Today was our first Saturday in Nanjing! The day still started at 8 though. To continue learning about halal food, we went to dim sum at a halal restaurant with Professor Wu of Nanjing University. He’s a renowned expert on halal food in China and a government official. When Dong Laoshi called the restaurant to make a reservation, they told her we were out of luck. But as soon as she mentioned Professor Wu, though, they set aside a private room for us. Apparently the restaurant commissioned his autograph for its name. Unfortunately I wasn’t sitting at his table, so I couldn’t catch much of what he was saying, but he’s going with us to culinary school next week, which I think we’re all looking forward to. The food itself was great. We were all tired, but it was definitely worth it.
After that we had a break for a few hours. The main event of the day was a visit to the Nanjing Massacre Museum. When we walked in we were met with a sign listing everything not allowed inside. We couldn’t even take our water in! We could put it on a table to pick it up on the way out, but we decided to pass on that.
A little background: in December of 1937 the Japanese army started a six-week raid on Nanjing. Chinese soldiers surrendered to escape slaughter, assuming they would be treated fairly as prisoners of war. This was not the case. Japanese soldiers quickly divided their captives into groups of 100-200 and killed them. Some were lined up, then first line was beheaded, and the second line forced to dispose of their bodies, only to be beheaded themselves. They grew tired of burying the bodies and ran out of fuel to cremate them, so they dumped them in mass graves and in the river. They didn’t stop there though. They proceeded to destroy the town, raping women and killing civilians.
The museum was extremely powerful. The entrance line went along a series of statues depicting suffering people. They were rough with jagged edges, which made them all the more jarring. We walked downstairs into a dark cave-like room, where signs started the beginning of the story. The museum was a continuous dark path that told the narrative all the way up to survivors and present-day historical work. The second floor of the museum was a bit less depressing. It told about the time after the Massacre up to the end of WWII and current Japanese-Sino relations. After the museum, we walked through the burial grounds. The readings reminded me a lot of readings about the Holocaust, but I didn’t realize the exhibits would affect me as strongly as concentration camps I’ve visited. We walked through a beautiful courtyard, but as soon as we went inside, we were met with an open archaeological dig with human skeletons. It was shocking. Even worse, many people ignored the signs requesting silence and respect and were making jokes and taking selfies. It was a powerful experience, but it’s an important part of history and I’m glad we went.
I think tonight will be pretty calm—most of us have quite a bit of work to do, and we have a long day tomorrow!