What do non-Chinese/Japanese people think of the Nanjing Massacre?
Kelly La Rue, Veteran, small business owner, Master Electrician
Kelly La Rue,老兵，小企业主，高级电工
Warning! I have included some stomach churning photographs.
The Nanking Massacre was not an anomaly. It was standard wartime behavior for the Japanese army in WWII. An entire civilization had gone mad.
I look upon their behavior with teeth clenching horror.
Here is a list of countries invaded, conquered, or occupied by Japan before or during WWII:
Hong Kong (UK)
Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)
Australia by sea
New Zealand by sea
Burma (Myanmar )
British New Guinea (Papua)
Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India)
Straits Settlements (Singapore)
Wake Island (USA)
Gilbert and Ellice Islands (UK)
Christmas island (Australia)
Their behavior was generally savage and barbaric. The Japanese were one of the most racist societies in history right up there with and possibly worse than Nazi Germany. They believed their superiority gave them to right to treat their inferiors any way they wanted and they left a swath of 10 million or more civilian bodies in their wake.
Civilians were shot, bayoneted, beheaded, mutilated, buried alive, raped in a frenzy of sadistic butchery across Asia wherever they went. Mustard gas and biological agents were used. Medical experiments were done. Pregnant women had their fetuses cut out and both left to die in pools of blood. POWs were murdered, starved, worked to death, used for bayonet practice, decapitated, and eaten.
The Japanese have a long history of insincere apologies. Part of the reason is the populace is protected from the facts about their WWII atrocities and are actually encouraged to think of themselves as the victims in the war. Sometimes so outrageous is this denial that there are accusations that reports of atrocities are an American attempt to cover up their own warcrimes.
If the Japanese were to genuinely regret and express this regret like the Germans did then I think they could look forward to being accepted back into the community of Asian nations. But instead their denials continue unabated so the tension persists.
Craig Fechter, President (2005-present)
I am from California and was born and raised here. When it comes to the history of World War 2, much of the US based cirriculum is centered around the US conflict with Japan and the European conflict, both the US portion and the European portion.
Very little is taught or heard about what the Japanese inflicted upon the Chinese. While the Nazis were definitely brutal, the Japanese were literal barbarian hordes in China.
I started to take interest in the topic about 2.5 years go when I was in Xiamen and Fuzhou, China as we were there to adopt our youngest son. I saw a world war 2 memorial in Fuzhou and just started to read about the Japanese occupation of China. After reading about the initial invasion I got to the Rape of Nanking wikipedia article. I can’t tell you how emotional I got while reading through the mass suffering of the Chinese people in Nanking! My heart ached to know that mankind could be capable of such reckless disregard for any and all human life! Babies thrown in the air and bayonted! Tens of thousands of women raped, violated and ultimately murdered! Any Chinese adult male being taken down to the river and just machine-gunned down like a dog!
People here just haven’t heard about it and if they have I just don’t think they understand the absolute depravity of the Japanese. Due to the fact we are a Chinese-American household, we actively celebrate elements of Chinese culture in our home. We decorate for and celebrate Chinese new year and we attempt to take part in local Chinese new year celebrations. Last year we attended a local Chinese New Year celebration where there was traditional Chinese food, elements of their culture, and the culmination was a presentation of traditional Chinese dance. The committee invited a bunch of local politicians as guests of honor and they were invited to speak prior to the event. It was a surreal moment when one of the politicians began to talk about how poorly the Japanese were treated here in the US during world war 2, as if the Chinese in attendance wanted to hear reminders of Japan and world war 2 (for a reference, the Japanese were treated poorly during world war 2 as they were forcefully interned but that treatment was quite literally nothing to how the Japanese treated the Chinese). I couldn’t believe that he would actually bring up Japan during a celebration of Chinese new year.
Jacques V?n Kh?i, I am oversea Asian man
Jacques V?n Kh?i, 住在国外的亚裔
I called the massacre is terrible one.
Do you know what had costed for some small/weak countries to understand in? Because it is the brutal of human nature. And that’s how we are facing for.
Please look on this by the honest view.
China was weak. Weak those days. It was spared by the conflicts. Conflicts with the USSR, Uyghurs, Tibet, Communists. Wars happened everywhere, everytime. And no peace there. Then Japan jumped in, made the situation come worse.
Japan took the city after the Chinese force surrendered the city. Gen. Iwane Matsui could have done better by trying to prevent the massacre. However, the high order of the Imperial Japanese command in China had not allowed prisoners, instead killing all and all.
