Being a Chinese myself, I have heard countless times the stories of the Nanjing Holocaust from my great-grandparents and grandparents alike. Watching movies and reading books like the "Rape of Nanking" has given me an insight into those terrible, horrible times. Nevertheless, of all the things I have seen and heard, none has ever come close to the gruesome reality and shocking portrayal of that atrocious episode of Nanjing’s history depicted at the Memorial Hall of the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre.
The Nanjing Massacre Memorial hall was built in the 1980s in memory of more than 300,000 victims killed by the invaders from 13 December 1937 to January 1938. During those 6 weeks of nightmare, innocent civilians were brutally slaughtered, beheaded, burned, raped, and buried alive. This massacre has haunted the Nanjing people for years, an incident never forgotten and forgiven.
There are four sections to the memorial; the outdoor exhibition, the mass burial site, the remaining bones of the victims and the exhibition hall of photographs and historical documents. At the front gate of the memorial grounds, we passed a large cross with the date of the massacre "1937.12.13–1938.1" and a large bell named the Peace Bell, representing the hope of the Nanjing people for a more peaceful future. Further on, we walked along an extremely large broken wall with a huge hole in it obviously caused by a bullet shot, as well as a larger-than-life skull lying close by. The wall also had the number "300,000" etched on it, a constant reminder to the number of people viciously murdered in the massacre. Moving onwards from the wall, we passed a walkway filled with the foot and hand prints of the survivors of the Nanjing holocaust, who have each shared their experiences and stories of survival with the rest of the world.
From there, we walked on into the mass burial ground of the victims of the massacre. The burial ground is a large open space filled with flower stones, as well as a dying tree and a large statue of a mother looking for her family. This is to give the whole burial ground a feeling of depression and sadness. The bones buried here have been excavated from a mass grave in Jiangdongmen known as the "pit of tens of thousand bodies." A long pathway through this vast open space lead us to a large glass case displaying the remaining bones of several victims, all labeled with numbers and details of the bones and the wounds inflicted upon them were explicitly described. Gun shot wounds through the head, nail penetration into the skull of a woman, decapitation of a child… It was intense and heartlessly cruel.
Moving on, we entered into the exhibition hall where brutal and horrendous pictures of the Nanjing war crimes were displayed. The photographs and documents displayed here stands proof to the crimes the invading troops committed… from the attack on Shanghai to Nanjing, the struggle and oppression, and the controversial war trial. A mixture of emotions just overwhelmed me throughout the visit: sadness, shock, disgust, fury… and finally, relief (that all this has come to an end).
Swarms of students were visiting the memorial while we were there, a sign that Nanjing never wants their future generations to forget that fateful 6 weeks. From December 13 to January every year, prayers are held at the memorial, and an alarm will ring every half an hour from 7:30am till dusk.
A large banner at the entrance says, "Experiences of the past, if not forgotten, are a guide for the future." I guess the Nanjing people will never let the world forget.