Convergence or Divergence?Recent Historical Writings on the Rape of Nanjing

As an “event at the limits,” the Nazi Holocaust highlights one of the fundamental dilemmas for historians at the end of the twentieth century: if historical inquiry is admittedly a subjective endeavor, are historians still capable of establishing some form of stable truth and rejecting certain emplotments such as denial? Recent years have seen a proliferation of works that attempt to wrestle with such issues in historiography and memory, including their moral implications. Historian Martin Jay, among others, has called attention to the mechanism that militates against the unfettered freedoms of historians to narrate arbitrarily, arguing that history is not so much a single historian emplotting the past “but rather the institution of historians, now more often credentialed than not, trying to convince each other about the plausibility of their reconstruction.”[1] The “common, if not universal, acceptance” of a historical narrative, in his view, depends on the “intersubjective judgment of the community rather than on any congruence with the ‘truth’ of what really happened.”[2] Advocating “practical realism,” Joyce Appleby and others characterize historians as “seekers of a workable truth communicable within an improved society.”[3] In this sense, consensus or even convergence in the community of historians may take on the significance of a reasonable measure of truthfulness.

Obviously, whether a strategy of intersubjective judgment can satisfactorily reconcile the contradiction in historical inquiry concerns historians in all fields. In view of its wider implication for the issue of historical truth, this essay addresses the question of whether there has been any significant convergence among historians writing on the Rape of Nanjing, or the Nanjing Massacre, which is often considered the single most notorious Japanese atrocity during the entire Asian-Pacific War.[4] On the surface, this question itself may seem preposterous: few events in twentieth-century East Asian history have stirred up more emotions and controversies in recent years than the Rape of Nanjing. In Japan, the so-called “Debate over the Nanjing Massacre” is already in its third decade and has produced several dozen popular and scholarly books. The publication of The Rape of Nanjing: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II by Iris Chang provided another vivid reminder.[5] A runaway bestseller in the United States, the book provoked angry reactions among some Japanese even though a full Japanese translation has yet to appear, which in turn has led the Chinese government to come to Chang’s defense.6 To many observers, the Rape of Nanjing thus represents an emotionally charged and highly politicized subject, a symbol of East Asia’s “unmastered past.”[7]

The points of contention are certainly important in their own right and deserve careful analysis; yet focusing on them exclusively, as often has been done, distorts the whole picture and inevitably obscures those areas of agreement that may be historiographically significant. Have years of debate and research produced any convergence among historians or actually widened their differences? What factors have conditioned their understanding of this particular event? What is the prospect of the community of historians, if there is one, producing a more truthful narrative of the past?

The publication of several influential works on the Rape of Nanjing in Japan, China, and the United States around its sixtieth anniversary offers an appropriate opportunity to consider these questions. The paperback entitled Nanjing Jiken (The Nanjing Incident), written by a leading Japanese historian on wartime Japanese atrocities in China, Kasahara Tokushi, is selling briskly in an already crowded market in Japan.[8] The 680-page Nanjing Datusha (The Nanjing Massacre), co-authored by Sun Zhaiwei and others is by far the most comprehensive scholarly work on the subject written in Chinese.[9] Already published in two Chinese translations and soon to appear in other languages, Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking may well become the single most widely read book on the subject.[10] Even if these publications are nothing more than the tip of the proverbial iceberg and cannot represent commentary in each country as a whole, they may serve as useful starting points in surveying a vast and still expanding body of historical writings on this subject. This essay will first situate the three works in the historiographical landscape of their respective countries and then, making references to other significant works on the subject when necessary, compare and evaluate how they approach the most salient aspects of the Rape of Nanjing.
Widely reported in the Western and Chinese press during the war, the event known as the Rape of Nanjing became a major case at the military tribunals in Tokyo and Nanjing shortly after Japan’s surrender. Altogether, at least five Japanese officers were executed after being found guilty of either participating in the atrocities in Nanjing or failing to stop them. As the verdict of the Tokyo trial put it, the Japanese troops in Nanjing engaged in organized and wholesale murder, committed indiscriminate killing and rape, as well as looting and destruction. Over 200,000 Chinese civilians and POWs were believed to have been murdered in the Nanjing area during a six-week period in the winter of 1937–1938, while approximately 20,000 cases of rape occurred within the city alone.[11] The verdict of the Nanjing trial was similar, except for a higher death toll of over 300,000.[12] Almost entirely based on Western and Chinese records and testimonies, these verdicts would serve as a surrogate history of the event for decades to come.

It would take another twenty years before the Japanese historian Hora Tomio published the first historical study of this infamous incident in 1967, using mostly tribunal transcripts and a few postwar Japanese recollections.[13] However, it was not until the early 1970s, shortly before the historic visit by Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei to China, which ended the state of war and established diplomatic relations between the two countries, that the Nanjing Massacre (Nankin daigyakusatsu) resurfaced to become the center of a public controversy in Japan. In late 1971, Honda Katsuichi, a well-known reporter for the leading newspaper Asahi Shimbun, published a series of startling accounts of Japan’s wartime atrocities in Nanjing and elsewhere in China based on interviews with Chinese survivors.[14]

Enormously influential, Honda’s articles also drew harsh denunciations in Japan. In an exposé entitled The Illusion of the “Nanjing Massacre,” a nonfiction writer named Suzuki Akira cast doubt on the massacre for lack of “reliable first-hand documentation” and accused Honda of presenting Chinese exaggerations and propaganda. Largely based on his own interviews with Japanese veterans, Suzuki concluded that the story recounted by Honda’s Chinese informants of two Japanese officers engaging in a contest to kill Chinese with their swords near Nanjing—a highly publicized episode that led to their execution after the war—actually had been a fabrication by the wartime Japanese press to drum up war fever at home.[15] A short but intense debate ensued, with somewhat inconclusive results. During the 1970s, historian Hora Tomio tenaciously combated what he considered “efforts to make the Nanjing Massacre into an illusion” and published a number of scholarly monographs and documents on Nanjing that generally upheld the verdicts of the trials. On the other hand, a 500-page official history on army operations in China during the first seven months of the conflict, published by the Self-Defense Agency, still literally relegated the “Nanjing Incident” to a long footnote.[16]

After a brief hiatus, the debate was reignited with increased ferocity after 1982, as the controversy over the Japanese government’s screening of history textbooks for unflattering content drew protest from neighboring Asian capitals and raised the political stakes of issues related to Japan’s wartime record.[17] Tanaka Masaaki, who had labored diligently after the war to discredit the war crimes trials and to exonerate the condemned Japanese commander-in-chief, Matsui Iwane, authored The Fabrication of the Nanjing Massacre, a book that came to be heralded by commentators in Japan who denied that a large-scale massacre ever took place.[18] Even the subsequent discovery that Tanaka, who edited the published diary of Matsui, had made upwards of 900 alterations to minimize suggestions of atrocities did not seem to hurt his reputation or halt his publications.[19] The battle over history raged in the mass media, where literary critics, journalists, and self-styled specialists seem to have eclipsed professional historians.

By the late 1980s, the heated debate in Japan had produced some tangible results for serious historians. First, a variety of new evidence, including the private diaries of several commanding Japanese generals in Nanjing as well as those of many ordinary soldiers, was made public for the first time.[20] Official military records of a number of the Japanese units involved also became available. In addition, a number of Japanese veterans began openly to admit to atrocities in the Nanjing area.[21] Official military histories could no longer ignore the events of 1937. In 1989, Kaikosha, the fraternity organization of former Imperial Japanese Army cadet academy graduates, published a history of the Battle of Nanjing, together with many Japanese battle records, diaries, and testimonies of Japanese officers.[22] Although the book was largely concerned with military operations, it made numerous references to the executions of captured Chinese soldiers.

Based on these new Japanese sources, a new wave of scholarly works appeared. A number of historians in the Nanjing Incident Study Group, founded by Hora and Honda after the textbook controversy, published their research works as well as documents translated from English and Chinese.[23] Since they have not wavered in their insistence that the Japanese military committed a large-scale atrocity in Nanjing, they have been dubbed the “massacre faction,” while those like Tanaka Masaaki who see the massacre as a fabrication have come to be known as the “illusion faction.” Historian Hata Ikuhiko, who placed himself in a “moderate” group between these two groups, also published an influential monograph in 1986.[24] In what came to be called the “Debate over the Nanjing Massacre” in Japan, the battle lines seemed to have become fixed largely on the basis of differences over the scale and nature of the atrocities. The gap between these groups seems unbridgeable, with animosity between them frequently running high.

Kasahara Tokushi, author of Nankin Jiken (The Nanjing Incident), is a member of the Nanjing Incident Study Group. Known for his many critical works on the Japanese atrocities in China, he has served as an expert witness for the historian Ienaga Saburo in his lawsuit against the Ministry of Education over textbook screenings.[25] In one of his recent monographs, Kasahara became the first historian to weave the records of American missionaries and Japanese and Chinese sources into a gripping account of the terror brought on the Chinese population in Nanjing by the Japanese troops.[26] If the title of The Nanjing Incident may suggest to some a less shocking image than the term “Nanjing Massacre,” it does not make the book less of an indictment of the Japanese military brutalities in Nanjing. Kasahara has written it not as a polemic but rather as an attempt to create a new synthesis based on existing scholarship, even including works published in China.