Imagine, with this type of order, would they keep their human ability?
As Japan also kept the similar racist view on other Asians, believing on Japanese supremacy, and they thought they could revive China, they slaughtered all of other people there, in order to “clean China”. This was not cleaning. This was massacre! Genocide! It was that type! This helped strengthen Chinese nationalism later, but the pains would never be forgotten.
The Nanking massacre could be understood like this:
It showed the darkest and the most horrible part of human beings.
It affected on the minds of the people in around the massacre.
For Japan those days: to demonstrate the invincible power of Japan in the name of pan-Asianism.
For China those days: it strengthened China and helped Chinese to realize who they needed to fight.
The Nanking still affects today. China uses Nanking like a reason for its power rising. Japan refuses because this is not China they need to excuse. For others, it was like Armenian tragedy, Jewish tragedy, and more…
I feel this massacre was cruel and non-human. But it should be respected for the deaths to be in peace, not for other warmongers use as an excuse of expansion and war plans.
M. G. Haynes, M.A. Asian Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa (2006)
M. G. Haynes, 亚洲研究硕士，马诺阿夏威夷大学（2006）
I'd certainly never claim to speak for all "non-Chinese/Japanese" people when it comes to any subject on the planet, but I can give my thoughts as a veteran, an historian, and someone who's spent a long time living and traveling in Northeast Asia.
The Nanjing Massacre was nothing short of a horrible war crime. Imperial Japanese soldiers went on a murderous rampage, raping, torturing, and killing Chinese civilians to a degree that makes any discussion of the number of victims moot. The historian in me is convinced of the horrible facts of the event by the multiple eye-witness accounts by international and fairly impartial observers. The soldier in me is unconvinced--and a little disgusted--by post-war claims that the Japanese troops went beyond their orders. My time spent living in this part of the world tells me that the Japanese are prone to "yari-sugi" or over-doing things...all sorts of things. These three components all come together to make me believe that 1) the killing and maltreatment of civilians happened on a very large scale, beyond what could be claimed even by WWII standards as "collateral damage", 2) that this treatment was ordered by Japanese commanders on the scene, and 3) that it was an overwhelming display of terror intended to punish the Chinese for Japanese losses at Shanghai and cow them into eventual submission.
None of this is terribly insightful. What's more interesting, I think, is why there are so many Japanese who disbelieve the event happened in the first place, or believe the Chinese have inflated the numbers of an otherwise "acceptable" number of civilian casualties. While elements of cultural distrust of the Chinese in general combines with a distrust of Communist propaganda after the war, the greater issue is that the Japanese simply don't want to believe it. Specifically, that the nice old man living on the fourth floor--or better yet, the kindly Grandfather who rocks their grandchildren to sleep--could have ever perpetrated such inherently unbelievable atrocities.
Don't ever underestimate how little the Japanese people back home knew about the detailed "sausage-making" of their war with China. As well, don't underestimate the long-term effect on the human psyche of a never-ending stream of pre-war and wartime government propaganda. Add to that a general lack of desire (with a few notable, but easily dismissible exceptions) by returning soldiers to tell of their own horrible deeds. These men were ashamed--of losing the war if not their behavior while prosecuting it--and not terribly interested in telling those back home all the evil deeds they'd done. After all, they'd been assured victory and everyone knows that the victors write history and so these troops would have assumed that the ends justified the means and all those acts would be forgotten in the end anyway. And finally, don't forget that post-war Japanese didn't really want to hear it anyway, they were sick of war and warriors, blaming the destruction of their entire way of life on the militarists who'd led the emperor astray and dragged Japan into a deep abyss.
The most important question of all, however, is how to move beyond this incident. Japan and the US are close allies today, despite a surprise attack that dragged the US into a war it was trying to avoid, the inexcusable treatment of Allied POWs, and the dropping of two atomic bombs. Taiwans have a close relationship with the Japanese and seem to, as a political body, harbor no lasting resentment. The Thais as well, in spite of Japanese wartime atrocities committed there. Further afield, the French and Germans have a combined military unit and daily work side-by-side in NATO. Clearly, being the recipient of national-level aggression doesn't pre-suppose antagonism 70-years later.
