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Historians of Asia on Political Violence

 | 
Anne Cheng
, 
Sanchit Kumar

Historiography of the Nanking Massacre (1937–1938) in Japan and the People’s Republic of China: evolution and characteristics

Arnaud Nanta

Texte intégral

Given what had happened in and around Shanghai, as the battle to seize Nanking approached, I once again stressed the need to all our troops for them to scrupulously respect military codes of conduct and customs, as previously noted. Despite this, our Army committed acts of violence and pillaging during the occupation of the city, many tarnishing the prestige of the Imperial Japanese Army. In order to explain these acts, we must first consider the terrible exhaustion occasioned by the difficult battles fought since disembarking in Shanghai, which generated deep animosity among our soldiers. Added to this were the logistical failures and supply shortages suffered by our Army while facing lightning attacks from a constantly moving enemy. These, in my opinion, were the causes. Be that as it may, neither I nor my officers can escape our responsibility for having failed to correctly supervise [our troops].

  • 1 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai (ed.) 1989, documentation vol. 1, p. 48–49.

General Matsui Iwane, commander-in-chief in Nanking, China Incident Diary (Shina jihen nisshi 支那事変日誌, written in prison in 1946).1

  • 2 Family names precede given names, as is customary in East Asia.
  • 3 Matsui commanded the Central China Area Army continuously from 30 October to its disbanding on 14 F (...)
  • 4 This paper will not go back to the 1950s and 1960s to include an inventory of the huge number of Ja (...)

1The Nanking (Nanjing) Massacre, in what was then the capital of the Republic of China while this regime was still located on the mainland (1912–1949), took place at the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), itself both a part of and prelude to World War II. It followed on from the Battle of Shanghai, which saw forces from the Chinese National Revolutionary Army clash with troops from the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy, between 13 August and late October 1937. The final withdrawal of the Chinese came about on 13 November. The Battle of Shanghai was one of the bloodiest confrontations in the East Asian theatre of World War II, ranking alongside the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. As well as being a crushing defeat for the nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-shek 蒋介石 (Jiang Jieshi, 1887–1975), which lost some 250,000 men, it was a decisive element in their later defeat by Communist forces in 1949.2 They put up fierce resistance to Japan’s Central China Area Army (Naka-Shina hōmen-gun 中支那方面軍), composed of the Shanghai Expeditionary Army (Shanhai haken-gun 上海派遣軍) and the 10th Army (Daijū gun 第十軍), commanded throughout by General Matsui Iwane 松井石根 (1878–1948).3 This resistance, in addition to the war crimes committed by both sides, pushed the Japanese troops to pursue the nationalist forces as they retreated towards the capital. What ensued was the Battle of Nanking (4 to 13 December), known in Chinese as the Battle to Defend Nanking, followed by the fall of the city and the massacre of soldiers and civilians from early December 1937 to February 1938. In Japan this massacre is commonly referred to as the “Nanking Incident”, as it was during the post-war trials. Similarly, the Second Sino-Japanese War was known as the “China Incident”.4

  • 5 Ingrao 2009, p. 123. Translation by Phoebe Green (2011).

2The aim of this paper is not to trace the history and chronology of what took place, nor to produce a definitive account of the events or a conclusive death toll. The Nanking Massacre was both exceptional and one of a long list of war atrocities committed during the twentieth century. In this sense, it can be compared to situations elsewhere, like the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi killing units in Eastern Europe. Nanking is another example of “a war that did not follow the rules of classic conflict, against an enemy without uniforms, hidden in the midst of a civilian population indistinguishable from the partisans.”5 It is this dual configuration –the association of the “mopping up” of a city of enemy troops and the terror unleashed against an unarmed population– that enabled the sacking of the city and uncontrolled military violence against civilians. The situation was further exacerbated by factors relating to structural logistical failures within the Japanese army, notably a lack of supervision.

3The objective here is to trace the genesis of historical research on the Nanking Massacre in Japan and China, in connection with the historiography of the Second Sino-Japanese War in both countries and with echoes from Taiwan. Several periods and landmark works can be distinguished within this body of research. And yet widespread misconceptions in Europe and the United States mean that the collective imagination tends to picture a revisionist Japan with China as victim. In reality, differing assessments of China now exist due to its political regime. The aim of this paper is to show that the Japanese historiography of Nanking is not only the most advanced in the world, it is also extremely high quality and has made significant contributions to international scholarship. The world of politics and academia are two very different things. Furthermore, since the 1970s and 1980s Japanese historical research on Nanking has developed in parallel with the military historiography of Taiwan, which was directly concerned, since it was the nationalist troops of the Kuomintang who fought and were massacred by Imperial Japan in Shanghai and Nanking. They then retreated to Taiwan after their defeat by the Communists in 1949. Finally, since the mid-1990s Japanese research has progressed thanks to increased engagement with scholarship from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Nanking Massacre and Second Sino-Japanese War are not only historiographical issues; they are also political and memorial issues involving not two but three countries: Japan, the PRC and the Republic of China (Taiwan). Just as Japan has Yasukuni Shrine (1879) to commemorate its war dead and China has the Memorial Hall for Compatriots Killed in the Nanking Massacre (1985), Taipei has erected a National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine (Zhonglie ci 忠烈祠, 1969), in reality dedicated more to the Second Sino-Japanese War than the Revolution of 1911.

  • 6 Wakabayashi 2007. On the memory debate, see Mitter 2007 and more particularly Yoshida 2006. On the (...)

4In the West, researchers have not seriously investigated Nanking and lack awareness of the results of international research. The best English-language work available on the subject consists primarily of contributions from Japanese researchers.6 Yet Japanese research, drawing on Chinese scholarship, has continued apace since the late 1990s, despite the exact details of the events remaining elusive. Finally, just as with European scholarship on the Shoah since the late 1970s, negationist publications have continually played an important role in Japan by stimulating historical research there. These publications will be a key focus of this paper.

5I will begin with a general overview of the types of sources and documents available for this historiography. As well as being a crucial element in itself, such a review will help us understand how research on Nanking has taken shape since the end of the 1960s. Section two presents Japanese “militant” research conducted between the end of the 1960s and the late 1970s. Section three describes the links between the historiography of the Nanking Massacre and the military historiography, from the late 1970s until shortly after the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre in 1987. Finally, section four analyses the increase in scholarship from the PRC since 1992 and the tensions between memory and Japanese conservative reaction that accompanied the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war in 1995.

