A Travellerspoint blog

February 2012

Nanjing Massacre Museum

Reporting from Jinqiao

rain 1 °C

Last week, I went on an adventure, bravely, all on my own... well, I signed up to go on a tour without knowing if I knew anyone on the trip, as it turned out I knew one friend of a friend, and she had two lovely friends with her, so all in all, I ended up having quite a sociable time.

I had to be at the Shanghai Portman Centre by 7.45am, for registration and bus was departing for Hongqiao Railway Station at 8am, so to allow plenty of time, at 6.30am off I set, in a taxi to the Metro Station. It was somewhat eerie being at the station so early with the fake market closed and distinct lack of crowds on the station. Similarly arriving in Nanjing Xi Lu just before 7am was quiet, Marks and Sparks wasn't open yet, the traffic was non-existent, and the town was just stretching and waking up. It was cold and damp too, so a misty fog hung in the air.

I was there in plenty of time, so started roaming through some of the alleys, but there was more than a hint of rain in the air, so I decided to get down to the meeting place directly. Some shops and businesses were starting to set up, and I loved this line of delivery bikes all parked ready and waiting for the day of business.

Arriving at the Portman Centre, it started to rain, and these deserted benches caught my eye, and look quite romantic through a few rain drops on my camera lens. Although I was a bit worried that my camera was going to fog up and take ages to dry out again.

The tour organisers were checking names and passports and handing out the outward bound tickets, and I sat down to enjoy a Cranberry Bagel with cream cheese (which incidentally cost more than the bagel!) and a cappuccino. Once everyone was accounted for, we headed over to the bus for the 20min trip to Hongqiao Station. On this short trip, we were introduced to our tourguide, Janny who gave us a brief history of Nanjing, and how for a long time it was the capital city of China. She also filled us in on the imperial history and that through the various Chinese dynasties, with tales of angst between uncles, brothers, monks and prodigal sons, all many centuries before the Nanjing Massacre which occurred doing the Second Sino-Japanese war, and specifically starting in December 1937.

The train trip was pretty amazing, we were travelling on the high speed train, and the trip took 75 mins and they displayed the train speed at the end of each carriage - approximately 300km/hr. Some years ago, we went to Nanjing as a family and the train trip took nearly 4 hours, so amazing that now you can go there and back in a day. The station in Nanjing was pretty impressive, and we followed the group out to the bus to take us to the Nanjing Massacre Museum, about half an hour away. Janny then told us the history of the Nanjing Occupation by the Japanese, which took place from 13 December 1937, for approximately 6 weeks.

The Japanese army had issued an order on 9 December 1937 to Nanjing urging surrender within 24 hours, but did not receive a response from the Chinese by the deadline. General Tang Shengzhi retreated on December 12, and 100,000 untrained Chinese soldiers were left to defend Nanjing. Nanjing then fell to the Japanese by nightfall on December 13, and was then subject to the 6 week period of the Nanjing Massacre. During that time the Japanese soldiers raped and killed many women and children, reportedly up to 20000, carried out 26 mass murders, the museum itself is built on the site of one of these murders, and is the gravesite for an estimated 10000 people. In total 300,000 Chinese were killed during this period.

Outside the entrance to the museum there are a series of sculptures which show the agony and the pain of some of the victims. For example, a child sitting alone crying, not realising that her parents are dead, a man leading away his elderly mother, someone trying to herd children away from the horror, someone falling after being shot in the back, and so on...

Once inside, you are encouraged to walk on the solid slate paths, rather than across the neat grounds of pebbles. The pebbles represent the bones of the dead. Everywhere you look the number three hundred thousand is displayed, and written in many different languages, recognising the deaths of the Chinese during the Japanese occupation, at which time the Japanese had an order 'to kill all captives'.

The museum itself is a dramatic walk through what Nanjing was like during the massacre, with models of the city wall, display cases of journals kept by both Chinese and some Japanese soldiers, displays of weapons used. But what I found most disconcerting was the number of accounts (which had been translated into English) of the survivors, and the horrors that they faced daily during the occupation. Images of bodies floating in rivers, reconstruction of the houses of 'Comfort Women' (kept as sexual slaves), accounts of 'pretending to be dead', 69 protest letters against the atrocities sent to the Japanese Embassy, piles of dead bodies and even some atrocities which were committed by Japanese soldiers after the deaths of the Chinese, for example sticking a cigarette into the mouth of a decapitated head, and taking a photo. These artefacts have been donated to the museum by a number of survivors, and even some Japanese families who recognise that while the horrors of the Nanjing massacre were terrible, it is important to remember.