In contrast to Japan, the outpouring of Chinese publications on the Nanjing Massacre is a more recent phenomenon and has proceeded without a lively internal debate. Largely in response to the textbook controversy in Japan but also due to the increasing emphasis on patriotism, Chinese historians published several historical overviews of the Japanese atrocities in Nanjing and released some Chinese documents in the late 1980s.[27] The Nanjing Massacre became the subject of a wide variety of presentations, from a popular semi-fictional work that incorporated interviews with survivors to feature-film productions.[28] In 1985, a grand memorial dedicated to the victims of the Japanese massacre opened in Nanjing. In the meantime, several historians in Taiwan also published brief studies of the subject, and a few mainland authors have had their work published in Taiwan.[29] Almost all the Chinese writings share a spirited defense of the verdicts of the postwar trials as well as condemnation of those Japanese who either deny or question the Nanjing Massacre.

Given the existing conditions in China, one may expect The Nanjing Massacre, a collaborative work completed in 1995, to be simply a repetition of familiar themes. It indeed bears much resemblance to those earlier publications: it starts with a discussion of Japan’s aggression in China, followed by the different categories of Japanese atrocities in Nanjing, and concludes with the postwar military tribunals. While the book has significantly expanded the use of Japanese and Western-language sources already in Chinese translation, it is still based mostly on Chinese materials, such as survivors’ testimonies and official trial records. Despite the absence of major breakthroughs, the book is suggestive of some new directions taken by Chinese historians. Many of these come from Sun Zhaiwei, the chief author of the volume, who has also written several studies of the Chinese defense in Nanjing based on archival sources.

If the Rape of Nanjing was rediscovered in Japan in the 1970s and in China a decade later, the same process unmistakably reached the United States in the 1990s. For decades, while many English-language works on World War II would mention the Rape of Nanjing in passing, only a handful of them described it in great detail, almost none by academic historians.[30] Such seeming neglect in mainstream English publications of Chinese suffering during the war in general and that in Nanjing in particular has produced a new wave of works in recent years, mostly by Chinese Americans alarmed by the frequently reported denials of the massacre in Japan. Historian Wu Tien-wei founded a bilingual journal devoted to the study of Japanese aggression in China, whereas journalist Shi Young co-produced a bilingual English-Chinese work on the Rape of Nanjing, which was termed “the forgotten Holocaust.” Subtitled an “undeniable history in photographs,” the book included many Japanese documents translated into English for the first time. Other recent English-language works on the Nanjing Massacre, including two well-received television documentaries, were also predominantly the creations of Chinese-American artists and journalists.[31]

It is then perhaps no coincidence that it was a second-generation Chinese-American journalist who authored the first non-fiction book on the topic written in a Western language.[32] Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking is also one of the most comprehensive accounts that explores not only the atrocity but also its postwar remembrance. Chang accomplishes this remarkable feat by incorporating much of the recent work on the subject by Chinese and Chinese-American historians, including many disturbingly graphic photographs and a number of the translated documents. But Chang also has made her own discoveries. The diary of German businessman John Rabe, who headed the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, is perhaps the most well-publicized. Chang tries to describe the Japanese atrocities in Nanjing from three angles—Chinese victims, Japanese perpetrators, and Western eyewitnesses—in what she calls the “Rashomon perspective.” She is most effective in introducing individual voices and highlighting the previously under-acknowledged role of those Westerners who protected Chinese lives in Nanjing. The book gains its popularity at least in part as a vivid and highly moving human drama, seldom found among the works of professional historians.

Sixty years after it took place, the Rape of Nanjing has returned to capture popular and scholarly imagination, as the stakes of wartime memories seem to reach unprecedented heights around the world. Historians—inasmuch as those writing historical accounts of the Nanjing Massacre can be considered historians—are still a diverse group in which professional historians are by no means a majority. Having situated these works in their own context, we can now examine how each of them approaches this traumatic event. While the Rape of Nanjing was no doubt a multifaceted and complex event, historians in particular have been concerned with its scale as well as its causes. How it has been remembered after the war has also become a subject of inquiry. It is therefore helpful to examine these issues in some detail.

Whether it is appropriate to refer to the Rape of Nanjing as the Nanjing Incident, the term often used in Japan, sometimes becomes a source of dispute. Occasionally, the dispute descends into a game of semantics, with some Japanese insisting that the term Nanjing Massacre is inappropriate because it suggests a Chinese bias. Despite their distinctive titles, it is significant that these three books essentially agree on the definition of the event: what happened in Nanjing was more than just a mass murder of Chinese soldiers and civilians. The Nanjing Massacre Incident, as Kasahara defines it, encompasses all the atrocities committed by the Japanese troops against Chinese soldiers and civilians, in violation of international combat rules and humanitarian law, during the attack and initial occupation of Nanjing.[33] Sun and Chang in particular, like Kasahara in his numerous other publications, devote much space to describing the rampant rapes committed by Japanese soldiers, as well as their wanton destruction and looting in the city. It is through such descriptions that these authors express their sympathy to the Chinese victims and rescue the event from abstraction.

Any attempt to gauge the scale of the Rape of Nanjing has to address its duration and geographical area. Most of the earlier accounts—including the initial reports dispatched by American journalists and the verdicts of the postwar military tribunals—recorded the Japanese atrocities in Nanjing after it fell on December 13, 1937. In this regard, Kasahara’s account is unusual in that nearly half of the book is devoted to developments before that date. He begins with the aerial bombings of Nanjing by the Imperial Japanese Navy after August 15, 1937, which he considers the “prelude” to the later atrocities. He then goes on to describe how the successive waves of Japanese troops devastated much of the area west of Shanghai in their rush to take the Chinese capital. Here, Kasahara builds on the pioneering work of journalist Honda Katsuichi. More than anyone else, Honda has singlehandedly demonstrated through extensive interviews with Chinese survivors as well as numerous Japanese documents that the pattern of Japanese atrocities, such as the murder of POWs and the rape of women, was already established with the battle of Shanghai.[34] Kasahara does consider the Rape of Nanjing a distinct event that started with the final Japanese attack on the city in early December and lasted until the founding of the puppet government in late March 1938. The area he proposes to examine is considerably broader than the walled city; he justifies the inclusion of the six counties that constituted the Nanjing Special Municipality on the grounds that the entire area was overrun by Japanese troops in the Battle of Nanjing.[35] Chinese historian Sun also considers it “more scientific” to include those six rural counties, adding that they were covered in a 1938 survey of war damages in the Nanjing area.[36]

Their general agreements on definitions notwithstanding, these three works have reached somewhat different conclusions regarding the total number of Chinese victims in the Rape of Nanjing. While earlier Chinese sources have quoted higher figures, Sun essentially confirms the figure of 300,000 Chinese victims, which was first given in the verdict of the tribunal in Nanjing and has been cited in most Chinese accounts since 1985.[37] After a discussion of various estimates, Chang embraces the range 260,000 to well over 300,000.[38] In contrast, Kasahara’s estimate of the Chinese victims is more measured and cautious, if by some standards frustratingly ambiguous. As he puts it, “over 100,000, perhaps nearly 200,000 or even more Chinese soldiers and civilians became victims in Nanjing.”[39]

The key difference between Kasahara and the other two authors is the basis of their estimates. Like most Chinese writers, Chang and Sun base their calculations largely on the evidence presented at the postwar trials, including the burial figures by Chinese charity organizations and Chinese eyewitness accounts. Another piece of corroborating evidence used by Chang and Sun is a confession made by a Japanese officer in Chinese custody in 1954; he claimed that, in December 1937, Japanese troops had disposed of a total of 150,000 Chinese corpses, many thrown into the Yangtze River.[40] With the exception of the burial records of the Red Swastika Society, all such evidence has been called into question in Japan during the course of the debate. For example, according to one Japanese source, the Japanese officer who made the confession arrived in Nanjing a few days later than he stated, thus undermining his credibility.[41] Given this, it is understandable that Kasahara chooses to build his case by relying primarily on the available Japanese records in order to convince his readers in Japan. Kasahara concludes that, out of a Chinese defense force totaling 150,000, at least some 80,000 Chinese soldiers were murdered in captivity or as stragglers by Japanese troops.[42] The death toll of Chinese civilians in the Nanjing area, he points out, is even harder to calculate since the Japanese records had little to say about them. Noting that civilian casualties were greater outside the city, Kasahara cites the calculation of 26,780 civilian deaths in a 1938 sampling survey by University of Nanking sociology professor Lewis S. C. Smythe as well as a rough estimate of 50,000–60,000 given by John Rabe.[43]

How the evidence is evaluated therefore is of crucial importance. Sun makes some useful clarification about the Chinese burial records, noting that two of these charity organizations—the Red Swastika Society and the Red Cross—compiled their records during or immediately after their work in 1938. While maintaining that another organization named Chong Shan Tang (meaning “Charity House”) had engaged in burial works, Sun admits that its record of over 110,000 burials was not submitted until the Nanjing trial after the war.[44] This distinction is important. Without additional information on when and how Chong Shan Tang compiled these figures, which contained an improbably high number of burials (over 100,000) in the last month of its four-month operation, Kasahara is therefore justified in exercising caution with such sources.

