An exhibition called “Sealed Memories: Prevent a Repeat of the Nanjing Massacre” recently concluded in Hiroshima. Featuring over 50 photographs and items from the Nanjing Massacre, it was the first exhibit on the massacre that the Japanese city has hosted in over 20 years, as well as the first held with Chinese cooperation.
The opening ceremony, which was marked by a minute’s silence, was attended by over 100 people and simultaneously live-streamed to an audience of 30,000 by Chinese news outlet Modern Bulletin Board, Tencent News reported. The exhibition was created in collaboration by Chinese academics at the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall in Nanjing in collaboration, Japanese scholars, and civilians of the Committee on the Nanjing Massacre Exhibition in Hiroshima.
The Nanjing Massacre began when Japanese forces invaded the former capital of the Republic of China on December 13, 1937, while the two countries were at war. The issue is still contested by various historians and the government of both countries, but Chinese historians maintain that 300,000 civilians and soldiers who had surrendered were raped and murdered by Japanese soldiers during the massacre.
The event has been a consistent source of tension between the Chinese and Japanese governments and people since 1945. The issue flared up again in January, when it was discovered that Toshio Motoya, owner of Japanese hotel chain APA Hotels, which is popular with Chinese tourists, is a denier of the Nanjing Massacre. Motoya published his beliefs in a book that contains the inflammatory line “[the Nanjing Massacre] was fabricated by the Chinese side and did not actually happen.”
However the exhibition’s collaborators hope their joint effort can help heal these divisions. Speaking at the exhibition’s opening ceremony, Wu Xianbin, director of the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall, told Jiangsu newspaper Xiandai Kuaibao that “the objective of this exhibition is for peace.” Wu explained that “we want to tell the inhabitants of Hiroshima that, at the same time that you remember the tragedies of this city, you cannot forget the tragedies of Nanjing, because the memories cannot be split up; you cannot be selective in remembrance.”
The exhibition has received support from both the Chinese government and many of the country’s netizens. Speaking during his regular press conference on July 18, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said “we speak highly of this event sponsored by local organizations from Nanjing and Hiroshima.” On Weibo, one user, @反独大盟主, commented “Japan hasn’t done badly this time.”
Yet not all were convinced by the olive branch. In a reply to @反独大盟主, @最棒的胡子胡子大胡子 remarked that “[the exhibition] is civilian, not from the government.” Another netizen, @旋转小火箭 agreed, commenting, “If the Japanese government had this attitude, then Chinese-Japanese relations wouldn’t be this bad.”
Cover image from the People’s Daily Online