Friday, February 16, 2007

The Yu Hua Tai Martyr's Museum, Nanjing, China

Nanjing is a city with a long, sad history. It has seen more bloodbaths than any city should.

Serving at one time as the capitol of China, Nanjing was seen as a strategic site which a party could not easily afford to lose. In the previous century, it passed hands several times when the Communist Party, the Nationalist Party, and the Japanese were all vying for power.

Nanjing is probably most well-known for the massacres that occurred there at the hands of the Japanese, commonly known as either The Rape of Nanjing or The Nanjing Massacre. In the city today, the place that tourist cannot miss visiting is the Yu Hua Tai Martyr's Museum. It is a sad place to visit, unusually quiet for a tourist attraction in China. I couldn't help but feel both sad and puzzled, though, over the level of propaganda present in the museum, and not least because many of my friends who had formerly visited the place seemed so ready to swallow the representation whole.

Because, when you get down to the numbers, more Chinese were killed in Nanjing by other Chinese than were ever killed by the Japanese. That is truly sad. The whole horrific history of the place is sobering, and the museum is one of those places worth a visit, even if it is nauseating too.

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