Even perfectly reliable evidence, if taken out of proper context, cannot always speak for itself. One example is a Japanese diplomatic telegram sent from the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo to the Japanese embassy in Washington in early 1938, which noted “not less than three hundred thousand Chinese civilians slaughtered” in Nanjing and elsewhere. Having examined a Chinese translation of the telegram, which had been intercepted by the United States and declassified a few years ago, Sun considers it “important corroborating evidence” of the scale of the massacre, since the Japanese government relayed the telegram to alert its embassies abroad.[45] Chang goes a step further and—as it turns out—too far. Mistakenly believing that it was written by the Japanese, she presents this telegram as “compelling evidence that the Japanese themselves believed at the time of the massacre that the death toll at Nanjing may have been as high as 300,000.”[46] As another intercepted telegram clearly states, Japan’s Foreign Ministry was actually transmitting as an enclosure a news cable written by H. Timperley, Far Eastern correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, that had been suppressed by the Japanese censors in Shanghai.[47]

Different interpretations of the same evidence can yield different conclusions, partially explaining the fact that Kasahara’s estimate of Chinese victims is considerably higher than those given by a number of other Japanese writers who ventured an estimate. Hata Ikuhiko, for example, concluded that approximately 30,000 Chinese soldiers and 12,000 civilians had been “illegally murdered” by the Japanese troops in Nanjing. Breaking down the Chinese casualties into a number of categories, Hata suggested that many Chinese soldiers in the process of surrendering (tokohei) as well as the stragglers (haizanhei) should be excluded from the “victims” of the Japanese atrocity on the grounds that they were killed in an extension of combat.[48] Adopting an even narrower definition and explicitly excluding Chinese soldiers who had discarded their uniforms and weapons, Itakura Yoshiaki, a businessman-turned-historian on this subject, concluded that the total number of Chinese “illegally murdered” by the Japanese fell between 13,000 and 19,000.[49] Like his colleagues in the Nanjing Incident Study Group, Kasahara strongly disagrees with such classifications. The Japanese troops in Nanjing were waging a battle of encirclement and annihilation, and taking no prisoners, they argue, so that many Chinese stragglers were killed outright rather than captured. Characterization of those Chinese soldiers who had put on civilian clothes to save their lives as “plain-clothes soldiers” (ben’ihei) not entitled to POW treatment according to existing international law amounts to a thinly veiled attempt to minimize the scale of Japanese atrocities.[50]

As such an allegation suggests, the issue of Chinese death tolls in Nanjing is more than simply an academic matter. In part, this is because the 300,000 figure (or even the lower figure of 200,000 given in the verdict at the tribunal in Tokyo) has been invested with much symbolic meaning and has since taken on a life of its own. Many, especially in Japan, regard these figures as symbols of what they consider the “victors’ justice” at the postwar tribunals, where Japan was condemned as the sole aggressor. In the recent work of Tokyo University professor Fujioka Nobukatsu, it becomes his “deliberate strategy” to disprove these figures in order ultimately to raise doubts about the entire so-called “Tokyo War Crimes Trial view of history.”[51] Seen in this light, the unwavering Chinese insistence on 300,000 or an even higher estimate also typifies what is called the “Chinese-style exaggeration” with total disregard for evidence. For many Japanese, therefore, research on the Nanjing Incident has become synonymous with disproving Chinese claims rather than establishing what did happen in Nanjing.

On the other hand, for many Chinese in particular, this figure has come to symbolize the justice, legality, and authority of the postwar trials that condemned Japan as the aggressor. Given the much-publicized attempts by some Japanese to discredit the postwar trials in recent decades, any doubt in this figure is easily associated with sinister motives.[52] The 300,000 figure, engraved on the walls of the memorial erected in 1985 and dedicated to the victims of the massacre in Nanjing, also provides a much-needed symbol for many to remember an otherwise opaque event in the receding past. Shi Young, the Chinese-American journalist who co-authored the bilingual photographic history of the atrocities in Nanjing, gives a “minimum death toll of 369,366” on the basis of his calculation of various burial figures and testimonies. Ambiguity in numbers, he argues, “creates more controversy as well as opportunities for those who would like to erase the ‘Rape of Nanking’ from history books.”[53] Finally, in an apparent effort to stress the full horror of the Japanese crimes in Nanjing, still others seek to “establish a quantitative record to qualify the event as one of the great evil deeds of history.” Despite her own explicit admonition against such a practice, Chang goes on to make the assertion that the Rape of Nanjing surpassed a whole slew of other atrocities in history, from the Romans at Carthage (“only 150,000 died in that slaughter”) all the way to the “combined death toll of the two atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”[54]

Although the Chinese death tolls have become problematic symbols in a polemic, historians generally agree that the issue is too important to be brushed aside completely. Considerable differences still remain, however, partly because of political reasons but certainly exacerbated by the lack of definitive evidence and disagreement over definitions. Many historians in Japan consider it nearly impossible to reach a precise count today, but, like any other subject of historical inquiry, reappraisal is inevitable. There are indications that even some Chinese historians have come to similar conclusions. In the preface to The Nanjing Massacre, Sun observes that as long as historians acknowledge the fact that Japanese troops wantonly slaughtered Chinese people in large numbers in Nanjing, the issue of whether the figure of 300,000 Chinese victims needs to be modified “somewhat upward or downward” can be discussed.[55] Sun’s suggestion is as subtle as it is important, and has been echoed among other Chinese historians.[56] Revision must be conducted responsibly with a view of the whole event rather than in isolation, as discussions that focus exclusively on the death figures often manage to say virtually nothing about other kinds of Japanese atrocities in Nanjing such as mass rape.[57] Worse, an obsession with figures reduces an atrocity to abstraction and serves to circumvent a critical examination of the causes of and responsibilities for these appalling atrocities.

Many historians in Japan have already stressed the need to move the discussion beyond what some consider “a sterile argument over body counts.” There has been no lack of explanations for what transpired in Nanjing, some of which even date back to when the atrocities were still happening. While some contemporary observers regarded the event as a deliberate Japanese campaign of terrorism, others considered it to be a temporary breakdown of discipline in the Japanese army. There has been considerable progress in this area, especially since the publication of Division Commander Nakajima Kesago’s diary in 1985, which revealed that the massacre of Chinese POWs was an organized affair.[58] Still, the challenge to the historian remains to go beyond mere speculations to construct the most plausible explanations based on the available evidence.

Like most Chinese works, The Nanjing Massacre offers modern Japanese militarism as the ultimate explanation for the atrocities in Nanjing. Presenting the full-scale Japanese invasion from 1937 on as the culmination of Japan’s continuous aggression against China since the Meiji period (1868–1912), this book treats the massacre as above all a premeditated Japanese attempt to subdue China by sheer terror.[59] In part as a result of lack of access to Japanese sources, the book portrays the Japanese military as a monolith and attributes orders for killing surrendered Chinese soldiers and civilians to all levels of the Japanese military hierarchy, beginning with Commander General Matsui Iwane.[60]

In a long introduction to the book, however, Sun suggests a more complex explanatory framework by dividing the causes of the atrocities into several categories. In his view, the “brutal nature of Japanese militarism and the heroic resistance by Chinese troops” are the most fundamental. It is perhaps not a surprise that Sun takes pains to emphasize that the fierce Chinese resistance, while a factor in intensifying the Japanese revenge, should in no way excuse the perpetrators of the atrocities. As secondary factors, Sun notes that Nanjing’s significance as the capital of China contributed to the Japanese ferociousness, just as the failure of the Chinese commander General Tang Shengzhi to organize a successful retreat increased the loss of Chinese lives.[61] By going beyond the earlier generalizations about Japanese militarism and taking into consideration the particular conditions of the battle in Nanjing as well as the wartime psychology, Sun’s framework offers potential for a more nuanced understanding of the event than previously suggested in China.

At several points in her book, Chang also attempts to explain why such horrific atrocities took place in Nanjing. If most dramatic accounts inevitably rely on simplification, Chang’s broad strokes are no exception. Chang may be aware of the complexities of her subject and occasionally acknowledges them by quoting academic historians, but her own description and analysis tend to show a contrast of black and white as well, with little gray in between. Citing Sun’s research on the Chinese defense, Chang considers General Tang’s belated decision to withdraw “to have resulted in one of the worst disasters in Chinese military history.”[62] Whereas Sun highlights Chinese resistance (perhaps to a greater length than necessary), Chang comes close to dismissing the often fierce resistance altogether, since Chinese soldiers defending Nanjing “felt little sense of cohesiveness or purpose.”[63]

While Chang’s quotations of a few Japanese reminiscences provide revealing glimpses into the psychology of ordinary Japanese soldiers in the battlefield, her explanation of Japanese atrocities ends up as a reductionist analysis of the social psychology of the Japanese people. Homogeneity is assumed and particularities disappear in the book, as seen in the ubiquitous use of the collective “Japanese”: be it “the state of the Japanese mind in Nanking” or “the Japanese capacity for human degradation and sexual perversion in Nanking.”[64] Regarding the Japanese chain of command in Nanjing, Chang is basically correct that much of it is still shrouded in mystery due to lack of published evidence. Her failure to consult the numerous available Japanese records or scholarly works, however, has led her to rely on the flawed and dated work of popular historian David Bergamini, even while she makes a token acknowledgement of his shortcomings. For example, she repeats Bergamini’s questionable argument downplaying the role of General Matsui, who had in fact pushed for the attack on Nanjing in the first place. Following Bergamini, she holds Prince Asaka, commander of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force, ultimately responsible for issuing orders to kill Chinese prisoners but mistakenly places Asaka in charge of all Japanese army units around Nanjing.[65] These problems make her explanation of the Japanese atrocities less persuasive than her vivid description of them based on Chinese and Western sources.

