There’s something about human tragedy that allures people to certain places. Is it out of morbid curiosity? Are we Voyeurs by nature? Perhaps a bit of both. If there’s one thing that I’ve come to understand from visiting places where such sorrow and human atrocities occurred in the past is more
in the lines of education. Named as museums or memorials – call them what you will; Be it the former Khmer Rouge’s S21 prison and Killing Fields in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, the Auschwitz incinerator compound or other places where mass human genocide has taken place in recent history, they’re truly places of remembrance, in my humble opinion.
Having recently toured the original location in Nanjing or Nanking Massacre Memorial Hall or less affectionately called Memorial for Compatriots killed in the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Forces of Aggression, the moment you step foot onto the grounds you’re met with this huge gravel covered area with stark (and dark colored) angular building beckoning you inside. From the time
you enter, the dimly lit descent underground passageway immediately changes your mood to a solemn one. You can just feel a little something taking over your senses. The opening hall is also dimly lit with names of those who lost their lives during the short 6 week siege by Japanese Armed Forces in 1937 who slaughter over 300,000 Chinese! 6 weeks! If my math is right, that’s on average of
7100 people/day! Now, thats evil as evil is! Of course, strolling deeper into the room, I find a block of 刘 characters, which is my last name. Doing a quick count, there were nearly 4000. Seems like a lot … and it is, but there were at least double if not triple the amount of 王’s (Wang or Wong) surnames on the opposite side of the room.
All throughout the underground halls it amazed me to find how well documented everything was. Not
mere words, person recounts or articles of torture, but photographs! To think that during the War Crimes Tribunals, the Japanese government of the time fervently denied such claims as genocide, murder, rape and torture of the Chinese Nationals. But, in the end, we all know the truth came out. It’s no wonder why the Chinese still have a distaste for the Japanese as a whole – from the Government all the way down to the People, the lao bai xing. I
think on a everyday basis, all is cool and no real ill feelings are present, but when nationalistic events occur, b/n the two countries, Chinese nationalist pride kicks in the propaganda machine of hatred rings through. I can hardly blame them in a way, right? Heck, at the recent summit in China when Xijin Ping shook hands with Japan’s PM, Abe, if Ping’s eyes could speak and body language read, it told still the hurt and dislike to this day.
Upon the volumes and volumes of photos, firsthand recounts of survivors, words such as Devils, Aggressors, Inhumane, Slaughter, Terrified, Brutality and Horror to name a few were freely used as the patriotic propaganda machine was spinning its wheels in high gear. Granted, rightfully so, but after reading it over and over again it became clear of the choice keywords’ insertion was by design. Designed to create dislike and possibly hatred for what was done to their very own People on their very own soil.
When putting together this visit, this location was not on the list of
recommended sites to visit. Upon inquiry, I was asked, “… oh, the ‘sad place, you want to go the sad place’?” At first I wasn’t quite sure what this reference was, but quickly realizing the parallel innuendo. Sad as it is, I still believe it important to perhaps forgive to some degree, but most importantly to never forget. By doing so, we can be hopeful that these are lessons learned in how not to conduct ourselves as world citizens, don’t you?