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Mar 15

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Nanjing: the Burning City

Nanking bodies 1937. Originally by Moriyasu Murase, 村瀬守保 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

China’s relationship with Japan has been strained ever since World War Two by what it has perceived to be Japan’s failure to acknowledge and atone for its wartime crimes. Iris Chang wrote a wonderfully researched academic book on this topic, “the Rape of Nanking.” This is still perhaps the best scholarly study of this event, although it was published in 1997. I love, however, graphic novels. Earlier on this blog I discussed Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa, a cycle of graphic novels examining war-era Japan, which is a richly researched and moving account of this time. Recently I also came across Ethan Young’s Nanjing: the Burning City, published by Dark Horse Books. This beautiful and well-written book tells the story of the Rape of Nanjing through the eyes of one individual soldier. This work describes the pathos and chaos of a world in which individuals had to choose whom they could help, and difficult moral choices awaited people at every step. Be warned that this book deals with graphic and disturbing material, including sexual violence, as one would expect. When one finishes the book, one understands why the memory of this event continues to haunt Chinese-Japanese relations. The book also speaks to issues that are relevant to more recent conflicts, such as events in Syria. Strongly recommended.

Shawn Smallman, 2016

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