Some of Chang’s problems could have been avoided had she consulted the recent works by Japanese historians on causes and responsibilities. As many new Japanese sources have come to light, it is not surprising that Japanese historians have made the greatest progress in explaining the atrocities, although they may still differ in their emphasis. For instance, earlier works by Hora Tomio, Fujiwara Akira, and Yoshida Yutaka emphasized the oppressive nature of Japan’s pre-war military system and the emperor-centered nationalist ideology, which led to a contempt for the Chinese people. They also considered the deterioration of discipline and the fierce fighting in Shanghai as factors affecting the troops’ behavior in Nanjing. On the other hand, while Hata Ikuhiko paid greater attention than those above to the wartime psychology and the breakdown of discipline in his 1986 study, he also blamed the pre-war Japanese military’s maltreatment of POWs and considered the brutality of Japanese troops “an inevitable product of fascist troops in a war of aggression.”[66]

In The Nanjing Incident, Kasahara builds on these earlier Japanese works and also discusses the disastrous consequences of the Chinese defense. By following the developments within the Japanese forces, Kasahara demonstrates that senior Japanese commanders in Central China, beginning with General Matsui, acted against the wishes of the army general staff in Tokyo by launching a hasty strike at Nanjing with the hope of bringing about China’s quick and final capitulation. That they did so without making adequate preparation for supplies or taking sufficient precautions to maintain army discipline after taking the city would have disastrous effects on the Chinese population in and around Nanjing.[67] At the same time, Kasahara also holds Japanese divisional and regimental commanders in the field directly responsible for ordering the execution of disarmed Chinese soldiers and failing to discipline their troops despite widespread atrocities against Chinese civilians.[68] Kasahara’s analysis in his slim 1997 book is embedded in his narratives, but elsewhere he offers a lucid summary of the causes for the behavior of Japanese troops. In addition to the lack of clearly defined war aims, he suggests that the contempt for the Chinese people as well as sexual abuse of women, both deeply rooted in pre-war Japanese society, were also fundamental causes of the atrocities in Nanjing.[69]

A multi-layered explanation of the atrocities in Nanjing seems to be prevailing in Japan over either a blanket condemnation of Japanese militarism and the emperor system or a reduction of the infamous event to accidental factors.[70] In his 1997 book on the Japanese troops in Nanjing, historian Fujiwara Akira—he had the rather unique experience of being a junior officer in China during the later stage of the war—goes into greater depth. He not only examines the impact of the fierce fighting in Shanghai on the Japanese troops but also sheds new light on the structural dynamics within the Japanese military. He examines general characteristics of the Imperial Japanese Army such as the irrational emphasis on “spirit” and disregard for human life and, despite the demand for total submission by the ordinary soldiers, the recurring phenomenon of gekokujo—junior officers rebelling against their superiors. In particular, Fujiwara demonstrates through a detailed examination of unpublished military records that the deterioration of the quality of the troops was related to the high proportion of poorly disciplined reserve soldiers in the China theater and to the narrow military education of commanders and staff officers, which contributed to the lack of respect for civilian lives and international law.[71] Compared with those writings that still place greater emphasis on Japanese intentions, these Japanese works shed more light on both circumstances and contingent factors as well as the pre-war Japanese military and society as a whole. It is all the more significant, therefore, that some professional historians in China like Sun have proposed a similar approach to examining both immediate and long-term causes of the atrocities.

In recent years, how the Rape of Nanjing was treated after the war is becoming as controversial as the event itself. Given the still common allegation by some Japanese that the Rape of Nanjing was fabricated at the postwar military tribunals to tarnish Japan’s name,[72] the issues of judgment and remembrance have come to have their own importance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, The Nanjing Massacre, written by Chinese historians, firmly stands by the verdicts of the postwar military tribunals, but it also finds them inadequate. One author claims that “all officers above division commander rank and those officers and men with Chinese blood on their hands” should have been tried, and goes on to list seventeen “responsible Japanese officers who had escaped justice,” including Prince Asaka.[73] Such a view expresses a new consensus among historians in China, and seems to be shared by Chang as well.[74] On the other hand, Kasahara has his criticism of the postwar military tribunals, but for more complex reasons. He finds the case against division commander Tani Hisao, the only high-ranking Japanese officer prosecuted in Nanjing, not entirely convincing on the basis of the evidence presented. If a full investigation of the whole incident were carried out, he suggests, higher level commanders, army leaders, and even the emperor could have been implicated. Kasahara thus draws a careful distinction between accepting the entire verdict of the tribunals uncritically on the one hand and “recognizing the facts of the atrocities brought out by the tribunal” on the other.[75] It is clear from all three works that a reevaluation of the postwar tribunals and the reexamination of the Rape of Nanjing are inseparable.[76]

Kasahara asks why there is still reluctance on the part of some Japanese to accept these “facts of atrocities” even today. While he finds postwar conservative politics in Japan to be a major reason, he also considers it important that the Japanese people did not learn of these atrocities in “real time” during the war. Thus they did not experience the shock felt in China and the United States.[77] In Japan, wartime censorship of current events, both imposed and voluntary, was without question strict. The recent publication of the full text of Ishikawa Tatsuzo’s “The Living Soldiers,” a fictional work that described the brutality of Japanese soldiers in Nanjing based on the author’s visit to the front in January 1938, reveals the great extent of self-censorship it underwent before it was published in Japan.[78] As the historian Yoshida Yutaka has suggested recently, however, the wartime Japanese blackout on atrocities in Nanjing was not as complete as it was once thought to be. Still a student in 1937, historian Hora Tomio was already greatly disturbed when he realized that mass executions of Chinese captives must have taken place, based on his careful reading of Japanese newspapers. He seems to have been an exception, however. A probing question has been raised whether the majority of the Japanese during the war would have considered it an atrocity even if they had known, for instance, about the killing of disarmed Chinese soldiers.[79]

The issue of Chinese memories of the Nanjing Massacre was only partially discussed in a chapter entitled “Eternal Commemoration” in Sun’s collective volume. A director of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial describes its establishment as a response to the 1982 textbook controversy in Japan and details its activities since its opening in 1985—themselves examples of how history is used to instill patriotism in China. In his preface to a recent collection of survivors’ testimonies compiled by the memorial, for instance, a local party official spelled out the lessons of the Nanjing Massacre as “backwardness invites bullying” and “if the country is not strong, its people suffer.”[80] A nationalist orientation has unmistakably replaced the earlier emphasis on class struggle common before the 1980s in Chinese writing at all levels.

Sun’s book is conspicuously silent about the virtual absence of public commemoration of the Nanjing Massacre before 1982. In fact, a group of Nanjing-based historians had researched the subject back in the early 1960s, but apparently for political reasons their work was not published except in the form of an “internal publication” in 1979.[81] Such issues remain sensitive and are rarely discussed in China. An exception is a recent essay by Mei Xiao-ao, the son of the Chinese justice at the Tokyo trial, who offers some telling clues. In the early 1960s, his father called on Chinese historians to study the Nanjing Massacre, after having learned about a Japanese publication on the destruction caused by the atomic bombs. However, he was later accused of “stirring up national hatred and revenge” against the Japanese people, and some even considered that his writing about the Chinese defeat and misery in Nanjing amounted to hidden praise for the strength of Japanese troops.[82]

Clearly, remembering is always a selective process. This is especially true in countries where “memory making” and “history writing” have been largely dictated by the state or influenced by other powerful institutions. Could it be that memories of other traumas—domestic conflicts among them—were deemed more urgent by many citizens and therefore threatening to the state? Forgetting may also have multiple causes, not all of them sinister. Memories of traumatic events could be too painful for survivors to want to remember. Postwar memories of the Rape of Nanjing are discussed at considerable length in Chang’s book, although it does not consider these broader questions of remembrance and suppression. As its subtitle “The Forgotten Holocaust” indicates, Chang’s book is a strong and to some intentionally provocative indictment of what she considers the act of “forgetting” in mainland China, Taiwan, the United States, and particularly Japan. This wide scope alone makes her book unique. She blames the mindset of the Cold War as well as other political and economic motives for making the governments in the United States, mainland China, and Taiwan forget Japanese atrocities in World War II.

Without any question, Chang reserves her strongest indictment for Japan, which she considers the main culprit in the postwar cover-up—what she calls “the second rape.” Although, at the end, Chang gives credit to “a vocal minority” in Japan that strives to raise public awareness of these issues and to pursue Japanese responsibility, for the most part she comes close to a sweeping condemnation that the “Japanese as a nation are still trying to bury the victims of Nanking” into “historical oblivion.”[83] Clearly, this is a gross oversimplification, although her suggestion of still formidable forces in Japan that oppose atonement for the atrocities does not seem to be entirely off the mark. For example, in an effort to refute Chang’s accusation, Japan Echo, an English-language journal published in Japan, produced a lengthy list of recent articles on the Nanjing atrocities published in mass-circulation Japanese magazines. A glance at their titles, surprisingly, reveals that the majority would serve to confirm her claim.[84] In this sense, even if her prognosis for Japanese society may be misconstrued, students of history and public memory still have to address these issues Chang has raised so provocatively.

In an essay on this subject written a decade ago, I myself described the heated debate in Japan over the Rape of Nanjing as “a twentieth-century Rashomon,” in the sense that, as the multiple, divergent narratives of the same event seemed irreconcilable, historical truth probably would never be found.[85] That analogy seems much less appropriate now. As this essay has shown, there has been an emerging convergence among most professional historians on several important issues related to the Rape of Nanjing. For instance, that the Japanese troops committed a variety of atrocities on a massive scale in Nanjing some sixty years ago is beyond any doubt. Mass executions of Chinese POWs, in particular, were apparently carried out under orders rather than being random acts of soldiers out of control. The atrocity in Nanjing is increasingly seen as an outcome of both the brutalization of war in China and deep-rooted tendencies in pre-war Japan. Grave tactical errors and utter confusion on the part of the Chinese defense, as even Chinese historians now acknowledge, contributed to the staggering loss of Chinese life in Nanjing. The International Safety Zone organized by Westerners is now widely recognized as having played a positive role in saving many Chinese. Even if such a convergence is still limited and sometimes under-acknowledged by the protagonists themselves, its historiographical significance must be acknowledged.