I. Corpora of sources

6In the autumn of 2015, as Taiwan was holding a major exhibition at the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the ROC’s victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan, featuring a heavy focus on the Nanking Massacre, the UNESCO headquarters in Paris saw a clash between the organisation and the Japanese Minister of Education, Hase Hiroshi 馳浩 (1961–). The cause was the inclusion in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register of documents relating to the Nanking Massacre. The debate served to remind Europe and the rest of the world that the Asia-Pacific War was still a contentious issue in the Far East. By the end of the year, Japan threatened to withdraw its funding of UNESCO, to which it was de facto the largest contributor (since the United States had suspended its payment of membership contributions before withdrawing completely from the organisation in October 2017). This attempt to force UNESCO’s hand is reminiscent of the tactics employed by Japan with the League of Nations in 1932 following its invasion of Manchuria. Yet the documents listed on the UNESCO register are not new and all are recognised by historians. The majority of the records, documents and witness accounts listed by UNESCO had already been presented at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) held in Tokyo between 1946 and 1948.

7Analysis in the broadest sense of the Nanking Massacre developed along two parallel lines corresponding to two separate periods. The first (in the 1940s and 1950s) consists of what can be described as official research focusing on state documents and court records. Primary sources and secondary documents from immediately after the event tend to blend together to form, along with military sources, the main corpora on the Nanking Massacre. The second body of work (from the 1970s to 1990s) is more scholarly in nature and corresponds to a true historiography of the Nanking Massacre, which is the subject of this paper. Research on Nanking has been accompanied in the background by intense journalistic activity, helping to bring the issue back into the spotlight, forcing the state apparatus and judicial system to address the problem and then motivating historical research after the 1970s. The following list is merely for classification purposes and is not intended to be an exhaustive presentation of the documents available.

8Primary sources contemporaneous with the Nanking Massacre consist chronologically of the following four elements:

    • 7 Hsü 1939, Hora 1985, Brook 1999. Hsü later served as vice-representative of the Republic of China (...)
    • 8 Brook 1999, p. 4.
    • 9 Rabe 1998 (English translation).

    Documentary records of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. This collection of texts includes letter exchanges between the committee and Japanese officers, compiled in 1939 by Hsü Shuhsi (Xu Shuxi) 徐淑希 (1892–1982) for the government of the Republic of China.7 This “slim volume […] is still the best source on what happened to the people of Nanking between December 1937 and February 1938”.8 It also clearly shows that Chiang Kai-shek did concern himself with the Nanking Massacre at the time of the events. This corpus includes notes and records written by members of the committee, such as the Diaries of John Rabe (1882–1950), published in Germany in 1997.9

    • 10 Document published in Hora 1985, vol. 1, p. 374–380.

    Statistics compiled by the Republic of China’s Red Swastika Society (Hong wanzi hui 紅卍字會) and the Chongshantang 崇善堂, which disposed of the vast majority of corpses. Their combined figures (155,337 bodies) can be taken as a minimum death toll. These statistics were submitted to the IMTFE but not presented.10

  1. International press coverage of the event by foreign correspondents in Nanking, notably Frank Durdin (1907–1998) for the New York Times and Archibald Steele (1903–1992) for the Chicago Daily News, in addition to a book by Harold J. Timperley (1898–1954), a Manchester Guardian journalist stationed in Shanghai: What War Means: The Japanese Terror in China, published in 1938.

    • 11 Yoshida 1997.

    Japanese military sources, specifically the archives of the Central China Area Army, and military documents from the Chinese National Revolutionary Army –which since 1949 correspond de facto to the Taiwanese archives. Contrary to popular belief, a precise administrative description of the events in Nanking was made to Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo. It is known that the Japanese authorities (army and military police) destroyed military documents between 14 and 20 August 1945. However, Japanese historians estimate that around one third of the field reports written by the seventy or so units that made up the Shanghai Expeditionary Army and the 10th Army survived.11 They are kept at the Japanese Ministry of Defence, in the archives of the Bōei kenkyūjo 防衛研究所 (National Institute for Defence Studies), the equivalent of France’s IRSEM (Institute for Strategic Research at the Military School).
    In addition to these first four sets of sources, a corpus of visual documents exists in the form of photographs and films. The most famous example is a video shot by American missionary John Magee (1884–1953), who revealed documentary footage of the massacre in 1938. Nevertheless, these documents provide a visual illustration of the massacre rather than enabling analysis of the event.
    The Nanking Massacre first became a state and judicial matter during the IMTFE, which focused essentially on crimes against peace, in other words, on Japan’s responsibility for starting and waging war (Class A war crimes). Class B war crimes were, in fact, also tried in the case of Matsui, although he was judged for his actions in starting the war, since he extended the fighting from Shanghai to Nanking. The IMTFE made abundant use of sources and documents from corpora 1 to 3. Class B war crimes in general were tried by the Republic of China (Nationalist China) and then, after 1949, by the People’s Republic of China. Accordingly, three further sets of sources and documents can be distinguished:

  2. The sections of the IMTFE transcript of proceedings relating to Nanking.

  3. The proceedings of the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal or Nanking Trials (1946–48, including the famous case of Okamura Yasuji 岡村寧次 who was acquitted).

  4. A corpus of testimonies by Chinese survivors, compiled by PRC authorities during the 1950s and listed by UNESCO in 2015.

  5. These various corpora were compiled by Japan between the 1970s and 1990s and by the PRC in the 1980s. The four most important compilations –created by historians and described in parts 2 and 3 of this paper– are as follows (see part 4 for those established by the PRC):

    • 12 Hora ed. 1985.

    Volumes 8 and 9 of the series Nicchū sensō shishiryō 日中戦争史資料 (Historical Materials from the Sino-Japanese War): Nankin jiken 南京事件 (The Nanking Incident), parts I and II, edited by Hora Tomio 洞富雄 and published in 1973 by Kawade shobō. These two volumes were republished independently in 1985.12 Volume 1 contains all portions of the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (original Japanese version) relating to the Nanking Massacre; volume 2 is a compilation of Japanese translations of contemporary press articles from the Manchester Guardian and New York Times, as well as documents issued by the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, taken from the previously mentioned compilation by Hsü Shuhsi.

    • 13 Di er Zhonghua lishi dang’anguan ed. 1987. See also note 61.

    The Chinese publication Qin Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha dang’an 侵华日军南京大屠杀档案 (Documents on the Nanking Massacre Committed by the Japanese Army of Invasion), published in Nanking in 1987 and edited by the Second Historical Archives of China. This work presents documents from the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal.13

    • 14 Nankin jiken chōsa kenkyūkai ed. 1992.

