The Nanking Massacre

Japan began to embark on its own imperialistic endeavors in Asia. First, Japan took over the southern part of the Korean Peninsula during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). In 1905, Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) and gained control of Manchuria. Defeating a European nation empowered Japan to renegotiate its trade treaties with the United States and Europe as equals. Japan took over southern Manchuria, legitimized its control of Korea, and absorbed the southern half of Sakhalin Island. By 1910, Japan had colonized the entire Korean Peninsula.

During World War I, Japan joined the Allied Powers and sent ships to fight Germany. In 1914, while the European powers were embroiled in conflicts at home, Japan became an industrial power. In 1931, the Mukden Incident ceded Manchuria to Japan. In 1937, Japan invaded China during the second Sino-Japanese War. By 1940 it had consolidated its control of Vietnam. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor to draw the United States into World War II. By 1942, Japan controlled the islands of Indonesia and the Philippines.

Several of these events remain controversial. Many Japanese historians believe Japan was responding to U.S. and European hostility during this period. Meanwhile, Chinese, European, and American historians accused the Japanese Imperial Army of massacring 50,000 to 300,000 civilizations and raping 20,000 women during the Nanking Massacre, also called the Rape of Nanking. Many Japanese historians deny this massacre occurred or believe the number of casualties has been exaggerated.

Read this article to examine arguments for and against the validity of the Nanking Massacre.

Opposition Against Justification

Black Sun - The Nanking Massacre shows us how Japanese soldiers justify their killing based on the idea that, if the evildoings are for good purposes, they are not evil anymore. However, logical this may be, it is still absurd. Human beings are the only species that has a moral sense among all the living creatures on the planet. Something cruel can be done by nature, or by God, or by wild animals, without attracting moral criticism, but cannot be done by human beings, such as natural culling. Like the idea of an 'act of God', insurance companies will not pay for the damage caused by natural disasters. Compensations will only be made for the damage caused by actions or accidents which can be predicted and prevented by human minds. If someone or some country executes a culling process, the individual or country will be sentenced by law as guilty of mass killing even though it might be for a good cause. Therefore, the Nanking Massacre and the Holocaust ought never to have happened no matter what the reason was. "A good cause must be realized by a good means" is a moral principle that we, as moral beings, are educated to follow. It is also a legal principle on which all of the above-mentioned international laws are based. Morals and laws are consistent on the point that they cannot be overruled by any unratified international agreement, even by a rescript from the divine Emperor.

In Black Sun IV there is a conversation between a fictitious swordsman, the samurai Takayama and the army officer Nakajima Kesago. They debate about what methods should be used to defeat China and the Chinese people even though they both agree that this so-called holy war, the second Sino-Japanese war, is necessary. Nakajima thinks that Japan's military force is like a sword held by Futomyoō (Aryaacalanatha, in Sanskrit), able to destroy every obstacle on its way to the glory of the Japanese Empire, the success of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and the ideal of reforming the world and saving humanity. On the contrary, Takayama thinks that military force is only one way to win the war and it is not the way to win people's hearts and convince them that Japan is trying to free the whole of Asia from the control of the Western world. If a sword is only used to destroy, it will become evil, even though swords are made to protect oneself against evil and to fight against it. Takayama uses a story of swords as an analogy to persuade Nakajima to stop killing. Even though he fails, his story still acts as a strong opposition against the justification of mass killing and other inhumane behaviours.

Nakajima Kesago: But for sharpness, Masamune's swords are no match for those of his student, Mura Masa.

Takayama: But Masamune's sword is an expression of his character. It has a stunning power to one's soul. It is said that to compare swords for sharpness, put Mura Masa's sword in the middle of a river, and check the fate of dry leaves floating down. The leaves passing through the sword were all cut into halves. Then they put Masamune's sword to the same test, but most astonishing is the dry leaves automatically avoided his sword. Masamune had no interest in killing people. Because his perspective is that a sword should no longer be a killing tool. So Mura Masa's sword has not yet gone beyond the mere killing powers of a sword…. Mura Masa's sword represents the threatening power of a dictator. But because Masamune's sword is humanistic, it's superior.

Military force, then, is not made to kill but to stop killing, as the Chinese character of military force wusuggests. The true meaning of wu is to stop (zhi) using weapons (ge). Moreover, the most powerful force is not military force, like Mura Masa's sword, that can defeat the enemy. The most powerful force is the power of culture, which is represented by the Masamune's sword, that can defeat enemies without fighting a war. Besides, building a military force is like sword forging, a process of self-cultivation. The purpose is to suppress the killing desire that arises from the instinct of self-protection. Since these ideas about military force exist in both Japanese and Chinese culture, the Japanese ought not to have used mass killing as a method to make the Chinese understand Japan's true intentions. Mass killing will make the Chinese remember only the massacre; the true intention will never be revealed. If one of the purposes of military force is to make the Chinese accept Japanese culture, love the Japanese emperor, and willingly follow the lead of the Japanese empire, a massacre ought never to have been allowed. It is impossible for the Chinese to embrace the beauty of Japanese culture when they are only fed with the evil part of it.

Black Sun - The Nanking Massacre not only shows us the cruelty of Japanese soldiers through its violent and graphic scenes. It also tells its audience that a good purpose must be achieved by proper and decent means. Although many war criminals from the second Sino-Japanese and the Pacific wars have been punished by law, not all of them realize that what they have done is not only legally wrong but is also evil in a moral sense. The conversation between Takayama and Nakajima in the film, therefore, is designed to refute the justification of a mass killing, and to tell Japanese soldiers, who have done evil things but still believe they are good, that they are actually deceiving themselves. Only when they realize the fact that they are immoral, can they really begin to repent their sins.