Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall
The information contained here are subject to change. Chinese History Digest is not responsible or liable if any changes should occur. You could also check the official website of the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders but it is only in Chinese.
The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall is located in the Jiangdongmen area of Nanjing (Jiangsu province) to the southwest of the city center. Officially named as the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, it is a museum that commemorates the atrocious events that ocurred in Nanjing in December 1937 and January 1938. Nanjing was the capital of the Republic of China since 1927. The Imperial Japanese Army attacked the city (that was written as Nanking by Westerners back then) in early December 1937 in the hope that its capture would lead to China's surrender. The most intense fighting during the Battle of Nanking (1st - 13th December 1937) only lasted for two days after Japanese forces had launched an all-out attack on December 10th.
After gaining full control of the city by December 13th, Japanese soldiers began to massacre Chinese prisoners of war and the civilian population of Nanjing. More than 20,000 women were raped by the Japanese soldiers and many of them later killed. Countless commercial buildings and houses of the wealthy class were looted. About a third of all buildings in Nanjing were damaged by fire during this hellish period that lasted for about 6 to 8 weeks. Altogether, it is estimated that up to 300,000 civilians and unarmed Chinese soldiers were slaughtered by the Japanese army. (The population of Nanjing numbered around 600,000 people in 1927.) The killing was done indiscriminately and in such bestial ways as mass beheadings and burying people alive!
The Nanjing Massacre is also referred to as the Rape of Nanking. It is still a contentious issue between China and Japan today. Just like there are some people who deny the holocaust, a minority of Japanese people deny that the Nanjing Massacre ever happened. The Nanjing Municipal Government built the Memorial Hall to the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre in 1985. It was enlarged and renovated in 1995. Its exhibits are to remind people of these historic events so that they will never be forgotten. While the museum bears witness to one of the worst atrocities in human history, it also tells of individual acts of heroism in trying to protect people from being slaughtered. One such hero that is revered by the Chinese people is John Rabe. His work in establishing and maintaining the Nanking Safety Zone protected the lives of about 200,000 Chinese people! His former residence at Xiaofenqiao No. 1 in Nanjing is now a museum dedicated to his memory and well-worth a visit! You can find more information about the John Rabe House on its official website.
A visit of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall is made up of three parts: the outdoor exhibits, the remaining bones of the victims and the exhibition hall for historical documents. The outdoor exhibits are made up of statues, sculptures, tablets, relief carvings and a memorial walkway of survivors' footprints. The date '1937.12.13 - 1938.1' and number of victims is engraved on a large monument and the names of the victims are listed on a large wall.
The remaining bones of the victims are displayed in a coffin-shaped display hall. They were excavated in 1985 in the same area where the memorial hall now stands. A second excavation in 1998 uncovered 208 more bones. The mass burial pit in the Jiangdongmen area of Nanjing where the bones were unearthed is known as the "pit of ten thousand corpses".
The tomb-like exhibition hall for historical documents was built half underground. It contains more than 1,000 items related to the massacre in illuminated display cabinets. Historical photographs and documentary films that can be watched on multi-media screens vividly bear witness to the atrocities that were committed by the Japanese soldiers that winter in Nanjing. There are also paintings and sculptures dispersed throughout the hall in which artists expressed their sentiments and visualized scenes of the Nanjing Massacre.