How did such a convergence come about, and what are its future prospects? What implications does this phenomenon have for the quest for a truthful representation of a major atrocity in history? Clearly, communication and discourse have played a part in narrowing some of the differences, even though historians studying the subject are nowhere near forming a community. Still, such developments are clearly visible within Japan, if they often take the form of heated, bitter debates. Studies of the Nanjing Massacre are also becoming international, although political, cultural, and even linguistic barriers remain formidable, and differences are sometimes magnified in cross-national exchanges. At a major international symposium on the history of the Nanjing Massacre held in Nanjing in 1997, over fifty papers were presented, many by Japanese participants. The Japanese historian Kasahara summarized his work in a paper discussing the “whole picture” of the Nanjing Massacre Incident. Of no small significance is the fact that, although his estimates of the death figures differed from Chinese accounts, he has not been disputed by his Chinese counterparts, and his paper has already been published in the conference proceedings in China.[86] In addition, many Japanese works have been translated into Chinese, and vice versa. Even though some of Hata Ikuhiko’s views have met strong objections among many Chinese, his important 1986 book on this subject has been published in a Chinese translation in Hong Kong as a scholarly work to “further readers’ understanding of the event.”[87]

Much of this convergence would not be possible without the new evidence that has come to light in the past two decades. The Japanese veterans’ organization Kaikosha offers perhaps the most dramatic example. In the mid-1980s, the organization launched a major effort to gather information from its 18,000 members to refute the “Nanjing Massacre.” It had to reverse its original stand of complete denial later in the face of mounting incriminating evidence.88 In a more recent case, the wartime diaries of a dozen or so Japanese soldiers collected by a Japanese factory worker provided crucial details of possibly the largest single mass execution of Chinese captives in Nanjing, laying to rest some of the disputed claims.[89]

Understandably, any discovery of “new evidence” would arouse great interest among historians and the general public, even in different countries. The 1996 discovery of John Rabe’s diary is a good recent example. In less than eight months, the Chinese published a complete translation of the diary describing the events in Nanjing, even ahead of its publication in the original German.[90] A major publisher in Japan brought out an abridged Japanese translation two months later, and an English translation was released in 1998.91 While some have acknowledged its limitations, most historians welcome the publication of such a “first-rate source by a third party observer,” which has the potential of lifting the debate to a new level.[92]

Yet another factor that has contributed to the greater convergence is the renewed recognition of the importance of empirical research among historians. Zhang Kaiyuan, a well-known historian in China, published a study of the Nanjing Massacre based on the unpublished papers of Dr. Miner Seale Bates, an American professor present in Nanjing during the atrocities. Zhang criticized the earlier Chinese allegations of “collaboration between the International Safety Zone Committee and the Japanese authorities” in Nanjing as “politically motivated,” and called for a “more objective approach to such a period of complex history.”[93] With all its apparent excesses, the long and acrimonious debate in Japan has compelled all serious historians to be more scrupulous with their sources and analysis. Even photographic evidence, as many of them have come to realize, can be fraught with danger if its origins cannot be ascertained. When a conservative Japanese daily newspaper made a news story out of a wartime photograph used with the wrong caption in Kasahara’s book, he offered a swift public apology for his negligence and replaced the photograph.[94] One of Kasahara’s historian colleagues has included a cautionary note about the use of photographic evidence in a college textbook on historical sources, using the Rape of Nanjing as an example.[95]

Intellectual historian Dominick LaCapra is correct to suggest that historical understanding “is not furthered by routine oppositions between ‘scientific history’ and the ‘other,’ which often appears in the form of myth, ritual, or memory.”[96] This need not undermine the importance of empirical research itself, nor suggest that strict standards only apply to academic historians. Historical works lacking such vigor have often fueled the accusation of willful distortion by all sides in the debate on the Rape of Nanjing. This has happened with the various photographic histories of the Nanjing Massacre, as well as with the earlier egregious tampering with General Matsui’s diary by Tanaka Masaaki.[97] Any problematic use of photographs and other types of evidence in many recent publications, even if due to negligence, should be a cause of concern for all historians, professional or otherwise. Unfortunately, Chang’s highly popular book suffers from these and other flaws, including inadequate footnotes[98] and numerous factual inaccuracies that range from incorrect dates or personal names to a broader misunderstanding of facts.[99] Although many of the glaring errors and irregularities in the book could have been eliminated by vigorous editing (certainly before being reissued in the paperback edition) and in themselves may not directly affect the main thrust of her argument, their frequency does undermine the book’s value as a reliable work. Despite her emphatic claim to rescue history from distortion, these flaws have indeed made her own work vulnerable to attacks by deniers of the massacre in Japan and disturbing to scholars who have meticulously exposed Japan’s wartime activities.[100]

The trend toward historiographical convergence over the Rape of Nanjing is likely to continue, if slowly and unevenly. It would be naïve to expect the remaining differences to disappear soon or be resolved completely, however. To begin with, historical research is not about producing consensus; neither available written evidence nor empirical research alone can produce an objective history of what really happened in Nanjing that is beyond any dispute. Moreover, even a casual observer cannot fail to notice that such terms as “historical facts” or “truth” appear in almost every piece of Japanese and Chinese writing about the Nanjing atrocity. In this sense, the Rape of Nanjing poses a considerable epistemological challenge to all historians writing about traumatic events in the recent past.[101]

First of all, an event like the Rape of Nanjing challenges the limits of positivist empiricism. The contentious debate in Japan, where the empirical tradition has always commanded particular reverence, has sometimes produced an obsession with “verifiable facts.” One tendency is to reject an entire source—usually, incriminating ones—on account of the smallest irregularities. For instance, Itakura Yoshiaki, the businessman-cum-“expert of the Nanjing Incident,” published a short study in 1997 ostensibly to address the issue of responsibility. After scrutinizing the battle records of two Japanese army units widely believed to have followed orders to execute Chinese captives, Itakura claimed to have found discrepancies in the sources and concluded that, “based on available evidence, orders to execute prisoners cannot be ascertained.”[102] And some writers like Ara Ken’ichi, for instance, are prone to the “fallacy of negative proof,” arguing that whatever is denied by Japanese officers and journalists who had been in Nanjing or is not found in written sources becomes synonymous with non-existing events.[103] A most alarming example is Higashinakano Osamichi, a professor of intellectual history who published a book in 1998 that dismisses the Nanjing Massacre as a postwar concoction. After demonstrating that the “Nanjing Massacre” could not be found in many English-language and Chinese publications issued around the first anniversary of the event, he argues that “[the atrocities] were not recorded because they did not happen.”[104] Higashinakano’s effort to explain away the incriminating evidence is equally blatant. For just one example, he devotes a chapter to proving that “not taking prisoners,” as used in Lieutenant General Nakajima Kesago’s wartime diary, meant setting all captured Chinese soldiers free, and thus there was no massacre. Yet Higashinakano deliberately ignores the fact that, a few lines later, Nakajima himself wrote about “finding a pit large enough to dispose of these 7,000–8,000 persons.”[105]

The issue of intention aside, such practices raise the question of how historical reality can be established with some certainty on the basis of written evidence alone, which was inevitably fragmentary and itself constructed in the first place. This problem is particularly significant, since much of the crucial evidence concerning the events in Nanjing still remains unavailable and some may never be found. Official records of over 70 percent of the Japanese military units involved in the operations in Nanjing have not been published or located. Documentation concerning several key Japanese officers, especially figures like Prince Asaka and staff officer Cho Isamu who have been alleged to have issued the order to execute POWs, is scant at best. Such circumstances require historians, as the Holocaust scholar Saul Friedländer has suggested, to accept simultaneously “two contradictory moves: the search for ever closer historical linkage and the avoidance of a naive historical positivism leading to simplistic and self-assured historical narrations and closures.”[106]

A relatively recent traumatic event like the Rape of Nanjing also raises the difficult issue of the role of individual memory in historical reconstruction. To varying degrees, the three main works discussed here all rely on the reminiscences of Chinese survivors and confessions of Japanese soldiers. For example, Chang attributes some of the most gruesome descriptions of massacre and torture to “interviews with survivors.” At the same time, it is this type of testimony, like that in Honda Katsuichi’s famous investigative reportage, that has been often dismissed in Japan as outright fabrication since it cannot be confirmed by reliable written records. Not all such accusations are without merit. The exact count of 57,418 Chinese killed in a mass execution given by a single Chinese witness should raise legitimate doubts in the mind of the historian, even though the testimony of “just one witness,” as Carlo Ginsburg has argued, may well contain some form of truth.[107] While uncritical use of reminiscences as evidence undermines historical scholarship, a total exclusion of living memories of participants in the event will impoverish a historical narrative. James E. Young, who has written extensively on Holocaust commemorations, calls for an integration of “the factual truths of the historian’s narrative and the contingent truths of the victims’ memory.”[108] In this way, he suggests, “no single, overarching meaning emerges unchallenged; instead, narrative and counter-narrative generate a frisson of meaning in their exchange, in the working through process they now mutually reinforce.”[109] In this sense, a better understanding of an event such as the Rape of Nanjing, as these Holocaust scholars have suggested, requires nothing less than a reconsideration of some of the most basic tenets of historical inquiry.

Even then, some differences, especially concerning the meaning and significance of a historical event, may persist or even intensify due to what Martin Jay calls “the interference of nondiscursive elements.”[110] As issues related to the war and atrocities have become closely intertwined with politics and national identity, the ethical and moral pitfalls can be quite apparent. While it is ahistorical to attribute atrocities such as those in Nanjing to some abstract notion of human nature in time of war, it is as morally misguided as it is intellectually inadequate for historians to be trapped in prefixed categories of Japanese perpetrators versus Chinese victims.[111] Suzuki Akira and Tanaka Masaaki, on the other hand, have chosen to emphasize atrocities in China’s own past in an effort to prove that Japanese atrocities in Nanjing had been either unlikely or not so bad.[112] Comparisons become equally problematic when those highlighting the Chinese torment in Nanjing downplay other distinctly painful experiences of human suffering.

