80 years later, a moment of silence

By: Xiang BoFrom:English Edition of Xinhua | Updated: 2017-Dec-14 11:16
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Photo taken on Dec. 13, 2017 shows the scene of state memorial ceremony for China's National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims at the memorial hall for the massacre victims in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province, Dec. 13, 2017. (Xinhua/Han Yuqing)

NANJING, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Sirens symbolizing grief blared throughout Nanjing, in east China's Jiangsu Province, shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday. The city came to a halt, and the nation took time to reflect.

On Wednesday, China marked the fourth national memorial day to commemorate the victims of the Nanjing Massacre, in which Japanese invaders slaughtered about 300,000 Chinese during a six-week rampage after they captured the city, then China's capital, eight decades ago to this day.

In the downtown area, pedestrians paused to mourn the deceased in silence and drivers honked their horns to echo the sirens. "The massacre has left a deep scar in our hearts. This is a day we will never forget," said Nanjing resident Yang Yuxiu.

Chinese President Xi Jinpingattended the state memorial ceremony held in the square in front of the Memorial Hall for the Victims in Nanjing Massacre. Other senior officials were also present at the ceremony.

In addressing the event, China's top political advisor Yu Zhengshengsaid Chinese and Japanese people should cherish the hard-won peace, and the international community needs to honestly face up to history.

War is a mirror, which helps people understand peace better than ever, said Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

"To avoid any repeat of the historic tragedy, we must make unremitting efforts for the lasting and even eternal peace of mankind," he said.

After Yu finished speaking, six representatives struck the Bell of Peace and 3,000 doves signifying peace were released to the sky.

Despite December's chill, about ten thousand people from all walks of life attended the ceremony, including aging survivors, school children, and foreign visitors. In front of the darkly-dressed crowd, China's national flag flew at half-mast under clear skies.

In February 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, designated December 13 as the "National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims" to mourn the deceased and expose the war crimes committed by Japanese invaders.


Eighty years after the massacre, the survivors are in their twilight years and number less than 100. Guan Guangjing, previously the oldest known survivor, died Sunday at the age of 100, just three days before the memorial day.x Ge Daorong, a survivor who attended Wednesday's ceremony, was only 10 years old when Nanjing fell to the Japanese invaders. As they went on a killing spree, he and his close family took refuge in a safety zone, but a group of Japanese soldiers barged into their room and one of them stabbed him in the leg with a bayonet, leaving a deep scar that is still visible today. He survived the massacre, but his three uncles did not.

Ge is indignant that some right-wing politicians in Japan have tried to whitewash history or even denied that the massacre ever took place. "Those who have committed a crime should have the courage to admit it. Otherwise, they are doomed to repeat it," Ge said.

"Remembering the massacre is not to prolong a hatred between China and Japan. Ordinary Japanese were also victimized by the war," he said. "All the peace-loving people around the world should join hands to cherish the peace today and prevent war from ever happening again."

"My only hope is that in the future, mothers won't have to shed blood and tears, and children can lead a happy and peaceful life," he said.

Among the children who attended the ceremony was 11-year-old Qiu Tianci. She said participating in the event makes her "feel the grief of the massacre."

"The peace and prosperity we enjoy today came at the sacrifice of countless lives during the war. It is important that this message is passed down from generation to generation," said Qiu, who wishes to become a businesswoman when she grows up, so that she can travel around the world to raise more awareness of the atrocity.


American Chris Magee was one of the foreign visitors who attended the ceremony Wednesday.

He is the grandson of John Magee, an American missionary stationed in Nanjing during the massacre, who secretly shot 105 minutes of film documenting the atrocities committed by the Japanese invaders. The footage is considered the only film record of the massacre.

Chris Magee said the memorial hall provides a national catharsis, taking people through the grieving process and out the other side.

"You recognize the horrors of war, the terrors that happened here, but you also come here to heal,to move past that point," he said. "If you don't know about these atrocities you won't notice when the world slips into that again."

In 2002, John Magee's son donated the camera he used to record the events to the the Memorial Hall for the Victims in Nanjing Massacre. The camera and its footage became an important part of the Documents of the Nanjing Massacre that were inscribed on the Memory of the World Register by UNESCO in 2015.

"At first, all his camera captured were pleasant happenings in Nanjing such as the celebrations for newborns and birthday parties. But soon after the Japanese aggressors descended on the city, the footage took an ugly turn," said Chris Magee, recalling the disturbing experience of seeing the black-and-white footage.

He arrived in Nanjing days ago to continue his project of recapturing his grandfather's images of the city to make its history more widely known.

"My grandfather documented devastation. I depict resurrection," said the younger Magee, who hopes the images taken 80 years apart can link the past and the present, and tell the city's transformation from ruins to prosperity.