October 2018. It felt a bit like coming up for air after a long period trapped underwater as I exited Nanjing Massacre Memorial’s museum interior into Peace Park. The claustrophobic, nightmarish narrative in the darkness of the exhibition halls was now replaced by delicious daylight, open space and a sense of hope. One of the first things you’ll see is this dilapidated wall sculpture, Catastrophe of the Ancient City. It was designed and constructed by the Nanjing sculptor Wu Xianlin in collaboration with Professor Qi Kang from Nanjing Southeast University’s Architecture Department. The stone head, partially blocked by passing tourists, represents a murdered Nanjinger, while the bed of surrounding pebbles symbolizes human bones.
October 2018. This towering stone cross simply marks the start and end of the massacre, while its neighboring wall reinforces the three hundred thousand figure, a number that is heavily featured all around the complex. According to the Chinese government this is the estimated number of people who perished at the hands of the Japanese, though international historians claim the figure is grossly exaggerated.
October 2018. The Pathway of Historical Witnesses Footprints is a 40-meter copperplate passageway with contributions from 222 witnesses and survivors of the Nanjing Massacre. Again the Nanjing sculptor Wu Xianlin was involved, along with a 300.000RMB donation ($43.000) from Jiangsu Education Trade Union. It was added to the park on December the 13th, 2002.
October 2018. Peace Park’s grounds are extensive, with proceedings dominated by the amazing Nanjing Massacre Memorial Wall, a harrowing depiction of the great suffering. There’s also a remembrance wall engraved with victims’ names and several plaques that highlight specific events. One of these, adorned with the museum’s signature yellow flowers, tells the tale of 50.000 refugees who attempted to flee the city by heading out to Swallow Cliff by the Yangtze River. They’d hoped to board a boat and make their way up north, but found the waterway blockaded by Japanese ships. All of them were wiped out by heavy machine gun fire.
October 2018. A stroll through the park culminates in a walk down Peace Square, with its white marble statue, garden of purple grass and tree plantation of Japanese friends. Heading for the turnstiles, I felt a sudden surge of gratefulness just to be alive, for growing up in a time and place free from the shackles of oppression and brutality. Maybe this sounds a little cheesy, but I challenge you to come here, see the things I saw and not feel the same way. The Nanjing Massacre Memorial is open daily (except Mondays) from 08:30-16:30 and is free to enter. Bring your ID!
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