The Rape of Nanking December 13, 1937

by A Latter-day Bluestocking

Cover of "The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgot...

Cover via Amazon

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking, an event so horrific that to even peripherally think on it brings feelings of anger, sadness, and horror to me.  Growing up as an American with Chinese ancestry I never heard of this “forgotten” atrocity.  It wasn’t until college when I took an Imperial Chinese history course that I began to delve into the history of my mother’s country and even later than that did I happen upon Iris Chang‘s seminal book on the subject of the massacre in Nanking which began December 13, 1937.

The Rape of Nanking:  The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II tells of the massacre and atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of the former capital of the Republic of China, Nanjing (Nanking).  Iris Chang, in writing and publishing this book, brought to light a neglected bit of history and opened my eyes to the horrifying events that took place.  The book is written in three parts:  the first, telling of the events leading up to and during the massacre; the second, describes the aftermath and western perception and reaction to these events; and the third, chronicles Chang’s theories of why this extreme barbarism committed by the Japanese still does not make it into the public consciousness.  This is some intense reading.  It has been some years since I’ve read this book but the memory is still very vivid of the detailed descriptions of rape, mass murder, live burials, mutilations, and torture.  I remember reading this book with feelings of intense horror and most of the time found myself weeping.  I kept asking myself why and how humans could commit such cruel acts on other humans.

And my disbelief doesn’t end with the tragic particulars of this dark part of Chinese history but the continued revisionist history coming from the Japanese government.  In 1995, the Prime Minister and Emperor offered speeches giving apologies for Japan’s merciless role but there has never been a formal written apology by Japan for the Nanking Massacre where approximately 300,000 Chinese were brutally murdered.  In 2007 Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party flat out denied the massacre ever happened, arguing that the events in Nanking are a fabrication.  The controversy continues to this day.

This book stands as a touching memorial, a strong testament, to those Chinese men, women, and children who were murdered during the Japanese occupation of Nanking.  These gruesome events are not to be swept under the carpet and denied, to forget would be a disservice to the victims dehumanized in a time of war.  I, for one, am reflecting on the victims and their murderers because to forget dooms us to repeat such savagery.