This resource details the events that unfolded in China and Japan in the years leading up to World War II and the war crimes known today as the Nanjing Atrocities.
At the same time efforts of reform were under way in Japan in the mid-nineteenth century, China remained under the same dynasty that had ruled for more than 200 years. Qing rule, led by the ethnic minority Manchu people, were struggling to maintain China’s wealth and prestige in East Asia.
The Boxer Rebellion, and the repression of the Hundred Days’ Reform by Empress Dowager Cixi, ignited a more far-reaching, radical, and revolutionary approach to modernizing China. One prominent leader who emerged calling for revolution was Sun Yat-sen. Sun’s early years followed the path of many Chinese who escaped the country’s poverty and sought a better life by living abroad. In 1879, at the age of 13, Sun was sent by his father to live with his older brother, Sun Mei, in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Sun Mei was a successful rancher and entrepreneur, and Sun Yat-sen worked on his brother’s farms while receiving his first formal education at an Anglican missionary school called Lolani.
On the morning of December 13, 1937, four divisions of the Japanese army and two navy fleets on the Yangtze River invaded Nanjing. The capital city now became one of the largest cities under the Japanese Central China Area Army (CCAA). The prewar population of over one million had shrunk considerably by November as the Japanese army advanced. On the morning of the 13th approximately 500,000 Chinese still remained. These were largely the poor who had little alternative while those able to leave had either financial resources or a place to go west of Nanjing.