Nanjing Massacre Museum is an agonizing and graphic reminder of the Rape of Nanjing by Japanese soldiers


I’ve read Iris Chang‘s The Rape of Nanjing. Words never felt so real. I’ve also watched the documentary, Nanking, before my visit to The Nanjing Massacre Museum. The museum, which has an ambiance that reflects the aftermath of The Rape of Nanjing, is dedicated to the 300,000 men, women and children who died at the whim of Japanese soldiers.

There are walls upon walls of anecdotes and obituaries of those who were killed, raped, burned and looted, along with stories and faces of those who did the killing and raping and burning and looting.

Iris Chang refers to The Rape of Nanjing as the forgotten Holocaust. In fact, there were many genocides throughout history that can be considered forgotten. But they are not forgotten to the people who lived through it and to the people who’s ancestors suffered.

Like all genocides, the Rape of Nanjing was inhumane and barbaric. Chang cited anecdotes from survivors about the pure brutality of the Japanese soldiers. Although her book is only one source of the events that took place, it is not the only source to rely on.

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated that 20,000 women were raped, including infants and the elderly. A large portion of these rapes were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped. The women were often killed immediately after the rape, often through explicit mutilation or by stabbing a bayonet, long stick of bamboo, or other objects into the vagina.

In his diary kept during the aggression to the city and its occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army, the leader of the Safety Zone, John Rabe, wrote many comments about Japanese atrocities. For the 17th December:

“Two Japanese soldiers have climbed over the garden wall and are about to break into our house. When I appear they give the excuse that they saw two Chinese soldiers climb over the wall. When I show them my party badge, they return the same way. In one of the houses in the narrow street behind my garden wall, a woman was raped, and then wounded in the neck with a bayonet. I managed to get an ambulance so we can take her to Kulou Hospital. (…) Last night up to 1,000 women and girls are said to have been raped, about 100 girls at Ginling College Girls alone. You hear nothing but rape. If husbands or brothers intervene, they’re shot. What you hear and see on all sides is the brutality and bestiality of the Japanese soldiers.”

There are also accounts of Japanese troops forcing families to commit acts of incest. Sons were forced to rape their mothers, fathers were forced to rape daughters. One pregnant woman was gang-raped by Japanese soldiers gave birth only a few hours later; although the baby appeared to be physically unharmed (Robert B. Edgerton, Warriors of the Rising Sun). Monks who had declared a life of celibacy were also forced to rape women.

Pregnant women were a target of murder, as they would often be bayoneted in the stomach, sometimes after rape. Tang Junshan, survivor and witness to one of the Japanese army’s systematic mass killings, testified:

“The seventh and last person in the first row was a pregnant woman. The soldier thought he might as well rape her before killing her, so he pulled her out of the group to a spot about ten meters away. As he was trying to rape her, the woman resisted fiercely…The soldier abruptly stabbed her in the belly with a bayonet. She gave a final scream as her intestines spilled out. Then the soldier stabbed the fetus, with its umbilical cord clearly visible, and tossed it aside.” – Visit Wikipedia to read more.

The stories and anecdotes are endless. The Nanjing Massacre Museum displays model scenes that depict some of the transgression of the Japanese soldiers. Surrounding the outside of the museum is a row of carved stone statutes that depicts the lives of the Chinese during the Japanese invasion. At the end of the museum, there is an open pool that reflects a statute of an angel. Under the angel is the word 安平, which means peace in Chinese. Every evening, the museum burns paper and incense to commemorate the dead. By sunset, ashes can be seen floating in the air.

Monica reflects on her travels by sharing her thoughts on A Cup of Moca. She writes about her journey as she experiences the destination to encourage others to marinate in the moment instead of just checking things off a bucket list.