    The two-volume Japanese-language compilation Nankin jiken shiryōshū 南京事件資料集 (Collection of Documents on the Nanking Incident), edited by the Nankin jiken chōsa kenkyūkai 南京事件調査研究会 (Nanking Incident Research Group) and published by Aoki shoten in 1992.14

    • 15 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai 1989–1993.

    The three-volume Nankin senshi 南京戦史 (History of the Battle of Nanking) and Nankin senshi shiryōshū 南京戦史資料集 (Collection of Documents on the History of the Battle of Nanking), published between 1989 and 1993 by the Nankin senshi henshū iinkai 南京戦史編集委員会 (Battle of Nanking Editorial Committee), which is overseen by the Japanese military organisation Kaikōsha 偕行社. This corpus consists of military sources of the utmost importance.15

9Ultimately, despite its limitations, the literature available on the Nanking Massacre is quite considerable. Other sources and documents, in particular the testimonies by individuals and military units, are covered in part 4. The documentation available on the massacre is extremely varied in nature. These materials must be compared and cross-referenced in order to obtain as accurate a picture as possible of the events.

10The following section looks at the genesis of historical research on the Nanking Massacre.

II. Early historical research and its negation: the Vietnam War era

11Before we begin looking at the genealogy of the historiography of Nanking, it is important to make a general comment about the political configuration of East Asia. While democracy was restored to Japan by the Constitution of 1946, in 1949 China became the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the authoritarian Republic of China relocated to Taiwan. The nature of these three political regimes determines to a certain degree the historiography produced in each country. This does not mean that the historiography of the PRC should be rejected; quite the opposite in fact when conducting a historiographical analysis. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Japanese historiographic research dominated the first period beginning in the late 1960s and running until the creation of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1977. This is somewhat surprising, given, as we shall see, that the historiography produced during this period was based solely on documentation known to exist since the war or produced during the IMTFE, and thus available. The progress of Japanese research compared to that of the PRC in the 1970s can only be explained by the chaos of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Finally, many high-quality Chinese studies have been published overseas, in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

  • 16 Inoue 2017, Nanta 2019.
  • 17 Inoue 1953.
  • 18 Tōyama et al. 1955, Brunet 2010.

12Historical research on the Asia-Pacific War began immediately after the conflict ended. Initially it was conducted by a short-lived war investigation committee established at the behest of Prime Minister Shidehara Kijūrō 幣原喜重郎 (1872–1951) in 1945 to 1946.16 Then in 1953, the Rekishigaku kenkyūkai 歴史学研究会 (Historical Science Society of Japan) published a collective work on world history featuring a chapter by Inoue Kiyoshi 井上清 (1913–2001) on “Japanese Imperialism and Asia”.17 Last but not least, in 1955, historians Tōyama Shigeki 遠山茂樹 (1922–2001), Fujiwara Akira 藤原彰 (1922–2003) and Imai Seiichi 今井清一 (1924–) collectively published their Shōwa-shi 昭和史 (History of the Shōwa Era).18 Inoue and Tōyama, both Marxist historians and progressive academics, were renowned scholars of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan. This seminal work from 1955 was the first to attempt a critical review of Japanese policies during the 1930s and 1940s. Its publication came just one year after La France de Vichy by Robert Aron (1898–1975). Another notable event from 1955 was the Japanese government’s creation of a War History Office within the National Institute for Defence Studies (Bōei kenshūjo senshi-shitsu 防衛研修所戦史室, known today as Bōei kenkyūjo senshi kenkyū sentā 防衛研究所戦史研究センター), itself part of the Japanese Defence Agency (elevated to the Ministry of Defence in 2007). Its mission was to assemble the documents and archives of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy in order to write a history –in other words a state narrative– of the Asia-Pacific War. The same thing occurred in the Republic of China in Taiwan, as we shall see later. The role of this “official” research institute regarding the documentation is problematic. In a context where most of Japan’s military archives were burned in August 1945, the documents that did survive were either seized or concealed. Access to the collection has been considered an issue.

  • 19 Imai 1963, p. 308–313.
  • 20 Rekishigaku kenkyūkai 1970, vol. 1 and vol. 9.

13The studies of the Nanking Massacre which began to appear in the late 1960s were incorporated into the wider historiography of the Second Sino-Japanese War, indicating a growing receptiveness to the subject within the field of history. After the previously mentioned publications from the 1950s, the 25-volume Japanese History, published by Iwanami in 1963, focused heavily on the question of militarism and the Asia-Pacific War in its four volumes devoted to modern history. A lengthy chapter by historian Imai Seiichi on the “Supremacy of the Military and the Sino-Japanese War” mentions the Battle of Shanghai and the Nanking Massacre.19 In contrast, another important series, also entitled Japanese History, published in ten volumes by the University of Tokyo in 1970 and also featuring the participation of eminent historians, makes no mention of the massacre.20 The issue was not yet given equal weight by all. Could it be that it seemed premature to the academic establishment to mention Nanking in 1970?

  • 21 Honda 1972.

14The Nanking Massacre came to wider attention thanks to a series of articles written by an investigative journalist, Honda Katsuichi 本多勝一 (1932–). Two factors helped the subject gain prominence: the Vietnam War and the establishment of diplomatic ties between Japan and the PRC in 1972, when the two nations signed a joint communiqué in which Japan recognised its war crimes. As a war correspondent in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, Honda had documented the atrocities committed by American troops, devoting a book to the subject in 1968. The violence of the Vietnam War moved him to describe the Second Sino-Japanese War from the victims’ perspective. The investigations he conducted in China in 1971 formed the basis of a series of articles published in the newspaper The Asahi. These were then presented in book form in 1972 as Chūgoku no tabi 中国の旅 (Travels in China) and subsequently appeared in English translation.21 Given that Honda limited himself to presenting first-person testimonies, his book cannot be considered a work of historical analysis. Furthermore, only one chapter, comprised of four personal accounts, is devoted to Nanking. Nevertheless, Chūgoku no tabi sparked controversy in Japan and stimulated historical research on the events.

  • 22 Kasahara 2007, p. 109–110; Wakabayashi 2007, p. 115–148.
  • 23 The two officers in question, Mukai Toshiaki 向井敏明(1912–1948) and Noda Tsuyoshi 野田毅(1912–1948), were (...)

