In the introduction of the book, Chang described the number of deaths in a mean that anyone can imagine in their vivid imagination. According to her, if the dead were to link hands, they will stretch from Nanking to Hangchow which is too far to imagine. It means that those cadavers can form a line of 200 miles. Other than that, their blood will weigh 200 ton and their bodies could fill twenty-five hundreds of railroad cars. If they will be piled up, their bodies could reach a height of seventy-four storey building. Indeed that is a huge number of innocent people.
More than their death, the real tragedy for the Nanking people is their cruel way of execution which is merely inhuman and even animals are not worthy to experience those tortures. Thus, reading the book can give the reader so much agony and sympathy for the victims. The scenes are so painful to imagine that you will feel so much resentment to the Japanese.
As a journalist by profession, Chang used her journalistic skill of documenting events. Her descriptions of those horrible scenes were enough to make the book a best seller and highly acclaimed by scholars. Most part of her book is narration of Japanese cruel activities as well as some historical backgrounds of Japan. Her book was based on the diaries of John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin whom played important roles in the Nanking Safety Zone.
From its name, this are had protected a lot of Nanking civilians from the cruel hands of Japanese Army. John Rabe was able to shelter some 200,000 Nanking civilians from slaughter. Minnie Vautrin was an American missionary who saved a lot of school girls from the Japanese Army in Ginling Girls College. Both of them shared the horrible life in Nanjing during its Japanese occupation. They were able to witness and even take some photographs of those kinds of brutalities.
Most of Chinese brutal activities are difficult to imagine such as forcing the fathers to rape their daughters as well as the sons to their mothers. Japanese soldiers are also fond of kidnapping women for them to become their sex slaves or comfort women. They were tied in a chair for almost forever just waiting for the next Japanese soldier to use their body. Another rape victim was found with a golf stick rammed into her. (Chang, 94) Other than that, there were also a rampant mass execution where killing the most number of people in a shortest time became a contest for them. As a form of execution, Nanking civilians were beheaded, buried alive, some were also buried up to their waist and the other of their body was fed to German Shepherds.
They also use the civilians as human target for their bayonet practices. Other than, they also give severe punishment for no reason such as forcing the students to hold heavy objects, sit on their heels, stand barefoot in the snow, and run in the playground until they collapse. Overall, 340,000 Chinese died and around 20,000 to 80,000 Chinese men and women were physically and sexually abused.
All these started when the Japanese Army swept into Nanking in 1937. Although their cruel activities lasted for only six weeks, still the terror it brought to its people is a lifetime of trauma. Originally, the main goal of the offenders is to haunt those Chinese armies who are disguising as civilians. As a result of that operation against those Chinese soldiers, a lot of innocent civilians were executed.
Good thing about the book is that, it did not focus solely on the senseless cruelty of the Japanese army but also she mentioned some parts of Japanese history especially those who are prior to the 1937 incidence. She mentioned about Mathew Perry and his mission to the land of the rising sun. She also tried to explain why the Japanese was able to do those inhuman punishments to the people of Nanking. Indeed, it has something to do with their history, culture and religious background. Chang explain that their cruelty towards other people is caused by their belief that the Emperor is the only descendant of their sun goddess Amaterasu.
Because they are non Christians in nature, they disregard the Christian idea of brotherhood and loving other people. They also think that they are superior as Western people and have the right of access to the natural wealth of Asian countries. Other than that, their participation in the Second World War gave them an ample pride. During that time, being able to participate in a world war together with powerful nations such as United States and Germany is an indication that Japan is the most powerful country in Asia.
Meanwhile, as I read the book, the resentment of the author towards the perpetuator of the time are becoming more intense. More than being Chinese by blood, Changs grandparents were able to witness that horrible event in Chinese history. No words can explain her bitterness and resentment in her renowned research that it caused her to lose her sanity. If the author herself was not able to stand the horror of the Nanking massacre who was not able to witness the event, how much more the terror that it brought to the survivors of that tragedy including Changs grandparents.
I admit that reading the book gave me a vivid image of what really happened during World War II. The book is a reflection of the everyday reality that was experienced by peoples especially those countries that were conquered by the Japanese Army. More than understanding Chinese history, the book presented more of Japanese history and culture especially the cruelty of its army. Therefore the book doesnt help me understand Chinese history. The book is just a mere description of the atrocities of World War II focusing more on Japanese history. Instead of helping me understand Chinese history, it does explain why until this very moment, there is so much resentment among Chinese people towards Japan.
Other than the intense of inhuman acts towards the Nanking victim, there is no initiative from the Japanese government to give a public apology. Worst than that, the Japanese dont admit the crime and dont even remember the incident. The younger generation in Japan doesnt know about their cruelty because it was not taught in their history class. Even the Chinese forget about this horrible part of their history aside from the Nanking survivors and their descendants. Therefore, this book is really a breakthrough just remind both the Chinese and Japanese people of that forgotten holocaust. And for me, not only the oppressor and the oppressed parties should remember this horrific period in their history.
