"The Rape of Nanking" by Isis Chang. Wow...

I found this book on my gramps book shelf the other day and decided to give it a read. Finished it in 1 day. It was a mindblowing read to say the least. It’s amazing to me how a group of people as large as the number of Japanese army that moved into Nanking were all capable of such brutality. The book made it seem as though 100% of the Japanese troops that were there were participating in the destruction.

Some of the torturess things that they did were unreal. Bayonetting live babies and throwing them in boiling pots of water. Burying men up to there waist and letting German Sheppards eat them alive and drag their guts out of them while they still breahted. Mass raping the women and children of the city. Killing games to see who could kill the most Chinese. Using live Chinese as bayonet targets.

I consider myself to be prety shock proof but this book had even me wincing at some of the attrocities that took place. And the fact that Japan, apparently doesn’t acknowledge that it ever took place is nuts.

I’m not very good at articulating well thought out posts but I felt the need to recommend this very well written yet tough to stomach book.

Anyone else ever read this book? If so, has any of it been debunked by credible sources?

I haven’t read the book. Having said that, there is AFAIK, no reason to doubt any of the stories about Japanese atrocities during the Manchurian occupation. In many respects, the specific atrocities don’t really matter, anymore than it matters whether there was a lamp owned by one of the German SS officers with a lampshade made of human skin. I believe it is estimated that 200,000 people died in Nanking. The Rape of Nanking is the single worst example, but far from being an isolated one. I honestly have no idea how many were killed during the whole of the Manchurian occupation. Remember, much of the same sort of treatment was performed on US and Philipino captives after the fall of Corigedor in 1941. The Bataan Death March is very well documented - and that’s dealing with troops from an enemy the Japanese military knew, intellectually, they couldn’t defeat in the long run.

In the past several years, since the book was published, the Japanese governments have been changing the teaching of their history. I believe, now, that Japanese history books actually refer to the unpleasantness of the Manchurian occupation. And, while that is far from all they should admit to, it was almost enough to topple the government that began that change. :frowning: Because of the control that the central gov’t has over texts and teaching in Japan, this is a change. I don’t pretend it’s enough, but it’s a beginning.

The sad part, from MY point of view, is that the rape of Nanking was known to anyone willing to look honestly at history - it wasn’t until Ms. Chang’s book came out that popular culture noticed it had ever happened. There are even people, today, who argue that the US caused WWII (at least in the Pacific) because of the embargos that the US enacted on Japanese commerce. This ignores that part of the reasoning for these embargos was in response to the (slim) reports of atrocities being performed by the Japanese military.

I don’t want to give the impression that I feel that the actions of the Manchurian occupation army of WWII represents modern Japanese culture. But it is not something that should be forgotten, either.

Start out by saying I haven’t read it. However, if you’re really interested in the subject, check out what Simon Leys has to say on the subject. He’s pre-internet and one of his books discusses the Rape of Nanking. BTW, I took my elderly mother to the Nanking memorial a few years ago. It sits on the site of a mass grave, and visitors can see both the exposed bones from the mass graveyard as well as the photo exhibition. It’s pretty grim.

I’ve said this before on the boards and was pilloried for it. The Rape of Nanking happend and it was a true atrocity. Having said that, it is also highly likely that the numbers thrown about are significantly exaggerated. By both the KMT and the Mainland Chinese. Now to me, it doesn’t matter if it was 50k killed or 200k killed. Either way it was a horrific atrocity. However, it is good to be as reasonably accurate as possible.

Japanese militants in particular go to great lengths to “prove” that whatever number is thrown about is far too high. Because it’s too high, the logic goes that it must never have happened or was a small “incident” that was greatly exaggerated, and therefore can be dismissed.

I’ve browsed but haven’t read the book because I think Iris Chang went to great lengths to sensationlize what occured rather than working hard to be historically and factually correct.

It’s good that she is raising awareness, but it’s kinda like the SDMB on fighting ignorance - the Rape of Nanking needs no exaggeration to be a horrific and disgusting atrocity (or series of atrocities).