Like those who write about the Nazi Holocaust, historians studying the Rape of Nanjing have to face the issue of “transference” vis-à-vis their subject. Some historians, Kasahara Tokushi and Zhang Kaiyuan among them, have already shown such self-awareness in their writings. Ultimately, as LaCapra has remarked, all historians must “articulate the relation between the requirements of scientific expertise and the less easily definable demands placed on the use of language by the difficult attempt to work through transferential relations in a dialogue with the past having implications for the present and future.”[113] This is a tall order. Only with such a commitment, however, can there be a community of historians with shared standards of historical inquiry and common ideals of humanity, which in itself offers historians the best hope of a more truthful reconstruction of the Rape of Nanjing.

Daqing Yang is an assistant professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University. His essay “Rekishika e no chosen: ‘Nankin atrocities’ o megutte” (The Nanjing Atrocities as Challenges to Historians) was published in the Japanese journal Shiso (August 1998). In addition to working on issues related to war and memories in East Asia, he is completing a book on telecommunications networks and Japan’s efforts to construct a wartime empire in Pacific Asia between 1931 and 1945.


An early version of this essay was presented at the Work in Progress workshop in the Department of History at George Washington University. The author thanks his colleagues, Edward McCord in particular, John Dower, three anonymous readers at the AHR, as well as many other individuals for helpful comments.

1. Martin Jay, “Of Plots, Witnesses, and Judgments,” in Saul Friedländer, ed., Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the “Final Solution” (Cambridge, 1992), 105.

2. Jay, “Of Plots, Witnesses, and Judgments,” 105.

3. Joyce Appleby, et al., Telling the Truth about History (New York, 1994), 283.

4. Chihiro Hosoya, et al., eds., The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: An International Symposium (New York, 1986), 216. Incredibly, one British writer even calls it “the largest single atrocity of the twentieth century.” Kevin Baker, “The Rape of Nanjing,” Contemporary Review 267, no. 1556 (September 1995): 124. Throughout this essay, I use the “Rape of Nanjing” and “Nanjing Massacre” interchangeably.

5. Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York, 1997).

6. The Rape of Nanking Readers Guide (New York, 1998), 6–8. This small pamphlet is issued by Penguin Putnam, Inc., which published the paperback edition of Chang’s book in 1998.

7. I adapt this term from Charles S. Maier’s insightful study, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust, and German National Identity (Cambridge, Mass., 1988). Although the Nazi Holocaust and the Rape of Nanjing are two fundamentally different events, I believe that they pose some similar methodological problems to historians.

8. Kasahara Tokushi, Nankin jiken [The Nanjing Incident] (Tokyo, 1997). This book is issued as shinsho, a typical format for scholarly works written for the general public in Japan.

9. Sun Zhaiwei, et al., Nanjing datusha [The Nanjing Massacre] (Beijing, 1997).

10. Chang’s book has been published in Taiwan as Bei yiwang de datusha [The forgotten massacre], Xiao Fuyuan, trans. (Taipei, 1997), and in mainland China as Nanjing baoxing: Bei yiwang de datusha [The Nanjing Atrocity: A forgotten massacre], Sun Yinchun, et al., trans. (Beijing, 1998), The translators acknowledge having made a small number of deletions. Among them is Chang’s brief reference to the “Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.”

11. R. John Pritchard and Sonia Magbanua Zaide, comps., International Military Tribunal for the Far East: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, 22 vols. (New York, 1981–87), 49604–08. The verdict on Matsui Iwane, however, states that “upwards of 100,000 people were killed”; 49815.

12. The Second Archives of China, et al., Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha dang’an [Archival materials on the Nanjing Massacre by the invading Japanese troops] (Nanjing, 1987), 603–12.

13. Hora Tomio, “Nankin jiken” [The Nanjing Incident], in Kindai senshi no nazo [Puzzles in modern military history] (Tokyo, 1967), 55–172.

14. Honda Katsuichi, Chugoku no tabi [A journey to China] (Tokyo, 1972), 255–300; Chugoku no Nihongun [The Japanese troops in China] (Tokyo, 1972), 93–148.

15. Suzuki Akira, Nankin daigyakusatsu no maboroshi [The illusion of the Nanjing Massacre] (Tokyo, 1973). Although the book won a prize in the genre of nonfiction, the case of the “killing contest” has not been closed, as there was evidence suggesting the officers might have actually killed many Chinese POWs. For an in-depth discussion, see Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, “Mountains and Molehills: The Nanjing ‘100-Man Killing Contest,'” paper presented at “The Nanjing Atrocities Reexamined,” March 19, 1999, York University.

16. Self-Defense Agency War History Office, Shina jihen rikugun sakusen (1) [Army combat operations in the China Incident (1)] (Tokyo, 1975), 436–38.

17. Japan’s Ministry of Education was widely reported to have demanded revisions in high school history textbooks in an effort to minimize Japan’s past aggression. In fact, initial reports were inaccurate regarding the date and scope of the revisions. For a recent study in English, see Caroline Rose, Interpreting History in Sino-Japanese Relations: A Case Study in Decision-Making (London, 1998).

18. Tanaka Masaaki, “Nankin gyakusatsu” no kyoko (Tokyo, 1984). The book was subsequently translated into Chinese to serve as an example of the virulent revisionist onslaught in Japan. See translators’ note in “Nanjing datusha” shi xugou [The fabrication of the “Nanjing Massacre”], Pan Junfeng, et al., trans. (Beijing, 1985), 1–19.

19. Tanaka Masaaki, comp., Matsui Iwane taisho no jinchu nisshi [The wartime diary of General Matsui Iwane] (Tokyo, 1985). For an examination of these alterations, see Itakura Yashiaki, “Matsui Iwane taisho ‘jinchu nikki’ kaizan no ayashi” [Suspicions of tampering with the “wartime diary” of General Matsui Iwane], Rekishi to jimbutsu (Winter 1986): 318–31. However, Tanaka went on to publish Nankin jiken no sokatsu: Gyakusatsu hitei jugo no ronkyo [The summary of the Nanjing Incident: Fifteen arguments denying the massacre] (Tokyo, 1987).

20. Some of the soldiers’ diaries can be found in Iguchi Kazuki, et al., comp., Nankin jiken Kyoto shidan kankei shiryoshu [Materials concerning the Kyoto Division in the Nanjing Incident] (Tokyo, 1989).

21. The latest example is Okumiya Takeshi, Watashi ga mita Nankin jiken [The Nanjing Incident as I saw it] (Tokyo, 1997). Earlier memoirs by veterans include Sone Kazuo, Shiki Nankin gyakusatsu [A personal account of the Nanjing Massacre] (Tokyo, 1984); Yamamoto Takeshi, Ichi heishi no jugun kiroku [A soldier’s record of army life] (private edition, 1985); Azuma Shiro, Waga Nankin puraton [Our Nanjing platoon] (Tokyo, 1987).

22. Kaikosha, Nankin senshi [A history of the Nanjing Battle] (Tokyo, 1989); and Nankin senshi shiryoshu [A history of the Nanjing Battle: Collection of source materials] (Tokyo, 1989, 1993).

23. Fujiwara Akira, Nankin daigyakusatsu [The Nanjing Massacre] (Tokyo, 1985); Yoshida Yutaka, Tenno no guntai to Nanjing jiken [The emperor’s army and the Nanjing Incident] (Tokyo, 1986).

24. Hata Ikuhiko, Nankin jiken: “Gyakusatsu” no kozo [The Nanjing Incident: Structure of the “Massacre”] (Tokyo, 1986). The book is now in its nineteenth printing. For a brief discussion of the atrocities in a general history he published more than two decades before, see Hata, Nitchu senso shi [A history of the Sino-Japanese War] (1961; Tokyo, 1979), 284–86.

25. For a record of this latest round of court actions, see National Joint Committee in Support of the Textbook Trials, Nankin daigyakusatsu, Chosen jinmin no teiko, 731 Butai [The Nanjing Massacre, resistance by the Korean people, Unit 731] (Tokyo, 1997), 1–100. Materials related to an early phase of the trial can be found in Honda Katsuichi, comp., Sabakareta Nankin daigyakusatsu [The Nanjing Massacre under judgment] (Tokyo, 1989).

26. Kasahara Tokushi, Nankin nanminku no hyakunichi [A hundred days inside the Nanjing Refugee Zone] (Tokyo, 1996). For a sampling of these records, see American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre, 1937–1938, Martha Lund Smalley, ed. (New Haven, Conn., 1997).

27. Gao Xingzu, Rijun qin-Hua baoxing: Nanjing datusha [Atrocities of the invading Japanese troops: The Nanjing Massacre] (Shanghai, 1985); Committee for the Compilation of Sources Relating to the Nanjing Massacre and the Library of Nanjing, comp., Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha shiliao [Historical materials on the Nanjing Massacre by the invading Japanese troops] (Nanjing, 1985); The Second Archives of China, Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha dang’an; Committee for the Compilation of Sources Relating to the “Nanjing Massacre,” Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha shigao [A draft history of the Nanjing Massacre by the invading Japanese troops] (Nanjing, 1987).

28. Xu Zhigeng, Nanjing datusha [The Nanjing Massacre] (Beijing, 1987). The two feature films about the Nanjing Massacre are Tu cheng xuezheng [Blood-stained proof of the Massacre] (1988) and Nanjing datusha [The Rape of Nanjing] (1995).

29. Noteworthy works included Li Enhan, Ribenjun zhanzheng baoxing zhi yanjiu [A study of the war atrocities of the Japanese military] (Taipei, 1994); Qin Xiaoyi, ed., Rijun zai-Hua baoxing: Nanjing datusha [Atrocities of the Japanese army in China: The Nanjing Massacre] (Taipei, 1986, 1987).