The crazy thing is that almost any ethnic group in the world can be considered a victim or charged with aggression. It really depends on where you draw that magical, historical line in the sand. If you draw the line in 1598, Korea is recovering from two Japanese invasions. 1281, Japan is the recipient of its second of two Mongol invasions of mostly Chinese and Korean troops. Early 1200s, the Mongols invade and subdue all of China. If you draw the line at 110 BC, China is invading Korea for the first of many, MANY times. And the list goes on and on. No ethnic group in all the world has a monopoly on aggression. Don't believe me? Look to the peaceful, chocolate and watch-making, perennially neutral Swiss . . . who once fielded the most feared troops in all of Europe.
While individual people may harbor a latent distrust of other cultures for any number of reasons--to include past aggression--life goes on after all and humans have throughout history proven capable of tremendous pragmatism. It seems, then, these long-term historical issues become real obstacles to progress only when somebody or some group stands to gain politically from dredging up that past. The question, when faced with such renewed calls for anger and hatred against an entire ethnic group (ANY ethnic group), should be "what does that individual/group gain from making such calls?" Answer that, and you're closer to understanding why these issues remain 70-years on.
Juri Nakahara, I am a Japanese who has spent some childhood in the US.
You asked me to answer this question, but I know my answer is going to disappoint you and this is an honest answer as A Japanese.
I had been hesitating to answer after getting A2A, because I just remember the "word" Nanjing Massacre. Textbooks and education differs by generation. I am in my 30's and don't remember what I learned in junior high or high schools, and for me back then, history was just a subject that I had to pass tests, and I was just busy memorizing what happened in which year. This is just my experience and I don't know about other genetations, but I think schools focused more about telling us what happend between the US and Japan. I remember that I saw some videos about the bombing in Japan and attack on Pearl Harbor.
This is just what I think, but as for Japanese, only people who are interested in history know well about Nanjin Massacre.
I am a person who was wondering why Japanese government has to keep apolozing Chinese and South Korean governments.
I started using Quora several months ago and Quora users' answers are helping me learn about what Japan did.
Kibler Juergen, I like to read history books, lots of them.
Kibler Juergen, 我爱看历史书，而且看过好多。
Half Salvadoran and half Austrian, world traveler, due to my work I interact a lot with Japanese and Chinese people.
Here is the thing: When you learn something from history books but your anecdotal experience contradicts what you are reading, your brain goes through a classic “W.T.F.” moment.
From all the countries that I have traveled to, be it in Europe, the Americas or Asia, nowhere have I felt more comfortable, happy and welcomed as when I am in Japan. The country and its culture is uniquely polite when dealing with foreign visitors. Hands down, IMHO, they win over the Brazilians in friendliness, over the Germans in organization and over the Brits in punctuality. Oh, and the food I can get there rivals anything I have tried in Michelin guide listed restaurants in Europe. The country seems so clean and orderly, the people so polite and refined…. Which is why, when I first learned about the Nanjing massacre, my first reaction was incredulity. “No way” I thought… “this must be some sort of Chinese propaganda”. These were my thoughts….
Sadly, it is true. Some grandparents of those wonderful people I know and love did some terrible things to other Asians 70+ years ago. It made me understand that famous saying about civilization being as wide an ocean but as deep as a puddle. Scratch a few inches underneath our tailor made suits and one can find our violent ape nature. I sincerely think that Japan should look back, recognize what happened and make amends.
But, do I think that that horrible event is unique? Sadly again, the answer is no. I can tell you of dozens of similar barbarities happening again and again in the last 70 years, in my backyard Latin America alone! In my home country of El Salvador entire villages with thousands of civilians were killed in a similar manner as the Nanjing Massacre, as early as the 1980s!
Thanks for reading my opinion about this sensitive subject. I hope both Japan and China can be mature enough to overcome the past.
Derrick Patterson, B.A History, Bates College (2013)
I am American. I currently live in China and I often ask Chinese people how they feel about Japan. The younger generation doesn’t seem to have any bad feelings against them, however when I ask some of the older locals they usually have a negative opinion about Japanese people.
The Nanjing Massacre was a clear example of how dark WWII was. Think about everything that occurred. The Nanjing Massacre, the Holocaust, the genocides in Ethiopia, Pearl Harbor, etc. Innocent people dying for a war they necessarily did not want to be involved in. Japan committed war crime after war crime, viewing Chinese people as animals instead of human beings. Holding up babies with bayonets, having competitions of who could behead the most villagers, taking photos with the deceased. It was nothing short of sick and should forever be a dark chapter in Japan’s history.
