vautrin was a missionary at this time and is called the Goddess of Mercy by the Chinese.
No photos are allowed inside but Chinese tourists (and some westerners) totally disregarded this rule and snapped one off when they thought the guards weren’t looking. Occasionally, a guard would see someone take a picture, run over and shout at them. They need to consider handling this problems like Cairo’s Egyptian Museum where everyone has to check cameras. Approximately 10,000 people a day enter the Memorial Hall while 30,000-50,000 a day come during peak periods.
Towards the end of the war, the Japanese did their best to destroy all historical history to no avail. The War Tribunal sentenced Tani Hisaao who along with three men who perpetrated the killing contest, and class B and C war criminals to death. Really, too good for them. A little rape, bayoneting, and immolating before death would be my sentence. A visit to the Memorial Hall of The Nanjing Massacre is extremely depressing but we felt a moral responsibility to visit, learn and pay respects to the victims of the Rape of Nanjing.
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