Reading Response re: The Nanjing Massacre

The Great Nanjing Massacre, Zi Jian Li, 1992

Image (above): The Great Nanjing Massacre, Zi Jian Li, 1992


Mitter, China’s War with Japan: 119-140.

Primary Source: “The Rape of Nanking: Bearing Witness, The Nanjing ‘Murder Race,’” in The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection (1999): 324-30.

Mark Eykholt, “Aggression, Victimization, and Chinese Historiography of the Nanjing Massacre,” in The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography (2000): 11-69.

Takashi Yoshida, “A Battle over History: The Nanjing Massacre in Japan,” in The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography (2000): 70-132.


The readings for this week center on the events that happened in Nanjing in 1937-1938 when the Japanese Army took control of the city. The Rape of Nanjing, or Nanjing Massacre, was an exceptional event in the war between Japan and China, not only because of the scope of death, destruction and trauma inflicted on the population, but also because of the impact the event has had on the national memories of both China and Japan. The event has become a symbol more than a real event, a tool used to express feelings of victimization and growing strength or, on the other side, a key battlefield in the definition of post-war Japanese identity.

One of the most interesting debates regarding Nanjing is why it happened in the first place, and this is unfortunately one of the debates that has received the least attention. Mitter presents some possible reasons, but they reveal an assumption that the Japanese military was out of control. This plays on the idea that there was a break down in control of the military by the civilian administration. The introduction to the primary source, on the other hand, posits the massacre as a preplanned and deliberate military policy. Eykholt somewhat supports this by stating that the idea of the military being out of control isn’t supported by the facts. The nature of the reported killings and the organized lootings speak to coordinated action. This seems like a more reasonable approach to the situation.

This, however, brings up the problem of responsibility. Who is responsible for what happened? Was blame placed where it should have been? The War Crimes trials, according to Eykholt, focused on American interests in the Pacific and some of the evidence may or may not have been accurate. It seems to have become a symbol for the entire conflict between the two nations and, like Eykholt and Takashi both argue, guilt and blame have dominated the discussion, preventing a real analysis of the events.

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle movie title logo and background imagery.

I haven’t updated this blog in a while, other than a few pictures over the summer. I haven’t always been really busy, but I suppose I’ve just been trying to keep up with other things and this just fell to the wayside. I’m going to try to get back on top of this soon. I’m working on finishing up an MA class this semester on top of working full-time. I also have one more MA class to do in the Spring, maybe. Maybe two more. We’ll see how it goes.

The Man in the High Castle movie title logo and background imagery.
The Man in the High Castle

Anyhow, no matter how busy things get, my wife and I take the time to enjoy a show together, usually with dinner. Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Gotham, Fear the Walking Dead, and so on. Lots of good shows lately. When there’s a lull in what’s coming on TV, we have Netflix and Amazon Prime for stuff like House of Cards and this new show, The Man in the High Castle. I had heard about it before, but it really sort of popped to the front of my “to-watch” queue when I read about all the butthurt generated by the controversial ads placed on the shuttle train here in Manhattan, which I think runs between Grand Central and Penn Station.

"'s Tuesday..."
“…it’s Tuesday…”

Anyway, the shower is really, really well done. The acting is first-rate, the visuals are well done and the story is very engaging. It’s also very, very intense in ways that I had expected. I just didn’t expect them to be placed so well into the story I guess, like when the highway patrolman casually mentions the dust in the air is ash from the incinerator, because “it’s Tuesday” and that’s just the day for burning invalids and the terminally ill. It’s just such a casual drop of something so inhuman, that it really puts the world you’re becoming a part of through this series into much clearer perspective, in just a few seconds of dialog. Then, at the end of the second episode, so much was said and not said in those few minutes. I’m just amazed at how much is conveyed by this story, with the use of camera work and clever dialog. “I’m not a monster” indeed.

I need to get around to reading the book for this at some point, and after seeing the first two episodes of this, I’m going to just put Philip K. Dick on my reading list.