15The first effect of Honda’s articles in The Asahi was an outpouring of Japanese personal testimonies on the Nanking Massacre in newspapers and magazines between 1971 and 1975. The second was the appearance of a counter-discourse questioning the veracity of these testimonies or even denying the massacre itself. The first rebuttal of the Nanking Massacre famously appeared in April 1972 in a series of articles by Suzuki Akira 鈴木明on the “Illusion of the ‘Nanking Massacre’” (“Nankin daigyakusatsu” no maboroshi 「南京大虐殺」の幻), published in the conservative magazine Shokun! 諸君!.22 These articles, published in a book of the same name in 1973, specifically criticised Honda’s recording of testimonies relating to Nanking, and one incident in particular: the killing “contest” conducted by two Japanese army officers, which was reported in the Japanese press in December 1937 and has come to be seen as emblematic of the Nanking Massacre.23 Suzuki’s criticism centred on his assertion that the witnesses had fabricated their memories based on unsubstantiated journalistic accounts. He acknowledged that the massacre had taken place but considered it impossible to establish the truth of what had actually occurred, describing it as “unknowable” (maboroshi 幻). The term would prove to be long-lasting. The controversy over Honda’s book raged on in the pages of Shokun!, with the same arguments being espoused this time by Yamamoto Shichihei 山本七平, a former soldier who asserted that the infamous 100-man killing contest was a fabrication by journalists.

  • 24 Hora 1967.
  • 25 Hora 1972.
  • 26 Hora ed. 1985 (reprint).

16Amid this controversy over Honda’s book, historians were also helping to bring the issue of Nanking to public consciousness. In 1967, for example, Hora Tomio 洞富雄 (1906–2000) published a chapter entitled the “Nanking Atrocity” (Nankin atoroshitī 南京アトロシティイ) in a book he wrote on modern war.24 He followed this up in 1972 by producing the world’s first academic treatment of the massacre: Nankin jiken 南京事件 (The Nanking Incident).25 Hora was a professor at Waseda University specialising in modern and contemporary Japanese history. The following year, an extensive compilation of original documents relating to the war appeared in the form of the nine-volume Nicchū sensō shishiryō 日中戦争史資料 series (Historical Materials from the Sino-Japanese War), published between 1973 and 1991.26 The two volumes edited by Hora, entitled The Nanking Incident, presented the sources he had used for his 1972 book: namely, the letters compiled by Hsü in 1939, contemporary press articles and all sections of the IMTFE proceedings relating to Matsui and Nanking.

  • 27 Hora 1972, p. 173–193.
  • 28 Ibid., p. 180.
  • 29 Document no. 1706, Hora 1972, p. 176.
  • 30 For more on this subject see: Hayashi 2005, p. 101–110, Kushner 2015, p. 137–284.
  • 31 Figure put forward by the prosecution. Brook 1999, p. 2.
  • 32 Negationists claim that the figure of 300,000 was invented either by the Allies or by the Communist (...)

17Hora’s Nankin jiken was an extensive reworking of his 1967 chapter on the massacre. Approximately one half focuses on the beginning of the “north China events”, in other words, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and on the Battle of Shanghai. The second half attempts to make a systematic analysis of the available documentation and propose a death toll for the Nanking Massacre.27 The categories proposed by Hora were subsequently adopted by other researchers, namely: the “mopping up” operations to clear the city of concealed enemy troops, the search for plain-clothed soldiers, rape, arson, and the Japanese army’s penetration into the Nanking Safety Zone. When calculating the number of Chinese Nationalist soldiers defending the city (100,000),28 Hora based his estimate on Japanese military records, while for the death toll he used as a minimum the figures provided by the Chinese burial organisations (155,337 bodies), as well as estimates by members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone and a report prepared by the Nanking state prosecutor which was submitted to the IMTFE (200,000 deaths).29 Hora also discussed the figures proposed by the Kuomintang at the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal for B-class criminals,30 where estimates such as 295,52531 and then 340,000 deaths32 were suggested. In short, Hora’s study examined documents known to exist since the IMTFE and did not attempt, at this stage, a detailed reconstruction of the events on the ground. Nevertheless, Hora’s book set out the main challenges that would face later historians: determining both the size of the population in the area subjected to Japanese brutality (Nanking and its suburbs) and the number of Chinese Nationalist troops garrisoned in the city; and estimating the number of civilian and military deaths based on the sources and documents mentioned in the first part of this paper and on projections of the civilian population and size of the Chinese garrison.

  • 33 Kasahara 2007, p. 118–120.
  • 34 See part 4 of this paper for a more detailed discussion of the competition between Japanese witness (...)
  • 35 Vidal-Naquet 1987, p. 37–41 and p. 134–155.

18The advances made in research during the 1970s and 1980s were driven by controversies featuring an initially minimalist school which gradually became negationist. This paper will merely present some of the main publications and protagonists. In 1972, Yamamoto continued his writings by publishing a series of articles in Shokun! entitled “Watashi no naka no nihon-gun 私の中の日本軍” (“My Japanese Army”), released in book format in 1975.33 The title brings to mind La vraie bataille d’Alger (The Real Battle of Algiers), published in 1971 by French army general Jacques Massu (1908–2002), which, like Yamamoto’s book, aimed to assert the primacy of one individual’s testimony over the work of historians. In reality, this rejection of scholarly discourse primarily led to competition between witnesses.34 In “My Japanese Army”, Yamamoto denied that the Nanking Massacre had taken place, arguing that it was impossible. Hora retaliated in 1975 with Nankin daigyakusatsu: “maboroshi” ka kōsaku hihan 南京大虐殺:「まぼろし」化工作批判 (A Criticism of Efforts to Portray the Nanking Massacre as an “Illusion”). Henceforth, the controversy pitting historians against authors from the minimalist and negationist camps took on an ultra-factualist dimension. In other words, the dispute came to focalise on criticising evidence, whereby the invalidation of specific elements was seen as disproving the entire massacre. Faced with this situation, historians chose to respond point by point, thereby unwittingly fanning the flames of controversy indefinitely while also giving it the false appearance of a “debate”. This rhetorical trap was criticised shortly after by Pierre Vidal-Naquet (1930–2006) with regard to Holocaust deniers.35

  • 36 Ienaga 1998: 365–372; Nanta 2001.
  • 37 Nanta 2001; Nanta 2010.

