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Bodies of victims along Qinhuai River out of Nanjing's west gate during Nanjing Massacre. Wikimedia Commons

By- Khushi Bisht

The Nanking Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was one of the worst massacres committed during the Sino-Japanese war that resulted in the outbreak of World War II in Asia. Thousands of Chinese people, including troops and civilians, were massacred by Imperial Japanese Army forces in the Chinese city of Nanking over the course of six weeks in late 1937.


It is one of history’s most heinous memories. The horrific incident resulted in the sexual harassment and murder of between 20,000 and 80,000 women. Nanking, at that point the capital of Nationalist China, was left in vestiges, and it would require a very long time for the city and its residents to recuperate from the savage assaults.


A Chinese POW about to be beheaded by a Japanese officer using a shin-guntō. Wikimedia Commons

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When Europe was combating the Nazis, China was defending itself against the Japanese invasion. They fought valiantly, losing up to 20 million people in the process of preventing the Japanese Empire from occupying most of East Asia and the Pacific. There were as many as 17 million Chinese civilians killed in the conflict. They were helpless and defenseless people, and most of them were subjected to inhuman brutality before being killed.

The Japanese set their sights on Nanking after a gruesome victory in Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese War. Nanking was engulfed in rape and murder well before the Japanese Army arrived. On their way through China, the Japanese Army was brutalizing and looting in China, with clear instructions to destroy all captives.


An article on the “Contest to kill 100 people using a sword” published in the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun. The headline reads, “‘Incredible Record’ (in the Contest to Cut Down 100 People) – Mukai 106–105 Noda – Both 2nd Lieutenants Go into Extra Innings”. Wikimedia Commons

When the Japanese Forces arrived in Nanking, they started to be more ruthless. They would go door-to-door, pulling females and even younger kids out of their homes and aggressively gang-rapping them. Hundreds of thousands of women were raped, and entire families were slaughtered. The aged and children were also abducted for execution. The Japanese burned and completely destroyed one-third of Nanking’s properties as part of their plan to eradicate the region.

The Rape of Nanking became a game for the invading army at times. Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda, two soldiers from Japan, competed in a competition to see who could kill 100 people with their swords first. The actual casualty count in the Nanking Massacre is still unknown. The vast majority of bodies were charred, dumped, or otherwise disposed of in order to erase proof of the crimes committed. For months following the attack, many bodies littered the streets.


Iwane Matsui enters Nanjing. Wikimedia Commons

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Iwane Matsui and Hisao Tani, a lieutenant general who had himself engaged in acts of murder, torture, and assault were held guilty of genocide and executed by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East soon after WWII ended.

Sino-Japanese ties are still tainted by resentment over the events in Nanking. Japan has caused unimaginable misery in China, and a heartfelt apology to the Tens of Millions of people who have suffered as a result of Japanese violence is way overdue. Japanese nationalists have denied the real existence of the massacre and used it for political purposes.


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