All countries should be aware of the terror brought by world wars and the cruelty towards other race is widely condemned. It can happen not only in Nanking but in other parts of the world. It is a worldwide problem which is known as genocide. A lot of people may suffer from cruel death because of political reasons and the sad thing about that is most of them are innocent. Changs documentary of that horrific incident serves as an eye opener for every people with regards to their nationality that war is evil and it can only ruin the lives of innocent people.
Although her work is highly acclaimed by scholars most especially its amazed readers, still Chang received a lot of criticism especially when it comes to the technical aspect of the book. Some people in the academe have seen many historical inaccuracies as well as grammatical errors. Grammatical errors can be forgiven for it can be the fault of the copywriter. Technical errors are really inevitable and as a matter of fact, a journalist like Chang also commits that kind of mistake. But there are no excuses for committing historical errors. We cannot blame Iris Chang because she is not a historian by profession. But as a researcher, she should be responsible when it comes to the accuracy of her data. Indeed, her historical inaccuracies are so serious because most of them are some basic information of Japanese history.
Here are some of the examples: By the late 15th and early 16th centuries Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa family, who sealed off the island nation from foreign influence (Chang, 21). The reign of Tokugawa family started in 1603 therefore the Tokugawa era in Japan started in early 17th century. Chang also wrote, In July 1853, he (Matthew Perry) sent two ships belching black smoke into Tokyo Bay ” giving the people of Japan their first glimpse of metal-clad, steam-powered ships. Surrounding himself with some sixty to seventy aggressive-looking men armed with swords and pistols, Perry strode through the capital of the Shogun and demanded meetings with the highest-ranking officials in Japan (Chang, 21).
The truth is, Perry was not able to go to that place which is believed to be Edo or Tokyo during this day. Other than that, she also explained in her book, In an era later known as the Meiji Restoration, Japan resounded with nationalistic slogans, such as Revere the Emperor! Expel the barbarians! and Rich country, strong army (Chang, 23)! Actually there is no Japanese Era such as Meiji period. This Meiji restoration that she is talking about happened from 1868 to 1912 and it is more of a social revolution than a period like Tokugawa. And lastly, Chang wrote that the United Nations created a committee for war investigation in March 1944(Chang, 169). It is impossible to happen because the United Nation was not yet chartered in 1944. How this book can become a historical reference it its content is inaccurate?
For me, Chang was not objective in writing this book. It is obvious that Chang was driven by her resentment to the Japanese government and the desire to uplift her Chinese roots. And because her grandparents are involved with that traumatic period in Nanking, her book serves as an advocacy campaign for her grandparents to get the justice that they deserve. While reading the book, anyone can notice that Chang is trying her best to give a negative image of Japanese culture especially their army. We can say that she met her objectives and her way of documenting the story is enough to ruin the image of the Japanese. Her description of those cruel acts will make the readers forget the technical errors of the books as well as its historical inaccuracies.
Anyone who will read the book will feel so much sympathy for the victims and really seek justice for them. That is really her objective as a author but alas, she shared the same fate with her grandparents. Although her book became a major success and the tragedy of Nanking is now known worldwide, Chang died miserably and lose her hope that someday the perpetuators will pay for their acts. Although it is inevitable for her to show her biases, it would be better if she had presented the other side of the story. It is unfair for the Japanese their side was never heard and they were never consulted by the author.
If only she also take the side of the perpetuators, her book will sound more objective and even the Japanese can accept her book and learn from it. The reason why until today, is not admitting that crime is because their sides were not heard in the book. There are also historical errors regarding Japanese history that is why it is easy for the Japanese to ignore the book. The criticisms about the book especially its technical errors are another factor for the Japanese to ignore the book and pretend that there is no such thing as Nanking massacre in the history. If only Chang was more careful and objective, her book will achieve more than recognition and market success. She and her fellow Chinese community in Nanking can get the justice that they are longing for.
It would be better if Chang has included some stories of Japanese soldiers focusing on their feelings towards the victim. We can never say that all Japanese soldiers are cruel and maybe some of them were pressured by their officials to do those inhuman activities. Other than the sufferings of the Chinese people, it would be better if Chang was able to mention the hardships encountered by the Japanese soldiers during their stay in Nanking. This will give her book a sense of balance which is expected from her because she is a journalist.
As a conclusion, we can say that the book is really a breakthrough for Asian history. The once infamous tragedy of the Nanking people became part of Asian history through the angered motivated research of the victims descendants. Although Iris Chang is not a historian by profession, she was able to convey her main point inspite of the rampant errors and historical criticisms of her book. Without looking at its market success, still the book is a failure because the author herself was not able to get the justice that she demands asides from the heavy accusations of her critics. But still, the book served as a reminder for every nation of the atrocities that war can produce and the fate of millions of innocent people who are involve in the war.