19Alongside this controversy, the Nanking debate was gaining particular prominence in Japan due to the junior high school history textbook trials, in which court proceedings were instituted against the Ministry of Education in 1965 by Ienaga Saburō 家永三郎 (1913–2002), a professor at Tokyo University of Education. Having notably written a history of the Pacific War, Ienaga wanted textbooks to include the war waged against the Republic of China. The Sugimoto Decision of 1970, named after the judge who awarded it, ruled in favour of Ienaga and enabled the Nanking Massacre to appear in senior high school textbooks in 1974 and junior high school textbooks in 1975.36 Pressure from the Ministry of Education mounted in around 1980, while Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro 中曽根康弘 (1918–2019), in office from 1982 to 1987, would soon evoke a need for a “general review of the war”. The draft textbook Ienaga submitted for approval in 1980 contained a clear mention of the Nanking Massacre, albeit without figures. He was made to tone down his account of the events. The ministry ordered him to make further alterations between 1983 and 1984. In the meantime, in the summer of 1982, the history textbook issue had become an international diplomatic affair involving China and South Korea after the Ministry of Education ordered the removal of the term “war of aggression”.37 Ultimately, Nakasone was forced to broker dialogue and conciliation.

III. Research on military history and the new historiography

20A second period of research began in the latter half of the 1970s, running until the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre in 1987. This period saw the appearance of a historiography of Nanking based on military archives. Quite logically, the centrality of Japanese military records and archives within the corpora of documents on Nanking consolidated the dominance of the Japanese historiography. Research began at an official level as the Japanese and Taiwanese governments progressed with their narrations of the military history of the Second Sino-Japanese War by publishing extensive historical series and documentary compilations.

  • 38 Bōei kenkyūjo senshi-shitsu 1975.

21Between 1966 and 1980, Japan’s National Institute for Defence Studies published Senshi sōsho 戦史叢書 (War History Series), a collection of 102 thematic volumes on Japan’s pre-war military system and the Asia-Pacific War. Although this is yet another example of a history written from the state’s perspective, it lacks the militarist narratives that characterised official histories before 1945. Ultimately, it offers a non-critical narrative, simply describing the events and compiling the primary materials available. It is a purely military historiography based on the archives of the various army corps and former ministries. The Senshi sōsho collection includes the ten-volume series Daihon’ei Rikugunbu 大本榮陸軍部 (Imperial General Headquarters, Army Department). The first volume, published in 1967, examines Japanese command from the late nineteenth century onwards as well as the decisions made from 1937 to 1940 regarding the war in China. Another notable series within the Senshi sōsho collection is the three-volume Shina jihen Rikugun sakusen 支那事変陸軍作戦 (Army Strategy in the China Incident), published in 1975 and 1976.38 Volume one examines the fall of Nanking in the context of the Second Sino-Japanese War and attempts to set out the reasons behind the attack on the Chinese capital using archived documents. Despite this, it makes no mention of the massacre.

  • 39 Qin Xiaoyi et al. 1981–1988.
  • 40 See for example, for the previous decade: Zhongguo renmin daxue 1962: 347–471

22At around the same time, between 1981 and 1988, the Commission for the History of the Party, Central Committee of the Nationalist Party, Republic of China (Dangshi weiyuanhui Zhonghua minguodang zhongyang weiyuanhui 黨史委員會中華民國黨中央委員會), in Taiwan, published a seven-part series edited by the historian Qin Xiaoyi 秦孝儀 (1921–2007) entitled Zhonghua minguo zhongyao shiliao chubian 中華民國重要史料初編 (Important Historical Materials of the Republic of China). Its focus was the War of Resistance Against Japan.39 Just like Senshi sōsho, this official Taiwanese publication, overseen by a historian close to Chiang Kai-shek, was a purely military history blending documentary compilation and critical analysis. Although it describes the fall of Nanking, the massacre is not mentioned in the section covering autumn 1937. Finally, in the People’s Republic of China, the works published on the eve of 1970 by the History Department of Renmin University (founded by the Communist Party of China) illustrate that research there was not as advanced as Taiwanese and Japanese publications from the same period.40

  • 41 Tanaka 1987.
  • 42 See the analysis by Wakabayashi (2001).
  • 43 Kreissler 2007. Chinese name: Qinhua Rijun Nanjing datusha yunan tongbao jinianguan 侵华日军南京大屠杀遇难同胞纪念 (...)

23In parallel with these official publications, Japanese academics in the field of military history began to turn their attention to the Nanking Massacre. At the dawn of the 1980s, books from the minimalist and negationist camps had carved a broader space for themselves in Japan, creating a context in which negationist publications were able to take centre stage. One notable example is Tanaka Masaaki 田中正明 (1911–2006), who branded the Nanking Massacre a “fiction” (kyokō 虚構) invented by the Allies between 1946 and 1948. Back in 1963, Tanaka had published a text lauding Indian judge Radhabinod Pal (1886–1967), who defended Japan and the “Great East Asia War” at the IMTFE. During the war, Tanaka served as personal secretary to General Matsui, commander of operations in Nanking. His numerous publications include three key works published in 1984, 1985 and 1987: an analysis of the Field Diary of General Matsui Iwane (Matsui Iwane taishō jinchū nisshi 松井石根大将陣中日記), a republication of that diary the following year, and Nankin jiken no sōkatsu – gyakusatsu hitei jūgo no ronkyo 南京事件の総括:虐殺否定十五の論拠 (Summary of the Nanking Incident: 15 Arguments that Refute the Massacre),41 partially translated into English as What Really Happened in Nanking: The Refutation of a Common Myth in 2000.42 The growth of Nanking denial in Japan between 1975 and 1987 was thus more or less synchronous with the controversies that erupted in France in 1978, leading to the introduction of the anti-negationist Gayssot Act in 1990. Tanaka’s republication of Matsui’s field diary sparked controversy when historians and several newspapers, including The Asahi, dissected the text and proved that Tanaka had tampered with the original. Matsui’s field diary was reproduced once again in 1989 in a compilation by the military organisation Kaikōsha (see below in this paper). At the same time, in 1985, the city of Nanking opened its Memorial Hall for Compatriots Killed in the Nanking Massacre.43

  • 44 Yoshida 1986.

24This flood of publications sparked a reaction from Japanese scholars. Among historians of the war or of the military system, Yoshida Yutaka 吉田裕 (1954–), a professor at Hitotsubashi University and former pupil of Fujiwara Akira, turned his attention to the Nanking Massacre. As previously noted, Fujiwara was a specialist in Japanese political and military history and co-wrote Shōwa-shi in 1955. He also published a book on the Nanking Massacre in 1985. The following year, in 1986, Yoshida took up the mantle by publishing the first detailed account of the Japanese army’s operations during the Nanking Massacre: Tennō no guntai to Nankin jiken 天皇の軍隊と南京事件 (The Emperor’s Army and the Nanking Incident).44 In terms of its method and choice of documents analysed, this book differs significantly from Hora’s work, which focused on sources dating from after the events and on witness accounts. In contrast, Yoshida drew on primary sources emanating from troops on the ground as well as on monographs published by former soldiers.