People all over the world should never forget the horrors that took place during World War II. The Raping of Nanjing was a senseless act and should serve as a reminder that war should never be the answer.
There is an interesting, and I’m sure a somewhat romanticized, movie on Netflix called “The Flowers of War” that deals with the Rape of Nanking. It’s worth watching.
I declared an Asian Studies minor when doing my undergrad work at the university. My professor was married to a Japanese woman, spoke Japanese at a high level of proficiency and had lived in Japan for a number of years. When we studied the Nanking massacre in class, you could clearly see that he would have preferred to teach only the Japanese point of view on that matter. But his own professionalism and ethics would not allow it and so, he taught as close to an unbiased version of events as possible. He made no bones about this really happening although the Japanese themselves, refuse to admit it. They claim it’s all Chinese propaganda.
The fact is that it DID happen and it was a horrible atrocity rivaling many of the other atrocities commited during War 2.
As for my own feelings, I have to say that I don’t like studying it because it brings me down emotionally. It was a very sad event during a very sad time and the Chinese suffered terribly then.
But, on the other hand, I think it speaks volumes for the spirit of the Chinese people. I have the very highest respect for the Chinese people of Nanking and for the suffering they endured during that time. And this meshes very well with another influencial man in my own live and HIS feelings about the Chinese people.
This man was a pilot with the Flying Tigers during War 2. He was a neighbor when I was a kid and was a customer of mine on my newspaper route. He used to tell me all about how the Japanese would bomb their airfield near Kunming. The Chinese would repair the runways and rebuild their quarters and other buildings in record time - and all of it by hand. And they would actually get everything rebuilt faster than the Japanese could bomb it to destructino. There were thousands of workers and they would literally repave the bombed out runway’s bomb craters with gravel and tung oil carried in on the backs of thousands of workers carrying baskets. The Flying Tigers, according to my neighbor, never missed a mission and were never delayed thanks to the efforts of all those Chinese workers.
So THAT is my impression of the Chinese.
Taiki Fujimoto, Had been Travelling to China 2 times, 2013 and 2016
Taiki Fujimoto, 在2013和2016年两次到中国旅游
The Nanking Massacre is one of the most terrible thing that Japan did. It can be seen from this why China still demand an apology from Japan for this.
This heinous act is evil and unbelieveable. Raping thousands of women and little girls, mass decapitating, and mass killing until a death toll of 300,000 only to dermolize the Chinese is really unforgivable. I hope Japan apologize and give aid to the victim’s families.
During my visit to China, I also prayed at the Nanking Memorial, making some Chinese watch in surprise. After having some conversation with them, and told them about my view. In response, they jokingly told me that I must run for Prime Minister.
I hope our government apologizes so that a better China - Japan relations awaits in the future.
I’ve lived in both countries.
Most of the evidence points to it being a vile massacre, absolutely inhuman killing and murder. There are points to consider though:
There has been gross misrepresentation of the incident by BOTH sides. On the Japanese side there are still some who claim only a few thousand were killed, and that these were soldiers dressing as locals. This is contradicted by eye-witness testimonies from former Japanese soldiers who were there, and other eye-witness accounts by Europeans, not to mention local Chinese.
On the Chinese side, the number of dead has been vastly inflated. Claims of 300,000+ are ridiculous as the population of Nanjing at the time was only 240,000, not everyone in the city was killed, and some managed to flee. The true number most probably lies somewhere nearer to 150,000. That’s not to excuse it - it was still a horrific massacre.
It’s also likely that some of the photos of the massacre are fake or do not show what they purport to show. One famous beheading photo used in propaganda is now generally accepted to be a Chinese soldier beheading someone. Others are from different incidents in the war, but are now used in Nanjing propaganda.
There are several books on the subject, Iris Chang’s of course, and a few on the Japanese culture and mindset at the time though I’m blanking on the titles. Basically the Japanese were working under a ‘living god’, and it was drilled into them that their own lives were utterly worthless in the service of the Emperor, so they often had no qualms about laying down their lives for the sake of Japan. If you put yourself in that mindset where your own life is worth as little as that of an ant, what are the lives of your enemies worth? Non-Japanese had zero value in their eyes. This led to horrendous dehumanising behaviour.
