20 January 2019
The ceremony is attended by Communist Party officials and local students. Photos: Brendon Hong
The ceremony is attended by Communist Party officials and local students. Photos: Brendon Hong

Nanjing Massacre: how a city remembers its past

(Left) Every winter, a solemn memorial ceremony takes place in Nanjing. Dec. 13 marked the 78th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre.

(Right) During the memorial ceremony, access to the memorial museum is restricted.

Typically, the ceremony is attended by Communist Party officials, special guests from Japan, selected members of the military, local students, the media and some of the remaining survivors who witnessed the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation of Nanjing.

(Left) Monks chant prayers to appease the dead.

(Right) The Nanjing Massacre is a familiar topic within the Chinese consciousness. However, many details of the incident remain overlooked.

Old houses that once served as brothels where comfort women were housed still stand in Nanjing. They’re left unused, and attempts to demolish and repurpose the land have, for kafkaesque reasons, been thwarted.

Construction workers say skeletons are still occasionally dug up as they shape the land for new buildings. They do try to contact the authorities, but often no action is taken to resettle the remains.

(Left) Here is a survivor who was rescued by John Rabe, a member of the German Nazi party who was working in Nanjing at the time. Rabe and a handful of foreigners saved 200,000 Chinese men, women and children during that critical time.

(Right) The old city gates of Nanjing have been rebuilt and are now an essential part of the city’s character.

(Left) If only the walls could speak.

(Right) Cheng Yun was a veteran who fought against the Japanese invasion in the 1930s. He was in Nanjing when the Japanese Imperial Army blasted its way into the capital. An aerial assault left him with a bullet wound in his leg. When Mao Zedong took power, Cheng was thrown into a labor camp for “re-education”.

In his old age, Cheng lived in a slum near the Massacre Memorial. Communist Party officials used him as a mascot of Chinese military bravery and dressed him in a People’s Liberation Army uniform for public events. He survived on handouts from the public and food provided by his nephew.

(Left) Cheng Yun passed away in January 2014.

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