after work I went to a dinner with my colleagues and Andy in a Vietnamese restaurant in celebration of Micheal’s and Bryony’s birthday. After dinner we decided to go to the KTV but we had to wait too long, so Andy, Micheal, Chris, Thomas and I went to a club called Logo. Logo is a really cool club, with writing all over the walls, good music and people of all sorts and places. When we finally stumbled out the door dawn was already approaching.
The “next” morning we dragged ourself out off bed and to the station with great difficulty, where we met Pete (from America) and Chanel (Chinese) to go to Nanjing.
Nanjing or Nanking means Southern Capital in Chinese, it is one of the earliest established cities in south China and due to it’s location in the lower Yangtze River Delta it has always been one of China’s most important cities.
It has served as the capital of China during several periods in history. Nanjing was the capital of the Republic of China before the Chinese Civil War in 1949. It has long been a national centre of education, research, transport networks, and tourism.
In 2006 the urban population was over five million and Nanjing is the second largest commercial centre in the East China region after Shanghai.
After seventy minutes with the train (the train was so very comfortable!) we arrived at Nanjing station where we were welcomed by Shark and his girlfriend (both Chinese), friends of Pete and Chanel.
The four of us went for dinner and it was a great dinner! It also gave us Westerners a chance to see some cultural differences in action.
After dinner we found out that Shark’s girlfriend had already paid the bill without us noticing and Pete complained that Shark and his girlfriend always did this. Apparently whenever they went for dinner or whatever Shark would pay and would not want to hear of Pete picking up the bill.
Shark tried to explain that since he is Chinese and from Nanjing and we are foreigners visiting Nanjing, and thus guests, it was his duty, privilege and tradition to pay. We did not agree and made him (reluctantly) promise that he would let us pay for the next dinner.
Next we went for drinks at a bar in the famous Nanjing bar street. We called it a night early, all of us were tired of the days travelling.
The following day we visited the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall which was build in 1985.
From 1937 to 1945 China and Japan were at war, the Second Sino-Japanese War.
In August 1937 the Japanese Imperial Army had to deal with fierce resistance and great losses during the battle for Shanghai. This battle was very bloody due to exhaustion which led both sides to engage in hand-to-hand combat. After capturing Shanghai the Japanese troops marched to Nanjing, gaining control of the city on December 13, 1937. Occupying the city the Japanese carried out the Nanking Massacre, during which many war crimes (arson, wide spread rape of women and children, killing of POW’s, torture, random killing and so on) where committed against the Chinese civilians as well as Chinese soldiers. Most estimates put the number of dead between 200,000 and 350,000.
The Memorial Hall was big, very big and filled with horrific images. After twenty minutes I had the feeling I would explode or I would find a high tower to jump off and I started to pick up the pace, it still took me more than an one and a half hour to get to the exit of the building, after that there was still much more…
Though I didn’t enjoy this activity, I felt I learned a lot about Chinese history, but at the same time there were many questions. How could this battle get so much out of hands? Why were the civilians not evacuated? Why did I see a swastika flag in one of the pictures (with an under script saying that the picture was of the refugee camp)? Why were the Japanese there in the first place?
In the days to come I tried to do some research on the Nanking massacre and found a lot of additional information that was not mentioned in the Memorial Hall, or that I had missed.
I don’t want to go into much detail, but (in short) here is some of the information I found:
After the fall of Shanghai, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek realised the capture of Nanking (at the time the capital) was inevitable. He withdrew his elite troops for he feared their annihilation during the symbolic and hopeless defence of the city. Chiang fled the city with many of his advisor’s to Wuhan, leaving General Tang Shengzhi in charge.
General Tang announced in a press release that the city would not surrender and fight to the death.
He gathered about a hundred thousand soldiers (most of them untrained), and to prevent civilians from fleeing the city, the soldiers guarded the port, blocked roads, destroyed boats and burnt nearby villages preventing widespread evacuation as ordered by Chaing.
But with the Japanese army drawing closer to Nanjing, the Chinese civilians fled the city in panic, for fear of the battle that was to come and fear of deprivation due to the scorched earth strategy of the Chinese troops, still many civilians remained in the city.
On Juli 31 the KMT had issued a statement that they were determined to turn every Chinese national and every piece of their soil into ash, rather than turn them over to the opponent.
Many Westerners were living in Nanking at that time, most of them fled the city, but 27 foreigners decided to stay (among them where journalists, missionary workers and businessmen). Twenty-two of them formed a committee called the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone on 22 November 1937.
The German businessman John Rabe was elected as its leader, partly because his status as a member of the Nazi party (here’s where that flag comes in) and because of the German-Japanese relations. The Safety Zone was mostly respected by the Japanese army, the crimes that took place outside of the Zone were far greater. It is said that John Rabe rescued between 200,000 and 250,000 people.