30. David Bergamini, Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy (New York, 1971); Dick Wilson, When Tigers Fight: The Story of the Sino-Japanese War, 1937–45 (New York, 1983). Academic historians who discussed the event at some length include Robert J. C. Butow, Tojo and the Coming of War (Princeton, N.J., 1961), 100–03; Lloyd Eastman, “Facets of an Ambivalent Relationship: Smuggling, Puppets, and Atrocities during the War, 1937–1945,” in Akira Iriye, ed., The Chinese and the Japanese: Essays in Political and Cultural Interactions (Princeton, 1980), 292–98; Martin Bagish and Hilary Conroy, “Japanese Aggression against China: The Question of Responsibility,” in Alvin Coox and Hilary Conroy, eds., China and Japan: Search for Balance since World War I (Santa Barbara, Calif., 1978), 328–30.

31. Journal of Studies of Japanese Aggression against China (Carbondale, Ill., 1990– ); Shi Young and James Yin, The Rape of Nanking: An Undeniable History in Photographs (Chicago, 1996). The two documentary films are Magee’s Testament (1991), directed by Peter Wong; and In the Name of the Emperor (1995), directed by Christine Choy and Nancy Tong.

32. The semi-fictional work by Chinese author Xu Zhigeng had been published in an English translation in China as Lest We Forget: Nanjing Massacre, 1937 (Beijing, 1995).

33. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, 214.

34. See Honda Katsuichi, Nankin e no michi [The road to Nanjing] (Tokyo, 1987). For an English translation of the revised Japanese edition, see Honda, The Nanjing Massacre: A Japanese Journalist Confronts Japan’s National Shame (Armonk, N.Y., forthcoming).

35. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, 214.

36. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 5–6. The survey is Lewis S. C. Smythe, War Damage in the Nanjing Area: December 1937 to March 1938 (Shanghai, 1938).

37. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 435–40.

38. Chang, Rape of Nanking, 99–103.

39. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, 228. “Over 100,000” is a rough translation of the Japanese phrase “jusuman,” which literally means “one hundred and tens of thousands.”

40. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 384–88; Chang, Rape of Nanking, 101.

41. On the discrepancy between the confession of Ota Toshio and the diary of Kajitana Takeo, see Nankin senshi shiryoshu, 2: 420–38.

42. While Kasahara’s estimate of the Chinese defense at around 150,000 largely draws from Sun’s research, others give smaller figures of between 50,000 to 100,000. More recently, Sun has argued that Chinese soldiers killed in combat should not be counted as “compatriot victims” in a strict sense. Placing Chinese combat casualties at around 10,000, Sun concludes that between 80,000 and 90,000 Chinese soldiers were murdered after laying down their arms. See Sun Zhaiwei, “Nanjing datusha yunan tongbao zhong jiujin you duoshao junren” [How many soldiers were among the compatriot victims of the Nanjing Massacre], Kangri zhanzheng yanjiu 26 (April 1997): 8–17.

43. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, 223–24. In his report to Adolf Hitler, John Rabe noted that the Chinese estimate of 100,000 civilian deaths was perhaps too high, and that “we Europeans put it between 50,000 and 60,000.” John H. Rabe, Nankin no shinjitsu [The truth about Nanjing], Japanese translation of Der Gute Deutsche von Nanking by Hirano Kyoko (Tokyo, 1997), 317; in its English translation, however, the estimate refers to all victims, see The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe, John E. Woods, trans. (New York, 1998), 212. Smythe, War Damage in the Nanjing Area.

44. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 402–10. Sun cites records of this organization dating from 1938–1939 as well as postwar recollections of its members.

45. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 436.

46. Chang, Rape of Nanking, 103–04. This claim has been repeated in a number of other publications; see Shi and Yin, Rape of Nanking, 262, 276–78.

47. The Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai forwarded Timperley’s cable, designated as #176 (S.I.S. #1263), to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, which sent it to the embassy in Washington on January 17, 1938. Two days later, Tokyo forwarded the explanatory note (S.I.S. #1257), which was received from Shanghai as #175. Both telegrams are in Japanese Diplomatic Messages, “Red Machine” (1934–1938), Box 1, Record Group 457, National Archives, Washington, D.C. Chang clarifies the authorship in the notes of the paperback edition but does not change the main text.

48. Hata, Nankin jiken, 187–205. Hata placed the Chinese defense strength at 100,000 and reached the 30,000 figure on the basis of available Japanese military records. He seems to have applied the concept of “illegal murder” to Smythe’s survey result of civilian casualties, arriving at 8,000–12,000 for civilian victims. More recently, Hata accepts the estimate of 40,000–60,000 victims as also plausible. See Hata Ikuhiko, “Nankin gyakusatsu jiken: Kazu no kosatsu” [A numerical study of the Nanjing Atrocity], paper presented at the Fourth International Symposium on the History of Sino-Japanese Relations, November 1997, Keio University, Tokyo, 7. In its English translation, however, the 40,000–60,000 figure was considered the civilian toll. See “The Nanking Atrocities: Fact and Fable,” Japan Echo 25, no. 4 (August 1998): 51.

49. Itakura Yoshiaki, “‘Nankin jiken’ no suryo teki kenkyu” [A numerical study of the “Nanjing Incident”], Gunji shigaku 26, no. 1 (June 1990): 54–70. Itakura estimates that out of a total Chinese defense force of 75,000, roughly one third were killed in combat and another third were taken captive. Among them, 16,000 were executed, but only 8,000 to 12,000 can be considered “illegally murdered.” He likewise argues that only half to one third of the civilian casualties in Smythe’s survey can be blamed on the Japanese.

50. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, 222–23. See Yoshida Yutaka, “Jugonen sensoshi kenkyu to senso sekinin mondai” [Research on the history of the Fifteen Years’ War and the problem of war responsibilities], in Hora Tomio, et al., eds., Nankin jiken o kangaeru [The Nanjing Incident considered] (Tokyo, 1987), 69–94.

51. Fujioka Nobukatsu, Jiyushugi shikan to wa nani ka [What is the liberal view of history?] (Tokyo, 1997), 49.

52. Li Enhan, “Nanjing datusha de tusha shumu wenti” [The issue of death tolls in the Nanjing Massacre], in Li, Ribenjun zhanzheng baoxing zhi yanjiu, 1–54.

53. Shi and Yin, Rape of Nanking, 267, 242.

54. Chang, Rape of Nanking, 5, 101. By defining the event primarily in terms of exact figures, such a comparison may serve as an obstacle against further reappraisal but also comes perilously close to the “revisionist” argument that if the 300,000 figure does not stand, then the great massacre in Nanjing did not happen.

55. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 9–10.

56. See the review of Sun’s book by the Nanjing University historian Zhang Xianwen in Kangri zhanzheng yanjiu 26 (November 1997): 196–205.

57. There is also considerable difference over the exact number of rape victims in Nanjing. Whereas the verdict of the Tokyo trial put the figure at “20,000 within the first month,” Wu Tien-wei gives a much higher estimate that at least 80,000 Chinese women had been raped throughout the whole period, although he does not provide a full explanation. See Wu Tien-wei, “Let the Whole World Know the Nanjing Massacre”: A Review of Three Recent Pictorial Works on the Massacre and Its Studies (Carbondale, Ill., 1996).

58. “Nankin koryakusen ‘Nakajima dai-16 shidancho nikki'” [The diary of the commander of the 16th Division, Nakajima, in the attack on Nanjing], Rekishi to jimbutsu (Zokan): Hishi Taiheiyo senso (1984): 252–71.

59. Sun, Nanjing datusha, chap. 1, 88–92.

60. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 92.

61. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 10–18.

62. Chang, Rape of Nanking, 74.

63 Chang, Rape of Nanking, 71.

64. Chang, Rape of Nanking, 54, 94.

65. Chang, Rape of Nanking, 38–39. In fact, Lieutenant General Yanagawa Heisuke remained in charge of the 10th Army, which apparently also issued orders to execute Chinese prisoners.

66. Hata, Nankin jiken, 216–34.

67. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, chap. 2. See also Kaikosha, Nankin senshi, 17–28.

68. On handling Chinese captives, Nankin senshi also blamed the army leaders in Tokyo and in China for issuing an “incomprehensible” directive and not making adequate preparations. Kaikosha, Nankin senshi, 337–45.

69. Kasahara Tokushi, “Historical Causes of the Nanjing Massacre,” paper presented at the symposium “Nanjing 1937,” November 22, 1997, Princeton University.

70. Attributing the atrocity to accidental factors has not lost all its popularity, however. Nankin no hisame [Icy rain in Nanjing] (Tokyo, 1989), though expressing sympathies for Chinese victims, nonetheless explains the massacre of Chinese POWs solely as a consequence of the fierce fighting in Shanghai.

71. Fujiwara Akira, Nankin no Nihongun [The Japanese troops in Nanjing] (Tokyo, 1997).

72. For a recent example of this line of argument, see Fuji Nobuo, “Nankin daigyakusatsu” wa ko shite tsukurareta: Tokyo saiban no giman [How the “Nanking Massacre” was made up: The deception of the Tokyo trial] (Tokyo, 1995).

73. Sun, Nanjing datusha, 623–37.

74. See essays by He Tianyi, “Dongjing shenpan de fansi” [Reflections on the Tokyo trial], in Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha shi guoji xueshu taolunhui lunwenji [Collected papers of the International Symposium on the Nanjing Massacre], Chen Anji, ed. (Hefei, 1998), 397–410; Qi Fuling, “Luelun Nanjing Riben zhanfan shenpan” [A brief discussion of the trial of Japanese war criminals in Nanjing], 411–30. Chang is more ambivalent about Matsui. See Rape of Nanking, chap. 8.

75. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, 233–34.