Let me the first to comment on your answer, China Guy: I think you’re 100% right, here. Both the KMT and the Chinese Communists had every reason to want to exaggerate the actual casualty numbers from Nanking. Especially in light of the strictly limited response that Western nations were giving to the previous examples of Japanese misrule. Not only would it help with their own domestic recruitment, but it would help in international matters as well. I don’t have a cite off the top of my head, but I believe that one of the reasons for the US rubber and oil embargo on Japan was in direct relation to the work of the KMT and other Chinese diplomats publicizing the Rape of Nanking. As far as I know the term ‘Rape of Nanking’ was a contemporary cognomen, chosen with malice of forethought to be as inflammatory as possible. With that background it is hard to believe that even contemporary reports of the death toll were not exaggerated for effect.

AIUI, Ms. Chang’s intent for writing the book was to address what she percieved as a general ignorance in American culture of the events of the Manchurian occupation. Not to make a scholarly study, rather an attempt to evoke just the reaction shown in the OP. This is not a put down of her work, nor am I trying to say she was dishonest in her presentation - just that she didn’t put any effort into debunking stories she got. To use an example most Americans would be more familiar with: Ms. Chang was trying to create an awareness similar to the awareness of the Holocaust in the modern mind. Thus her book is analogous, in my mind, to a collection of Auschwitz survivor’s recollections, not a study of the facts of Auschwitz.

None of my reservations about her numbers, or the more sensational accounts in her book, change my basic view of the facts: The Japanese army took over the city of Nanking, and depopulated it. They kept the young and pretty females for rapees, excuse me, comfort detachments for the army :rolleyes: and were quite willing to execute any and all other persons they encountered. Compared to that verifiable and verified truth, the specifics of exactly how many thousands died, and what the particular methods of execution might have been used doesn’t really matter.

As a complete aside, one of the things about even modern Japanese culture that offends me greatly (more even than the lingering sexism) is the way that they decry the inhumanity of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - while ignoring, belittling, or denying their own human rights violations in Manchuria, the Phillipines, and other areas. I could go on, but…

Anyways, China Guy, I can only imagine how you felt at the memorial…

Unlike Holocaust denial in Germany, denying the Rape of Nanking isn’t an extremist fringe position in current Japanese politics. Tokyo governor Ishihara is very vocal in his opinion that it never happened and is just a pack of Chinese lies. Many senior members of the LDP ruling party have also stated outright that the RoN is just an anti-Japanese fairy tale.

Perhaps sadder is that the majority position here seems to be fingers-in-the-ears ignorance. Textbooks focus on Japan’s ‘victimhood’ during the war, and handwave the RoN away with vague statements that “many” died, or that the details are unknown. Efforts to have the textbooks revised have been denounced as Japan-bashing with the familar accusation of ‘you liberals all want to blame your own country for everything.’ A Japanese translation of Chang’s book was produced, but no publisher was willing to print it.

If you had a decent education about WWII, you had to know about the Rape of Nanking. Of course, I was raised in Hawaii and maybe the conscienceness of all things in the “East” was/is more acute.

But then again, most Americans don’t know about nuthing about dems historical stuffs unless they become a cause célèbre. :frowning:

You may want to continue reading on the topic with Nanking 1937, ed. by Feifei Li, Robert Sabella, David Liu, Perry Link. It is the collected papers of a 1997 Princeton University Nanking 1937 conference, so it’s more scholarly although some survivors are also included. Apparently it also caused a stir in Japan.

I don’t know about that. It may be an East vs. West (coast) thing. But I do know that if it weren’t for my own interest in world history, WWII particularly, I wouldn’t have known about the Rape of Nanking, nor the internment of the Nisei, from my high school (and earlier) history. Of course, part of that may have to do with growing up, and going to school, within miles of the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA - we barely covered the latter parts of the Revolutionary War - yanno, anything outside of New England, like, where the French and the Colonials finally won the war? Minor details like that. :smiley:

Seriously, local interest, or local links to history do affect how and what is going to be taught in the public schools. In part it’s a natural thing, and in part it’s an effect of local control of the cirricula - only something that could be avoided by having national planning of the schools, which brings us back to the Japanese model; which allows powerful interests to actively censor and distort teachings to avoid unpleasant truths, as Sublight pointed out. :rolleyes:

I don’t want to argue with his eyewitness account, but I’d gotten the impression that the LDP is facing a generation of Japanese voters who, in some small way, actually know the bare bones outlines of the acts of the Manchurian occupation. It doesn’t change the fact that currently the LDP is reacting just as reported, nor that they did nearly bring down the government about (IIRC) a single line mentioning the RoN. Just that change is happening. sigh

Just in case anybody was confused by OtakuLoki’s wording ( I was at first ), Nanking is not in Manchuria and had nothing to do with any Manchurian campaign.

The Japanese takeover of Manchuria in 1931 was actually pretty quick and by comparison was relatively bloodless - for reasons of state surrounding the Mukden incident, the Chinese troops were for the most part ordered by Chian Kai-Shek not to resist and the whole campaign took no more than six months. Of course the total causalty figure from the whole occupation was doubtless higher, but I imagine it was a good deal less than in the rest of China, where the fighting was much heavier.

Nanking was sacked in 1937 in an attempt at a ‘spirit-breaker’ to force Chinese capitulation at a point early in this Sino-Japanese War ( 1937-1941 ). It has served as the Chinese capital for a decade ( 1927-1937 ) and was a symbol of Sun Yat-sen’s achivements and thus was deemed a good symbolic target. Of course the sack failed to achieve it’s purpose, but despite this the Japanese seemed to be fond of these Tamerlanesque ( the other one :slight_smile: ) tactics throughout the war ( the incredibly brutal ‘Three All’ campaign of 1941 was scorched earth pacification on a truly massive scale ), generally without much political result.

  • Tamerlane

My bad. I’d been under the impression that the series of campaigns taken by the Japanese army from 1933 on could be referred to by that name. I am aware it’s only a convenient label - but I had thought it was an acceptable one.

The concern should be how the Japanese view of the event and what Japanese school children are taught, not how many people in America know about it. Throwing this bit of tripe into the discussion to attack what you perceive as a lack of knowledge of the event among Americans just serves to remove focus from what matters most.

Slight hijack here: Let me recommend what might be considered the German version of these atrocities: “Faces of Death” by Richard Rhodes

This is an account of Nazi Germany’s Einsatzgruppen and their drive to exterminate Jews, Russians and just about everyone else in Russia from 1941-43, told with particular attention to the German sources.

Rhodes tells this story in graphic, almost obscene detail about how the “soldiers” tested out the various ways they could quickly kill and dispose of as many people as possible. I won’t go into detail, but some of the images he evokes is still burned into my brain.

Mind you, I’m familiar with the history of World War II. I’ve read the books and seen the movies that have described the horrors. But this book beats all. It makes me despair for the salvation of the human species.

I’m a big fan of modern Japanese culture, but the leadership’s unwillingness to face facts WRT Nanking kinda makes me sit back and wonder about them, if you know what I mean.

Hear, hear…It turns my stomach, a bit. Especially when you see the whole “ooh, all war is awful! We know that because we’re enlightened!” undercurrent you seem to see in so much anime. I mean, the end result is a peaceful, prosperous nation that’s eschewed war, but to get that way by fancying oneself purely a victim of war…

Ogh…I’m feeling queasy again. :S

Did you see the editorial in yesterday’s Daily Yomiuri? I can’t find the article online, but I have to say my jaw hit the floor a couple of times.

Some key quotes. (All bolding mine)

After this, every use of the term, ‘war criminal’, is in quotations, indicating that they don’t really believe that they were war criminals.

No evidence is presented as to why this must be dismissed as fictional.

Sometimes I despair.

No, I missed that one. Actually, I gave up on the Yomiuri a while back after getting fed up with their constant ultra-nationalist drivel (although by luck I picked up an issue a few months back and caught them plagarizing one of my imdb contributions on their movie page). The parts you’ve quoted seem par for the course for them.

Generally, the Japanese news spectrum, from right to left, seems to be Yomiuri - Japan Times - Asahi News, with Mainichi off in ‘titties & beer & outrage’ territory.