Why You Should Visit the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum (And Where It Happened)

The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum is a place you shouldn’t miss when you visit the city. It’s a piece a history that needs to be remembered by all humanity. It was on the top of my lists when I visit Nanjing, China, and it should be yours, too.

nanjing massacre

I helped a western couple who couldn’t find their ways to the entrance of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum after I left the building. The woman asked me if I “enjoyed” the museum. Well, it was certainly an (overly) educational experience, but I will never use the word “enjoy” to describe what I saw and heard that morning…

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nanjing massacre

I’ve never been to the Auschwitz, but I imagine if I go, the feeling will be the same as what NMMM brought me. I am still shocked and couldn’t pull myself back from the darkness that crept upon me while learning about the details of this inhumane slaughter. Almost too many details.

nanjing massacre
nanjing massacre
nanjing massacre

The Nanjing Massacre was a mass murder and rape committed by the Japanese troops against Nanjing residents in 1937. At the time, Nanjing was the capital of China, under the governing of the Republic of China. The tragedy lasted for six weeks. 300,000 people died.


The Holocaust had 6,000,000–11,000,000 people killed between the 1941~1945. These 300,000 citizens in Nanjing died over the course of six weeks. Every 12 seconds, someone was brutally murdered. Although there were debates on how many people actually died in this event, the Nanjing Massacre wasn’t anything less than the Holocaust. It, too, needs the acknowledgement.

Before I visited this museum, the Massacre was just a historical event. I read it in my middle school textbook, and all I had to remember was the dates it took place for my exams. But everything changed after I walked out of that museum.

The experience at the museum gave me a whole new perspective.

These victims were real people with blood and flash. Japanese troops forced women and girls to take off their clothes and run around naked. They watched and laughed like it was a comedy. They also tortured and group raped anyone with a vagina. Killing Chinese men became a game. The soldiers competed who can kill the most Chinese within a short amount of time. Corpses were burnt, buried, and dumped into Yang-Tze River. The number of death is uncountable, and many that died were babies and children.

I now understand why some older Chinese hate Japanese so much especially since some Japanese scholars and right-wing extremes are still denying the existence of this horrifying event. Some even claimed that the mass murder was a proper execution. (My dear Japanese friends, I still love you.)

Inside of the museum, they also show the video recordings of the survivors telling their stories. It’s been a couple of days already, but I can still hear and see the voices and faces of the survivors in my head. I couldn’t imagine how they lived through all these years.

Return to December 13, 1937

Going back to the place where a past event or person had lived is one of my favourite things to do while travelling. I like to see how the site had become and picture how it was when the history took place. In my last morning in Nanjing, I took myself to Pingshi Street, the street where many residents lost their lives during the Massacre.

nanjing massacre

I was shocked that Nanjing Government still kept the area as to how it was in 1937. In fact, many households became cultural properties to the country. If I didn’t go to the museum, most likely, I wouldn’t know Pingshi Street was THE street.

nanjing massacre
nanjing massacre

I snapped some pictures and left the area quickly. After all, I didn’t want to intrude the lives of the locals. What made them chose to live in this nearly destroyed neighbourhood? I supposed some of the residents might be the descendants of the victims, or even the survivors themselves. Wouldn’t living here remind them the terror they went through? Wouldn’t they want to begin a new life somewhere else? I guess I will never know.

Visit Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum. It will challenge your wildest imagination.

Here is some music about the Nanjing Massacre:

“1937” was the first music video about the massacre. The music and lyrics were composed by Muting Zhang, who was a graduate music student at the Taiwan National University. The MV was filmed in Suzhou and Nanjing in 2004 and broadcasted on China Central Television in 2005. The entire budget came out of Zhang’s own pocket. The video has received more than 100 million views. If you don’t understand the lyrics, it’s okay. The melody and the video are pretty self-explanatory.

Oscar-winning Chinese composer, Tan Dun, who composed music for the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, also composed the theme song for the 1995 Chinese film “Don’t Cry, Nanking” by director Wu Ziniu.

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Originally published at Notes of Jo.