  • 45 Yoshida 1986, p. 113–115; Hayashi 2005, p. 131–133.
  • 46 Yoshida 1986, p. 165.

25Yoshida highlighted the treatment of soldiers captured in Nanking. Essentially, the Japanese army had a policy of not taking prisoners and –like France during the so-called “Algerian events”– Japan did not consider itself to be at war and thus did not feel bound by any international treaties during what it termed the “China incident”. The monographs published by soldiers did not deny that small-scale killings had taken place, but justified them as legitimate defence in response to prisoner “uprisings”. Field documents show that military command at division level ordered troops to “dispose” of prisoners. The term shobun 処分, meaning “to dispose of”, was used to order their elimination.45 Finally, Yoshida analysed the structural causes leading to the slaughtering of civilians, in particular the absence of a genuine military police force in the Central China Area Army, which was accompanied by just 102 members of the Kenpeitai 憲兵隊 (Gendarmerie/Japanese military police). No member of the Kenpeitai –in the capacity of military police– was present during the fall of Nanking, and just seventeen police officers accompanied General Matsui when he entered the city on 17 December.46 In other words, the army was unsupervised, entrusted to the command of each unit leader. This approach to historical inquiry, which involved analysing the structural causes rather than focusing solely on the massacre itself, subsequently came to be widely adopted by historians.

  • 47 Hata 1986, expanded edition 2007.
  • 48 Hata 1961.
  • 49 Hata 1986, p. 214.
  • 50 Hata posits that there are three “factions” within Nanking scholarship, validating revisionism as a (...)

26Another book on military history was published in 1986, this time hailing from a different school of thought within the field: Nankin jiken – gyakusatsu no kōzō 南京事件 「虐殺」の構造 (The Nanking Incident – Structure of a “Massacre”), by Hata Ikuhiko 秦郁彦 (1932–), a former researcher at the National Institute for Defence Studies who also worked on the aforementioned Senshi sōsho collection.47 Hata specialises in the history of the Japanese army and has published numerous works since 1961 on the Second Sino-Japanese War.48 He is well regarded in the English-speaking world and served as a visiting professor at Princeton University in 1978. He also wrote the chapter on Japan’s continental expansion from 1905 to 1941 in volume 6 of The Cambridge History of Japan, which focuses on the twentieth century (1988). Nankin jiken – gyakusatsu no kōzō was epoch-making. Like Yoshida, Hata analysed the structural causes of the massacre and highlighted the logistical failings of the Imperial Japanese Army, which was unable to control large numbers of POWs and so did not. However, while Hata, like Yoshida, stressed the need for a structural approach to investigating the massacre, he ignored the question of Japanese anti-Chinese sentiments. Aside from this omission, Hata’s book was also criticised for its estimated death toll, since Hata simply reworked the figure calculated in the immediate aftermath of the event by sociologist Lewis S. C. Smythe (1901–1978), from the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. In his report, which in reality concerned only civilians, Smythe put the number of deaths at 40,000, from which Hata subtracted a third then added in soldiers.49 Hata never adjusted his initial estimate, even in the revised and expanded version of his book in 2007, despite the appearance of new sources used by historians on the POWs killed by various units. Given Hata’s attempts to limit the scope of the massacre and provide an “intermediate” thesis on the events, his work on Nanking has subsequently come to be seen as the Trojan horse of the revisionist camp.50

  • 51 Fujiwara 1987, two vols.

27Fujiwara Akira resumed the work of Yoshida and Hata the following year, in 1987, when he published Nihon gunji-shi 日本軍事史 (A Military History of Japan), divided into two volumes on pre- and post-1945.51 At the time, Fujiwara was a professor at Hitotsubashi University alongside Yoshida, and a member of the Science Council of Japan (Nihon gakujutsu kaigi 日本学術会議). He had already studied Japanese military history in the 1960s before concentrating on the links between the modern emperor system (tennō-sei 天皇制) and Japanese imperialism in Asia, leading him to co-write a book on the subject with Yoshida in 1984. Nihon gunji-shi does not focus solely on the military machine or military techniques but instead attempts to meticulously reconstruct the history of Japan’s military from the 1870s onwards, replacing it in the context of the wars it fought in Asia and the Pacific. In other words, it provides a history of the military machine analysed in the context of contemporary imperialism.

  • 52 Fujiwara 1987, vol. 1, p. 235–240.
  • 53 Fujiwara 1987, vol. 1, p. 225–227.
  • 54 Fujiwara 1988.

28Nihon gunji-shi contains a chapter on the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945. It concludes that there was a loss of military discipline and a loosening of moral standards among the troops after the Battle of Shanghai and in general as the war in China escalated.52 Fujiwara offers a detailed description of the Nanking Massacre.53 This description –which he expanded on in a 1988 publication– places the massacre in the context of the wider history of the modern Japanese army.54 The massacre is no longer treated as an isolated event but as the result of a specific set of conditions, which the historian is duty bound to explain. Fujiwara’s conclusion, as a leading scholar on the military and political history of modern Japan, illustrates the general framework of thought applied to Nanking by Japanese historical scholarship on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre in 1987.

  • 55 Fujiwara, 1987, vol. 1, p. 225–227.

The Japanese army unlawfully executed a large number of prisoners and repeatedly committed acts of great cruelty against civilians, who were the victims of rape and murder as the army advanced and during the operations conducted from Shanghai and Hangzhou to Nanking, then during the taking of Nanking and the weeks that followed. These acts were reported all over the world as the Nanking atrocities and were one of the main charges against Japan during the Tokyo Trial. This affair is an established historical fact in China, where the city of Nanking has a memorial. In Japan, however, some claim that a massacre did not take place, arguing, in an attempt to evade our responsibility for the war and influence the Ministry of Education’s history textbook authorisation process, that the figures put forward by China are exaggerated. Yet the reality of this massacre cannot be doubted. It has been proven by numerous studies […] There were no less than 200,000 victims –Chinese civilians and soldiers– in Nanking.55

  • 56 Awaya 1989; Awaya 1995.

