Friday, 22 June 2007

The Rape of Nanjing, China

I was toying with a number of projects; from anime to opium smoking in China and Malaya. One thing led to another and I was on to the “Rape of Nanjing” when casually searching for images of Japanese atrocities on the net. I recalled a book I had read ages ago: “The Knights of Bushido”, a short history of Japanese war crimes by Lord Russell of Liverpool, a book replete with graphic photos of killing, torturing and maiming of civilians. I discovered that the book has been reprinted recently.

The Nanking massacre, or as the Chinese prefer to call it, the Rape of Nanjing, China, was a testament to the atrocities or war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in Nanjing, in early December, 1937. In the six weeks after Nanjing fell, the Japanese army went on a rampage of killing under the guise of rooting out Chinese soldiers hiding in civilian clothes. An estimated 300,000 people, preponderantly civilians, lost their lives through execution, rape, and torture although the number is disputed by the nationalist faction of the Japanese society.

Contest to kill 100 people using a sword


In 1937, the Osaka Mainichi Simbun and the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun covered a “contest’ between two Japanese offficers, Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda in which both men competed to be the first to kill 100 people with a sword. The contest was extended to 150 heads when it apparently became impossible to determine who the winner was. Both the officers were later extradited to China for trial and were executed for war crimes in 1948 by the Chinese government.

The ‘Rape of Nanjing’ has remained a sore thumb between the Chinese and the Japanese governments to forging better relationships. In 1980, the Japanese Ministry of Education had even prohibited the mention of the Nanjing massacre in a high school textbook, causing the Chinese government to protest vehemently over Japan’s attempt to sanitize her depiction of Japan’s war campaigns. Again in 2006, The Ministry of Education approved an updated version of a history textbook that critics say gloss over Japan’s war time atrocities, further fraying the already strained ties between both countries.

The Japanese Imperial Army preparing to storm Nanjing(

Corpses piled up in a valley. After the massacre, bodies were either thrown into the river, burnt or buried to erase all traces of evidence. In one instance, bodies were thrown in the fast flowing Yangtze river.(

The bodies were everywhere in Nanjing City. 300,000 people were killed. (

Civilians being shot, beheaded or bayonetted.

Women and girls raped and killed.

A grinning Japanese soldier proudly grasping his 'trophy'.

Decapitation was a common method employed by Japanese soldiers. (

About 8 years later, Japan was not spared from the devastating loss of life during the second world war either. Both their cities, Hisroshima and Nagasaki, the industrial hubs that manufactured Japan’s arsenal for their war campaigns were razed by two atomic bombs. On 6th August, 1945 one fell on Hiroshima which immediately killed 100,000 civilians with many dying from radiation sickness after that. The death toll at Hiroshima was probably 200,000 after five years (http://www/ The other was dropped on Nagasaki on 9th August which killed an estimated 74,000 civilians. Many have argued that the bombings were justified as the immediate consequence of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was Japan’s surrender.

Devastation of Hiroshima

Here is an eye-witness account of the immediate aftermath of the bombing:

The firestorm is incredible, there are calls for help and screams from somewhere but all around is one single inferno. To my left I suddenly see a woman. I can see her to this day and shall never forget it. She carries a bundle in her arms. It is a baby. She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire. Suddenly, I saw people again, right in front of me. They scream and gesticulate with their hands, and then - to my utter horror and amazement - I see how one after the other they simply seem to let themselves drop to the ground. (Today I know that these unfortunate people were the victims of lack of oxygen). They fainted and then burnt to cinders

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

Providing medical aid to victims of the nuclear bomb blast.

A child burnt by the firestorm that followed the blast.

A severly burnt victim of the blast.


The remains of victims of the explosion being dug up for reburial. Immediately after the explosion, they started to die one after another, and as cremation was slow, burial in mass graves was the only solution.

Perhaps the Japanese war crimes paled in comparison to Nazi Germany where 6 million European Jews were systematically exterminated under a plan known as “The Final Solution” of the Jewish question. Jews were confined to extermination camps where they were experimented on with chemical and biological agents for the German war efforts, or gassed in gas chambers. Including victims of other nationalities, it was estimated that 9-11 million people were exterminated (

A mass grave at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany(

Female German guards transferring bodies into a huge pit. (

Allied troops watching a cart load of corpses leaving the compound of the Dachau concentration camp on its way to a burial ground.(

William Golding in his novel “Lord of the Flies” believes that man’s propensity for evil, manifested in his cruelty and savagery toward his fellowman is inherent, that the darkness within man’s heart cannot be subdued by the veneer of civilized behaviour. Man’s nature has not changed since the first day humankind was conceived.

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I would like to apologize for including such repulsive photos. But it serves as a reminder that wars will subject humankind to commit acts of the most shameful nature, and that humankind will descend to the deepest depth of depravity in the heat and carnage of war.


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