What I obxt to is continued hatred of [modern day] Japan. Japan is an immensely civil and peaceful country - even the right-wing revisionist Abe can’t change that - and the people are the most kind, sweet and gentle people I’ve ever met. Modern-day Japanese should not be resented or blamed for the sins of their dead great-grandfathers. There’s a strong argument for the Japanese education system to be changed to acknowledge the worst of the atrocities of the past, but again the current youth of Japan are blameless, and in terms of threats to the region’s security Japan are way further down the list than some of their neighbours.
Can Japanese non-combatants of the time even be blamed? Apparently the sport of beheading was reported in some newspapers in Japan at the time, but can you blame an indoctrinated housewife sat at home reading the newspaper for a massacre in a foreign country perpetrated by her countrymen? I don’t think so. Some people celebrate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki because ‘Japan had it coming to them’ for their own crimes, but two wrongs don’t make a right: just because 100,000+ innocents died in Nanjing does not make it a cause for celebration that another 100,000+ innocent civilians died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The people who committed the Nanjing Massacre did awful, inhuman things, but they’re all dead. I know the anger runs deep (and is continuously stirred up by the government of China) but who is left to blame? A few old idiot revisionists.
Hua Ailin, IR expert, thesis on China's shifting intl. Strategy
Hua Ailin, 红外专家，研究中国正在转变的国际战略
I’m not Japanese or Chinese, but have lived in both countries and am familiar with both narratives (or lack thereof) regarding the Sino-Japanese war and WWII.
Frankly, knowing about things like that makes me wonder how both countries could ever be friends or work together in any way. Though it’s true that there’s at times some social tension (particularly on the Chinese side), it’s surprising that that their economies are so intertwined. And it’s also surprising that there isn’t even more hostility towards Japan considering that as far as I’m aware, the Nanjing massacre is not particularly high lighted in Japanese text books.
The only reason why so many countries are ok with Germany now is because they’ve made a big point of not hiding their past and are very apologetic about it.
That’s just my two cents.
Scarlett Mitchell, Professional Artist
Scarlett Mitchell, 职业艺术家
I am an American. I have never been to Asia.
I have no bias to either country, other than a love of both cultures. Or I didn’t, until I learned about this.
The massacre, aptly named “The Rape of Nanjing” has been called a genocide because it was a slaughter of civilians without any reason–The city had already been captured.
And not many, but still too many, Japanese people are literally denying any such “conflict”. Everyone else just calls it an exaggeration or demands “proof”. Some of the Japanese do acknowledge it.
You know how, in the Western world, Holocaust deniers cause disgust in the regular population? This is like if the entire country of Germany continued to deny the Holocaust, or called it an exaggeration.
But like, there are also photographs of young corpses with bayonets sticking out of vaginas littered across the city. Women and little girls were systematically raped, household by household, and then murdered. Children's genitals were sliced open to make rape easier for the Japanese soldiers. A pregnant woman was resisting rape, so she was disemboweled, fetus removed, then raped after death. This is all eyewitness accounts by locals and foreigners, film, photographic, primary source evidence.
It still happened. And more people in Western countries should learn about it. Why not, just because it didn't happen to us? What about Rwanda? What about the Balkans, Cambodia? The famines in the USSR?
My opinion of Japan has changed drastically. Before, since we fucking nuclear attacked them and somehow have a good relationship now, I respected what I considered a modern and free country. But this totally changed my mind.
I still have no hard feelings toward Japanese people, since obviously it's not their fault, and just like the rest of Asia, I can't live without Japanese shit.
Edit 2: Stop trying to invalidate my answer because I'm American and “not aware of our own mistakes”. You are making that shit up- I do know what we've done. This question is not about America, so sit the fuck down. I'm unenthusiastically American. And I'm sick of my nationality being used to cheapen what I think about the Nanjing Massacre.
Guillaume Aubian, studied at école Normale Supérieure De Paris
Guillaume Aubian, 就读于巴黎高等师范学校
I’ve searched what was Nanjing Massacre after reading this question, and this is really fucked up : this is like a genocide for free, without any interest in doing so except for crude barbary…
That being said, I had absolutely no idea this existed, and I’m pretty sure it’s true for most French people, and I’d bet that’s also true for most people in western Europe.
We are taught in school how things went in western Europe during world war 2, USSR and USA are also extensively discussed. But Asia is mainly ignored, except for Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima/Nagasaki. I knew Japan attacked China during WWII, but that wasn’t from school, and I didn’t even know that was so gruesome.
So, to answer this question : in Europe, I think most non-Chinese/Japanese people simply have no idea this massacre happened.