29Finally, the late 1970s and 1980s saw the appearance of research conducted by two scholarly societies: the Battle of Nanking Editorial Committee (Nankin senshi henshū iinkai 南京戦史編集委員会), part of the military organisation Kaikōsha 偕行社, and the Nanking Incident Research Group (Nankin jiken chōsa kenkyūkai 南京事件調査研究会), founded in 1984 and linked to researchers from Hitotsubashi University (a group that included Fujiwara, Yoshida and Hora). At the same time, research was also growing into issues such as war crimes in general, biological and chemical weapons testing and the history of the IMTFE –the main sticking point for conservative critics. One notable scholar in this development was Awaya Kentarō 粟屋憲太郎 (1944–), another former pupil of Fujiwara’s and a specialist in the history of the IMTFE.56 Awaya also edited the volumes on gas weapons in the archive series Jūgo nen sensō gokuhi shiryōshū 十五年戦争極秘史料集 (Top Secret Documents on the Fifteen-Year War), published between 1989 and 2002.

IV. From the fiftieth anniversary of the Nanking Massacre in 1987 to the fiftieth anniversary of Japan’s defeat in 1995: Sino-Japanese research and conservative reaction

30The years surrounding the fiftieth anniversary of Nanking in 1987 saw research into the massacre accelerate. This momentum continued until a few years after the fiftieth anniversary of Japan’s defeat in 1995. The response to this second anniversary was particularly contentious in Japan due to a coalition being in power, led by the Socialist Party and Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi 村山富市 (1924–). In 1995, Murayama issued a landmark statement regarding the war in China and Japanese colonial rule. After the studies published in the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of Nanking in 1987, the period from 1987 to the 1995 and 1997 anniversaries was characterised by the appearance of compilations of sources and documents.

  • 57 Di er lishi dang’anguan ed. 1987.
  • 58 See note 61.

31Following the republication in 1985 of the corpus originally edited by Hora in 1973, the PRC’s national archives launched a drive to compile historical sources in preparation for commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan. Consequently, in 1987 the Second Historical Archives of China (Di er lishi danganguan 第二历史档案馆) published the series Qin Hua Rijun Nanjing datusha dang’an 侵华日军南京大屠杀档案 (Documents on the Nanking Massacre Committed by the Japanese Army of Invasion).57 This corpus is the result of official research comparable to the military history collections published by the Japanese and Taiwanese governments in the 1970s. The Second Historical Archives of China oversaw several other documentary compilations on the war.58

  • 59 Nankin jiken chōsa kenkyūkai 1992; Nankin senshi henshū iinkai 1989–1993.
  • 60 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai 1989, vol. 1, p. 728–732.
  • 61 The documents presented by Kaikōsha in the section on Chinese materials are from three main corpora (...)

32The baton was then passed back to Japan, which published two collections between 1989 and 1993, one compiled by the Nanking Incident Research Group (which included researchers from Hitotsubashi University) and the other by the Kaikōsha-led Battle of Nanking Editorial Committee, both mentioned earlier in this paper.59 This second corpus –focusing on military sources– also features Chinese documents translated into Japanese, including a report by Tang Shengzhi 唐生智 (1889–1970) on “The Defence of Nanking”.60 Tang led the Chinese troops during the battle to defend Nanking but eventually fled the city, abandoning his men and the general population. The collection also contains translations of telegram exchanges between Tang and Chiang Kai-shek. These documents are either from corpora compiled while the Republic of China was still located on the mainland (1912–1949) or from corpora compiled in 1987 by the national archives of the PRC.61 The collection also includes a summary volume entitled The History of the Battle of Nanking. Kaikōsha is not a scholarly group but a military organisation created before WWII. Membership is open to retired personnel from the army and air force, with a counterpart –Suikōkai 水交会– existing for navy veterans. This explains how Kaikōsha was able to bring together such valuable military sources. The group was revived in 1952 and returned to its original pre-war name –its current name– in 1957. Kaikōsha had traditionally denied the Nanking Massacre, adopting a stance similar to those who defended the “illusion” or “unknowable” (maboroshi) thesis, in other words, a negationist stance. Nevertheless, The History of the Battle of Nanking, which was the culmination of Kaikōsha’s work, now acknowledged the reality of the massacre, albeit with a death toll limited to 16,000 people. In some ways, this “intermediate” stance marked an important step forward for an organisation formally affiliated with the Imperial Japanese Army.

  • 62 Kasahara 1997. The term POW is used here but clearly this may appear inappropriate. It is used in t (...)
  • 63 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai (ed.) 1989, documentation vol. 1, p. 303–367.

33No less vital are the numerous memoirs and war diaries published during this same period, written by former servicemen present in Nanking. Several different categories can be distinguished. One of the most important is certainly the diary of Nakajima Kesago 中島今朝吾 (1881–1945), who commanded the 16th Division, an infantry unit originally from Kyoto. The 16th Division played a central role in the attack on Nanking and the fall of the city, as well as in the execution of POWs.62 In his war diary published in 1984, Nakajima admitted having ordered the systematic killing of tens of thousands of Chinese prisoners. This text was later included in the Kaikōsha compilation.63 Nakajima described the events of 13 December 1937 in a passage heavily debated by historians. It mentions the “cleaning up” (seisō 清掃) of the city and “mopping up” (sōtō 掃蕩/掃討) of remaining troops, plus the capturing of soldiers as they tried to flee to the suburbs.

Most of the defeated enemy fled into the wooded and rural areas within the operational sector of the 16th Division, while others fled from Zhenjiang Fortress [east of Nanking]. The prisoners were everywhere, making it difficult to dispose of them.

Given the general policy of not taking captives, we had to deal with them one by one. When large masses of 1,000, 5,000 or even 10,000 people arrive, it is impossible to disarm them. And while the situation seemed safe because they had lost the will to fight and followed us in tight groups, if there had been a disturbance, it would have been very difficult to deal with them. We therefore obtained more troops by truck, dispatched to supervise and transport the prisoners. The evening of the 13th saw the movement of a large number of trucks […].

According to information obtained later, Sasaki Unit disposed of [shori 処理] 15,000 captives; the commander of the company defending Taiping Gate disposed of 1,300; and some 7,000 to 8,000 captives were gathered near Xianhe Gate, with more continuing to come there to surrender.

  • 64 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai (ed.) 1989, documentation vol. 1, ibid., p. 326.

To dispose of these 7,000 to 8,000, a large ditch would have been necessary. Since this was impossible to find, the prisoners were divided into groups of 100 or 200 and then transported to appropriate locations so they could be disposed of.64

  • 65 Kasahara 2007, p. 160–161.
  • 66 Kizaka ed. 1989.

