Chinese Artists Explore the Nanjing Massacre
In the winter of 1937, the Japanese army stormed Nanjing, then China’s capital, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people in what is now known as the Nanjing Massacre. The incident remains the most emotionally wrenching chapter in the history of Sino-Japanese relations. But unlike the Holocaust and other acts of mass violence during World War II, creative attempts to represent the massacre have been few and far between.
Over the past few years, however, there has been an outpouring of dramatizations of Nanjing in literature and film, as a new generation of Chinese auteurs attempt to grapple with the tragedy, and juggle the demands of their audience, their censors, and their own artistic conscience. Last fall, for instance, National Book Award–winning author Ha Jin published the English-language novel, Nanjing Requiem, which explores the role foreigners played in trying to save the Chinese. And last month brought Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War, the most expensive film ever made in China, which tells the story of a priest, played by Christian Bale, who tries to shelter schoolchildren and prostitutes from the Japanese.
Such reflection on tragedy wasn’t always common. For years, after the Communists came to power, the state wanted to bury the massacre entirely and maintain good relations with the new Japanese government, which could help support China’s struggling economy. Nanjing was the capital of the hated nationalist regime, and the Communists played no role in defending the Chinese from brutality. The massacre did not fit into the Communist Party’s history, and since the state did not tolerate dissenting views, very little was published about it....
comments powered by Disqus
- Hull of Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley Found 150 Years Later
- U.S. Textbook Skews History, Prime Minister of Japan Says
- Recalling a Film From the Liberation of the Camps
- Skull Fossil Offers New Clues on Human Journey From Africa
- Are crude conspiracies right? Research shows nations really do go to war over oil
- Ronald Suny says historians have shied away from exploring the roots of the Armenian genocide for fear of taking attention away from the victims
- Columbia University professors Eric Foner, Alan Brinkley, and Alice Kessler-Harris to retire
- A powerhouse appropriations subcommittee is now headed by a historian: Republican Rep. Tom Cole (OK)
- Slavic scholars divided over a scholarship sponsored (and withdrawn) by Stephen F. Cohen
- Claire Strom to Step Down as Editor of Agricultural History