Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall

Nanjing Travel Blog

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*Warning: This isn't going to be sunshiny and happy.

Background history:

In the early 1930s, the Japanese empire wanted to grow, and invaded a weakened China.  In August 1937, the Japanese were at Shanghai, where a fierce battled ensued.  The Japanese eventually won, and moved on to their next target- the Chinese capital at Nanjing.  The government had fled to Wuhan (attacked in 1938), leaving Nanjing to an International Committee led by German businessman John Rabe.  For six weeks beginning on December 9, 1937, the Japanese military slaughtered thousands upon thousands of people (captured POWs and civilians), raped thousands of women (some of whom were forced to be "comfort women"- women that the Japanese would make do chores during the day and then rape at night), and looted and burned most of the city.
  This has been named the Nanjing Massacre, or the Nanking (old English name) Massacre or the Rape of Nanking.  The Chinese put the offical death toll at over 300,000 people.  The Japanese disagree, and there are those in Japan who think the Massacre is just a myth.
More:  Wikipedia

In my search for knowledge, I made it to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.  Outside were statues with quotes or lines written on them, giving the reader a piece of the feeling of the time.  Inside is somber, lots of black granite, one inscription in multiple languages shows the number of victims- 300,000.  Next I went into the Exhibition Hall which detailed the history, including photographs and eyewitness/survivor accounts of the Massacre.

I had to check by backpack, and left my camera with it.
  This was not a place for tourist photos.  Plus there are some images that are seared into my brain, I don't need the pictures to remind me.  Going down a couple flights of stairs led me to the prelude to the Nanjing Massacre.  It details about how Nanjing was the capital, and the events leading up to the attack- including an event in Beijing at the Marco Polo Bridge (LuGuoQiao). 

Pictures, objects, detailed reports and stories from eyewitnesses and survivors, it just kept going on.  Horrifying story after horrifying story.  Brutal photo after brutal photo.  There was a photo of a man's head with a cigarette in his mouth... on a fence post.  Bodies burned, shot, stabbed with bayonets.  There were bones!  There was a small pit that had bones of the Massacre dead in it! 

I've seen bones before, but in a very different context.
  Once, these were happy, productive, proud Chinese people.  Then the Japanese came, turned their city into a literal Hell, and they died a horrific and violent death.    Any wonder I didn't want photos?

Then came the rape part of the name.  Thousands of Japanese soldiers- thousands of women who's husbands, sons, etc were either gone off to war, captured, dead or helpless.  No one to protect them.  And so the Massacre continued.  Estimates put the count at 20,000 women raped, some gang-raped, some multiple times. 

That's all I'm going to say about the Exhibition Hall.  The Japanese eventually lost, surrendered, and there was a War Crimes Trial (International Military Tribunal of the Far East).

Outside the Hall was a large bell, near that a bronze sculpture of a victim's head with the number 300,000 above.  Behind the bell is the Graveyard Square where memorials to people in the Massacre are placed.
  I have a few pictures of those memorials.  There is a small building (again, no photos) of more bones belonging to victims of the Massacre.  Another image seared into my brain.

Going through the Memorial Hall, pitch black save for a few lights, there was a poem at the end.  Outside again, there is a large statue that simply says 和平Peace. 和平= hépíng

Then I left the Memorial.  I found a taxi to take me to Hunanlu which was supposed to be some kind of food street.  I needed a break from the Hall.  At least when I went to the two concentration camps in Germany I had company to talk to and drink with.  Hunanlu turned out to be a bust, so I grabbed some food and made my way back to the hotel.  At least I have a can of diet Coke and green tea to drink. 

Now to be cheered up by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  And then news and maybe some laughs from Keith Olbermann.
bkretzer says:
Great blog. You captured the tone well
Posted on: Sep 18, 2009
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hmm....looks familiar...
hmm....looks familiar...
photo by: aleksflower