On December 9, the Japanese military dropped leaflets into the city, urging the surrender of the city within 24 hours, promising annihilation if refused. Meanwhile the members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone had suggested a plan to General Tang for a three day cease-fire, during which the Chinese troops could withdraw without fighting while the Japanese troops would stay in their present position. General Tang agreed if the Committee would get permission of Generalissimo Chaing. But the proposal was denied by Chaing, who had ordered the city had to be defended to the last man.
Twenty-five hours later the Japanese started their attack on the city.
On December 12, General Tang ordered his men to retreat.
By nightfall the next day, the city fell.
The six weeks that followed were hell for everyone still in the city.
Late January 1938, the Japanese army forced all refugees in the Safety Zone to return home, claiming to have “restored order”. After the establishment of the “weixin zhengfu” (the collaborating government) in 1938, order was gradually restored in Nanking and atrocities by Japanese troops lessened considerably. The last refugee camps were closed in May 1938.
August 6, 1945 Hiroshima was hit by an atom-bomb and on August 9 that same year Nagasaki was hit also by an atom-bomb, after which the Japanese emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan. On September 2, 1945 documents of surrender were signed and the end of WOII and the Second Sino-Japanese War was a fact.
To change our moods for the better we went to the park where Andy bought me a helium balloon, with which I was very happy. It was the coolest balloon ever because it was a balloon in a balloon! In the big balloon there was a smaller balloon in the shape of a sheep, all happy in it’s big balloon.
I was happily hopping along with my happy balloon being utterly happy about the whole situation, until Andy told me that he had only given me the balloon so he could kill it for the helium inside and that the little sheep in there was in a hell of eternal bliss and that he would, by killing it, save it for his pleasure of talking in a high pitched voice…
Being already completely attached to my balloon I fought for it’s live, saying that a hell of eternal bliss wasn’t so bad and that I was very happy with my happy balloon and that if he wanted to kill this poor little happy sheep balloon from the beginning he shouldn’t have given it to me in the first place! But Andy said he paid for it so he could set it free and that when he did we would all be happy… I got an hour, it took all my pouting might, but I got an hour.
Meanwhile we had reached the lake and rented an electronic boat. The boat reached an incredible speed of at least 5 kilometres an hour and we had great fun.
But time was ticking away and my balloons time was only rented, just as the boat. And so it happened, Andy took the balloon, tore a hole in it with his teeth and sucked it empty, all the while making jokes and singing songs in a high pitched voice (that actually made us all laugh, to my shame I laughed along with everyone else). After almost two hours we docked our boat and I left poor little happy sheep’s corpse behind in the boat.
All this tragedy had given me a headache as if bees were eating away at my brains. But as far as headaches go, I can take some pain by now.
We went for dinner, again it was great, and again there were the cultural differences. Even though Shark had promised to let us pay for the dinner, he wanted to come back in his word and pay. It took some persuasion, but in the end we went Dutch, all of us paying a part, because I explained that it was traditional to split the bill in Nederland and that it would be truly wonderful if we could share and exchange traditions.
The dinner took quite a while and afterwards we went back to the hotel for a bit, and went to the famous bar street from there, Chanel decided to stay in.
Andy, Pete and I thought up the great plan of having a drink in every bar in the street (there must have been over 15 bars and clubs), unfortunately everything closed at three in the morning by which time we had “only” done eight clubs. Then again, it might have been very fortunate for the guys had difficulty walking a straight line by that time.
At twelve o’clock Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel. Going for breakfast took us a bit too long so we missed our train, luckily Chanel was able to exchange our tickets for a later train and 50 minutes later we were in Wuxi, where we split up, Pete and Chanel going to their hotel and Andy and me trying to find the Wuxi Gardens.
When we finally found the gardens they were closed, so we sat in a little park next to a free-way for a while. After dinner we took the train back to Shanghai and I was happy to be home.
The next day we stayed close to home, getting a massage and going out for dinner, and enjoying a movie on tv which took some time and a lot of frustration to get working.
On Tuesday we went to the fake market, scoring some jeans, a Ipod docking station, headphones and nail polish for me and shoes and a football shirt for Andy.
On Wednesday we went to Jingshan, to Andy’s place. Mark told us he had found an arcade and all excited we went. Some of the machines in the arcade gave out tickets which you could collect for prices. The arcade is a very bizarre place; as soon as we entered we got taken by this ticket frenzy! While when we were outside it was gone almost immediately. The lights and sounds must be magic or else maybe the oxygen levels are different, or maybe we just really like the arcade and have weak personalities… But no matter what the cause, we had great fun!
After spending a considerable amount of time and money in the company of noisy addictive machines we went back to the apartment and played some card games. We wanted to go out dancing afterwards but by the time we arrived at the club, at two in the morning, it was already closing. Disappointed we went home and to bed.
The arcade was so much fun that we went back the following day before I went home to Shanghai, where I found that most of tv channels have disappeared.