76. For a recent critical reexamination of the Tokyo trial, see John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York, 1998), chap. 15.

77. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, 231–32.

78. Ishikawa Tatsuzo, “Ikiteiru heitai” [The living soldiers], Chuo Koron (Rinji Zokan): Gekido no Showa bungaku (November 1997): 274–350. While it is well known that Ishikawa’s much sanitized piece in the March 1938 issue of Chuo Koron magazine ran into trouble with the police, readers now can see the large sections of texts that had already been deleted prior to its publication.

79. Yoshida Yutaka, “Nankin wa honto ni mienakkata no ka” [Was Nanjing really invisible?], paper presented at the Symposium on the 60th Anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, December 13, 1997, Tokyo. A major effort to address this question is Tsuda Michio, Nankin daigyakusatsu to Nihonjin no seishin kozo [The Nanjing Massacre and the Japanese mentalities] (Tokyo, 1995).

80. See Chen Anji’s preface to Zhu Chengshan, ed., Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha xinchunzhe zhengyanji (Nanjing, 1994), 4. Some 642 testimonies are included.

81. This was a publication for “internal circulation” by the Nanjing University Department of History in 1979, Riben diguo zhuyi he Nanjing datusha, largely based on a study completed in the early 1960s. For an English translation by Robert Gray posted on the World Wide Web, see

82. Mei Xiao-ao, “Nanjing datusha ji qita: Xianfu Mei Ruao de ixie kanfa” [The Nanjing Massacre and so on: Some views of my late father, Mei Ruao], in Chen, Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha shi, 446–53.

83. Chang, Rape of Nanking, 219–20.

84. “The Nanking Massacre in Print: A Recent Bibliography,” Japan Echo 25, no. 4 (August 1998): 58–59. This is not the case in the category of books, where circulation is not considered.

85. Daqing Yang, “The Nanjing Atrocity: The Making of a Twentieth-Century Rashomon” (MA thesis, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1989). Part of the thesis was published as “A Sino-Japanese Controversy: The Nanjing Atrocity as History,” Sino-Japanese Studies 3, no. 1 (November 1990): 14–35.

86. See Kasahara, “Nanjing datusha de quanmao” [The full picture of the Nanjing Massacre], in Chen, Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha shi, 31–39.

87. See Translator’s Note in Hata Ikuhiko, Nanjing datusha zhengxiang: Riben jiaoshou de lunshu [The truth of the Nanjing Massacre: Findings of a Japanese professor], Yang Wenxin, trans. (Hong Kong, 1995), xxiv.

88. “Iwayuru ‘Nankin jiken’ ni kansuru joho teikyo no onegai” [A request for providing information concerning the so-called Nanjing Incident], Kaiko 395 (November 1983): 35–37; Katokawa Kotaro, “Shogen ni yoru Nankin senshi: Sono sokatsu teki kosatsu” [A battle history of Nanjing according to testimonies: A summary investigation], Kaiko 411 (March 1985): 9–18.

89. Ono Kenji, et al., comp., Nankin daigyakusatsu o kirokushita kogun heishitachi [Imperial (Japanese) Army soldiers who recorded the Nanjing Massacre] (Tokyo, 1996). For an account of Ono’s efforts, see Charles Smith, “One Man’s Crusade: Kenji Ono Lifts the Veil on the Nanjing Massacre,” Far Eastern Economic Review 157, no. 34 (August 25, 1994): 24–25.

90. John H. Rabe, Labei riji [The Rabe diary], Chinese translation of Bomben über Nanking by Liu Haining, et al. (Nanjing, 1997). Some 702 pages are devoted to Rabe’s diary and journals. Rabe’s tombstone has been brought to rest in the massacre memorial in Nanjing.

91. Rabe, Nankin no shinjitsu. Rabe’s diary is on 21–273, and his report to Hitler on 288–321; Rabe, Good Man of Nanking.

92. Several Chinese writers emphasize that Rabe underestimated both the size of the Chinese population as well as the number of victims because his information was severely limited. See, for example, Duan Yueping, “‘Labei riji’ de shiliao jiazhi ji lishi juxianxin” [The Rabe diary as a historical source and its limitations], in Chen, Qin-Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha shi, 503–12. Published appraisals in Japan range from calls for Japanese self-introspection to allegations of Rabe’s pro-Chinese bias.

93. Zhang Kaiyuan, Nanjing datusha de lishi jianzheng [An eyewitness’s historical records of the Nanjing Massacre] (Wuhan, 1995), 260–65.

94. Kasahara, Nankin jiken, 73. Kasahara had borrowed the photograph and caption from a wartime Chinese publication on Japanese atrocities.

95. Kimijima Kazuhiko, “Nankin jiken no gyakusatsu shashin,” in Shiryo Kyoyo no Nihonshi [Historical sources: Japanese history for education], Takeuchi Makoto, et al., eds. (Tokyo, 1991), 218. In her recent article on wartime images in photography exhibits in Japan, Julia A. Thomas briefly alludes to the debate over whether visual images can serve as historical evidence. Thomas, “Photography, National Identity, and the ‘Cataract of Times’: Wartime Images and the Case of Japan,” AHR 103 (December 1998): n. 3.

96. Dominick LaCapra, “Representing the Holocaust: Reflections on the Historians’ Debate,” in Friedländer, Probing the Limits of Representation, 126–27.

97. Chinese historian Gao Xingzu, for example, considers it important enough to correct the mistakes in a pictorial history of the Nanjing Massacre published in China in 1995. See Gao Xingzu, “Du ‘Nanjing datusha tuzheng'” [Reading Pictorial Evidence of the Nanjing Massacre], Kangri zhanzheng yanjiu 23 (February 1997): 22–29.

98. Several sources are simply attributed to “author’s interviews with survivors.” On one occasion, Chang apparently quotes verbatim my own translation of a 1952 Chinese article but neglects to make an acknowledgment in the endnote (185, 277). Compare Yang, “Sino-Japanese Controversy,” 16.

99. For samples of factual errors, see the review by Joshua A. Fogel in Journal of Asian Studies 57, no. 3 (August 1998): 818–19; Hata Ikuhiko has written about the factual mistakes in some detail and goes on to attack Chang’s “feminist rhetoric.” See “Nanking Atrocities: Fact and Fable,” 47–57. Hata himself apparently confuses one of the photographs in Chang’s book (Photograph 1) with a different photograph (depicting a similar scene of Japanese executions of Chinese POWs and similarly copied in a photo shop by a Chinese). For the latter picture, see Hora Tomio, et al., eds., Nankin daigyakusatsu no genba e [Toward the sites of the Nanjing Massacre] (Tokyo, 1988), 221.

100. In February 1999, Kashiwa Shobo in Japan suspended the publication of Chang’s book in Japanese translation, which would have included some corrections of her factual errors; in May, the publication contract was canceled. Chang and her American publisher disagreed with Kashiwa Shobo over the latter’s plan to publish a separate book that contains criticism of her work, and later over the inclusion of the translator’s notes and annotations as well as the appropriateness of some proposed changes. These substantive differences, against the backdrop of unrelenting pressure from conservative media and right-wing groups, became the direct cause of the suspension and subsequent cancellation. Japanese historians who work with Kashiwa Shobo on this project have all published works critical of Japan’s wartime conduct. English-language reports, such as a feature article in the New York Times (May 20, 1999, B1), often do not adequately clarify these complexities.

101. For a more detailed discussion, see my essay “The Challenges of the Nanjing Massacre: Reflections on Historical Inquiry,” in The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography, Joshua Fogel, ed. (Berkeley, Calif., forthcoming).

102. Itakura Yoshiaki, “Nankin jiken: ‘Gyakusatsu’ no sekinin ron” [The Nanjing Incident: Concerning the responsibility of the “massacre”], Gunji shigaku 33, nos. 2–3 (December 1997): 182–96.

103. Ara Ken’ichi, Kikigaki Nankin jiken [The Nanjing Incident based on interviews] (Tokyo, 1987). It has been criticized by many historians, including Hora and Hata.

104. Higashinakano Osamichi, “Nankin gyakusatsu” no tettei kensho [A thorough examination of the “Nanjing Massacre”] (Tokyo, 1998).

105. Higashinakano, “Nankin gyakusatsu,” chap. 6; see Nakajima’s diary in “Nankin koryakusen,” 261. Elsewhere, there were indeed suggestions, apparently never implemented, of sending Chinese POWs to a concentration camp on an island or to Shanghai as laborers. See Good Man of Nanking, 76; Nankin senshi shiryo shu, 1: 164.

106. Saul Friedländer, “Trauma, Transference, and ‘Working Through’ in Writing the History of the Shoah,” History and Memory 4 (Spring–Summer 1992): 52–53.

107. Carlo Ginsburg, “Just One Witness,” in Friedländer, Probing the Limits of Representation, 82–96.

108. James E. Young, “Toward a Received History of the Holocaust,” History and Theory 36, no. 4 (December 1997): 39. In fact, the historian’s truth may be more appropriately considered contingent, since it depends on his or her evidence and interpretation, while the victim’s truth is more experiential.

109. J. Young, “Toward a Received History of the Holocaust,” 39.

110. Jay, “Of Plots, Witnesses, and Judgments,” 105.

111. Suzuki, Nankin daigyakusatsu no maboroshi, 32–43; Tanaka, Nankin gyakusatsu no kyoko, 240–55.

113. For a lively discussion of the “reproduction of victimhood,” see essays in the recent AHR Forum “Genocide in the Twentieth Century,” especially Omer Bartov, “Defining Enemies, Making Victims: Germans, Jews, and the Holocaust,” AHR 103 (June 1998): 771–816; and AHR 103 (October 1998): 1177–94.

114. LaCapra, “Representing the Holocaust,” 126–27.