The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Ceremony

On the Tuesday of this week, Chinese soldiers placed wreaths at a ceremony to commemorate the 1937 massacre of civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing. Countless government officials, war veterans and school children gathered at the ceremony to pay their respects by singing the Chinese national anthem. The end of the ceremony was marked with the release of doves and a tolling of the community’s bell. The massacre, commonly known as Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanking (later renamed to Nanjing), led to the deaths of as much as 300,000 unarmed civilians and combatants by Japanese troops. The massacre took place during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and resulted in the troops engaging in widespread rape and looting.

A number of conservative Japanese politicians and scholars intentionally misconstrue the statistics, lowering the death toll to 142,000, while others directly deny a massacre taking place in 1937. This lack of acknowledgment has elicited a response from many important Chinese figures. “All hideous activities that attempt to change history, deny the violent activities and reverse the verdict of starting the aggression war will be criticized and spurned by Chinese people and anyone who loves peace and justice in the world,” said Zhao Leji, a member of the ruling communist party. The profound words spoken by Zhao display the importance of understanding and acknowledging the acts of violence that occurred, in hopes that it will inspire people to explore peaceful alternatives to conflicts.

The Chinese have integrated the pain and suffering of the Nanjing massacre into their culture and identities. They have understood the consequences and detriments of war, and have adjusted their perspective to exclude unnecessary violence in their lives. To date, the Japanese continue to undermine the severity of the massacre, as well as its significance to the Chinese. Rather than retaliating with violence, many Chinese officials have decided to express the importance of a peaceful relationship between themselves and Japanese officials. As such, they have effectively promoted a non-combative attitude towards the Japanese, and are actively building a more peaceful future.

The Japanese army invaded Shanghai and suffered many casualties, and were then ordered to capture Nanjing. As reported by a Japanese journalist within the Imperial forces at the time, “The reason that the [10th Army] is advancing to Nanking quite rapidly is due to the tacit consent among the officers and men that they could look and rape as they wish.” Many eyewitness reports were submitted during the six weeks after the fall of Nanking. These reports were made by survivors, journalists and military personnel in Nanking, and described in detail the numerous war crimes the Japanese troops were engaging in, including rape, murder, theft and arson.

The ceremony for the massacre of Nanking has been used to reiterate the importance of peace and non-violent strategies to Chinese civilians. With a thorough understanding of the potential havoc and catastrophe possible in the absence of peaceful strategies, many Chinese civilians have adopted peaceful ideologies. This shift in perspective has been represented by a change in their culture, and the fact that a commemorative ceremony is held each year for the victims of the massacre. This is also done in hopes of avoiding future conflict with Japan and ensuring benefits to both countries, such as profitable trade for both economies.