The grounds are a peaceful place to continue pondering the atrocities, and there are many sculptures around which depict the agony and the terror of the victims and survivors. Horrifying as well, are the excavated pits, much like those in Xian with the terracotta warriors, but with real bodies and bones to see. Reading the accounts of some of the deaths was just shocking, and it beggars belief how one human could do such horrifying acts to another.

Interestingly, just this week, a Japanese official publicly doubted that Japanese soldiers would have committed these atrocities in Nanjing in 1937, by saying that it 'probably never happened' - I think he should get himself over to Nanjing, and visit the Nanjing Massacre Museum.
Click here for the article in The Wall Street Journal

Posted by aboo10 07:17 Archived in China Tagged museum Comments (1)

Yarra Valley, Canberra and more Melbourne

Reporting from Jinqiao

24 °C
View Christmas Vacation on aboo10's travel map.

After Mike left, we were hardly sitting still for any time at all... so while waiting for Auntie Marnie and her fiancé James to arrive


  • played at Central Park


  • went to the children's garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens


  • visited the Collingwood Children's Farm


  • jumped on the neighbour's trampoline


Once they got here, we managed to spend a day out shopping to buy bridesmaid dresses, for me and 2 of her friends - amazingly all of us live in a different city and almost country... Shanghai, Darwin, Melbourne and of course Marnie in London... remarkably we were all in Melbourne this one single week!! And yes we found a dress - but it is not mine to display a photo just yet... wait until April!

And then we squeezed in a trip to the Yarra Valley to visit the Healesville Sanctuary and for me to attend an old school friend's wedding, all on the eve of a weekend in Canberra to celebrate my Grandma's 90th birthday.

We left Melbourne bright and early in the morning, aiming to be at the Innocent Bystander winery for breakfast.

And then we headed over to Healesville Sanctuary, which Jie Jie quite learnedly defines as somewhere they look after animals when they are hurt in the wild. We wanted to take the kids there to be sure that they saw a kangaroo and koala again while they were here. We weren't disappointed!

We were especially taken with the free flight bird show, although as luck would have it we were caught there in the rain.

But the highlight was after the bird show, when an Aboriginal man did a cultural presentation where he played the didgeridoo and then demonstrated throwing a boomerang. After his show he started talking about how he always gave away his boomerang, and aside from a few slightly tacky remarks like he usually looks for a "25 year old blonde"... he walked all the way around the arena, and continued his banter, of looking for the rightful recipient, and how he was looking for the most beautiful smile...

Anyway, I'm sure you know where this is going, but coming to the very end of the benches, he then climbed up the grandstand and there were three very excited children all sitting next to each other... he'd pretty much indicated that he was planning on giving his boomerang to a girl, so although he was eager, I was holding Didi back and we were sitting next to another family with a little girl, but there was not a waver of hesitation - the boomerang was for Jie Jie, and he said as he gave it to her "What a beautiful smile, Princess" - hook, line and sinker, Jie Jie was gobsmacked, and Didi was insanely jealous, so much so, that he tried to stop Jie Jie's photo being taken with her new boomerang!!

After that we checked into the Yarra Valley Grand Hotel on the main street in Yarra Glen, and I hurriedly tried to bath the kids, and get ready to go to the wedding. Lucky for me (or really lucky for my Dad) there was a bus which collected several guests from the hotel, took us to the wedding, AND dropped us back again... The wedding was in a gorgeous spot, at Stones Winery - gorgeous setting, and lovely intimate wedding.

Bright and early the next morning, like 5am, we loaded up the car and headed to Tullamarine Airport for an early flight to Canberra... for the next major event: a family reunion at no other than the Park Hyatt in Canberra to celebrate my Grandma's 90th Birthday. Super posh and super luxurious!! Marnie and James were en route from Melbourne, and more friends and family were coming from Singapore, Sydney and Canada. Party was lovely, long table inside, and spilling out into a courtyard where the children could play and the adults could catch up and enjoy the summer sunshine.

One more night in Canberra, and then back to Melbourne, where really our trip was over as we had 4 days to pack up, catch up with friends one last time and board that plane to Shanghai. 6 weeks in Australia - always goes too fast!!

Posted by aboo10 07:32 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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