A monument at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial and Museum in Nanjing,Jiangsu province. [Photo/China Daily]
A multilingual documentary providing further proof of the Nanjing Massacre premiered on both the Chinese- and foreign-language channels of China Central Television on Dec 13, as the country observed its first National Memorial Day for the victims.
The five-episode The Memory of Nanjing in 1937, which took two years to complete, attempts to present a full and objective picture of the tragedy through interviews with more than 120 scholars, survivors and their descendants. The Japanese murdered more than 300,000 Chinese during the massacre.
Each episode focuses on someone who didn't witness the tragedy firsthand, but whose life was significantly affected by it. The first episode, for example, discusses the life of Chinese-American writer Iris Chang.
Author of The Rape of Nanking, Chang was among the first group of scholars to effectively reveal the Japanese atrocities to the Western world. She committed suicide in 2004 due to depression caused partially by, many have speculated, discovering the sad facts of the massacre.
Other main figures include Matsuoka Tamaki, a Japanese former primary school teacher who published three books and made two documentaries based on testimonies of over 180 Nanjing Massacre survivors and 250 Japanese soldiers involved in the killings. Zhang Xianwen, a history professor at Nanjing University who led a team of 110 scholars and compiled the country's most complete historical records of the massacre, is also featured.
While researching the tragedy, the production team found many sealed files that had never been shown to the Chinese public. They include 54 boxes of files, including diaries, letters and other massacre-related documents by George Fitch, administrative director of the Young Men's Christian Association, Nanking Safety Zone International Committee. Five tapes recording Iris Chang's interviews with Nanjing Massacre survivors, which are stored in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, are also revealed through Chinese media for the first time.
Instead of using cartoons and artistic renderings of historical scenes, which are common in Chinese documentaries, The Memory of Nanjing in 1937 shows real images and highlights from the search for materials related to the tragedy.
"Unlike previous documentaries on the Nanjing Massacre, The Memory of Nanjing in 1937 does more than just show the disaster. It also demonstrates a broad mind and an international angle," says chief director Yan Dong.
"Rethink the war. Call for peace. And never let the tragedy happen again. This is the theme of the subject and the pure focus of the stories in the documentary."