34Other accounts were violently criticised by Kaikōsha, for example during a controversy surrounding the former soldier Sone Kazuo 曽根一夫 in December 1988, once again in the pages of Shokun!.65 Itakura Yoshiaki 板倉由明 (1932–1999) proved that the account published by Sone –who served in an artillery unit during the fall of Nanking and so was not on the frontline– was in reality a reconstruction of other accounts told to his veterans association, so disgusted was Sone by the stories of his fellow soldiers. The controversy generated much media coverage for Sone’s book. Itakura was a member of the Battle of Nanking Editorial Committee (led by Kaikōsha) and had studied the massacre since 1981. The committee was working at the time on the compilation of Nakajima’s war diary. Itakura was also one of the men responsible for highlighting Tanaka Masaaki’s falsification of the war diary of General Matsui. Other memoirs by conscripts who fought at the Battle of Nanking made a deep impact. These included the accounts by soldiers from the 16th and 20th Divisions, both infantry units from Kyoto. The publisher Aoki shoten, which was closely linked to the Hitotsubashi Group led by Fujiwara, Yoshida and Hora, published three testimonials by former soldiers in 1987, 1988 and 1989, followed in 1989 by a collection of documents from the 16th Division.66 These documents provided the perspective of conscripts rather than superior officers, in contrast to the corpus compiled by Kaikōsha. The death of the Shōwa Emperor (Hirohito) that same year, in 1989, seemed truly to mark a change of era.

  • 67 Hata 1986, p. 214.
  • 68 For more information on the minimalist estimations of Nanking’s population at the time of the massa (...)

35Despite this, major differences appeared between these two research groups. Members of the Kaikōsha-led Battle of Nanking Editorial Committee, such as Itakura, considered the massacre to have been on a smaller scale than that suggested by Yoshida and Fujiwara.67 One of the main arguments for this reduction in the scale of the event was the estimated total population of Nanking, which certain critics believed to be exaggerated. The variations in the conclusions of Japanese historians stem in large part from the figures adopted for the civilian population and the National Revolutionary Army, as noted previously regarding Hora’s work. These estimations are also frequently harnessed by negationists.68

  • 69 Hora, Fujiwara & Honda eds. 1992.
  • 70 Kasahara 1992, p. 321–328.

36In addition to the aforementioned compilations of documents and archives, in 1992 the Hitotsubashi Group published an important reference work entitled Nankin daigyakusatsu no kenkyū 南京大虐殺の研究 (Studies on the Nanking Massacre), edited by Fujiwara, Hora and the journalist Honda.69 This publication provides an overview of the evolution of Japanese research over a twenty-year period from 1972 to 1992, encompassing all the relevant themes and topics: the Japanese advance from Shanghai to Nanking, the Battle of Nanking, international law, the organisation of the National Revolutionary Army within Nanking, the execution of Chinese prisoners, negationism, and finally, the mass rapes. The chapter on the Nationalist army, written by Kasahara Tokushi (see below in this paper), was one of the first systematic Japanese studies of the issue and drew heavily on Chinese sources and studies, unlike previous works.70

  • 71 See the discussion of these publications in Kobayashi 1996, in particular p. 91.
  • 72 Bu 1995.

37The People’s Republic of China experienced a similar acceleration of research in the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan, with some 400 books published on the subject in 1995. Notable examples include an examination of Japanese war crimes overseen by the History Research Office of the Chinese Communist Party; a chronological catalogue of Japanese war crimes published by the Modern History Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Zhongguo shehuikexueyuan Jindaishi yanjiusuo 中国社会科学院近代史研究所); and a compilation of documents on Japanese war crimes by province, published by the same institute.71 In 1995, historian Bu Ping 步平, then vice president of the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences and future director of the Modern History Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, published in Japan a Japanese-language study on the use of chemical warfare by Japan.72 Bu is one of the PRC’s most active scholars on the use of biological and chemical weapons by the Imperial Japanese Army and the traces they left in China.

  • 73 Nanta 2001; Yoshida 2009: 141–148. Members of the Liberal Democratic Party launched a petition deno (...)
  • 74 Rekishi kentō iinkai 1995, p. 252–271.
  • 75 Aoki 2016; Nanta 2017, p. 65–68; Leroy 2018.
  • 76 Takahashi 2012, p. 77–81.

38In Japan, preparations for the fiftieth anniversary of the war’s end in 1995 as well as Prime Minister Murayama’s statement led to a systemisation of negationist discourse.73 The Liberal Democratic Party, the opposition party at the time, set up the History Examination Committee (Rekishi kentō iinkai 歴史検討委員会) with a view to producing a conservative history of the Asia-Pacific War. Supporters of the commission included future prime minister Abe Shinzō 安倍晋三 (1954–). The final report was published in 1995 under the title Daitōa sensō no sōkatsu 大東亜戦争の総括 (Summary of the Greater East Asian War). It called for a “national movement” to produce new history textbooks. The person in charge of the section on the Nanking Massacre was none other than Tanaka Masaaki, General Matsui’s former secretary. Tanaka labelled the massacre a “fiction” (kyokō 虚構) in a chapter that can only be described as negationist.74 Once again, the views of an eyewitness “who saw nothing” was used to counter the work of historians. The result of the History Examination Committee’s meetings was the creation in 1997 of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and, that same year, Nippon kaigi 日本会議 (Japan Conference), an organisation that aims to unite “real conservatives” behind the scenes of the Japanese government and restore Japan’s pre-1945 order.75 The early 2000s subsequently saw renewed interest in Yasukuni Shrine commemorating the war dead.76

  • 77 Sun 1990.
  • 78 Sun & Wu 1997.

39Neither these political setbacks nor the history textbook revisions after 2010 hampered scholarship on Nanking. Indeed, several particularly important studies were published in China and Japan during this period. The situation in the People’s Republic of China had changed significantly since the early 1980s thanks to the general change of context owing to the end of the Cultural Revolution. In 1977, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences had been established and this was followed by the era of Deng Xiaoping 鄧小平 (1904–1997), who as China’s de facto leader from 1978 to 1992 orchestrated the country’s radical transformation. Despite these changes, research in China remained politicised and, most importantly, dependent on the official military history compilations produced by the Japanese and Taiwanese governments. One notable Chinese study was produced by Sun Zhaiwei 孫宅巍 (1940–), a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who in 1990 published an estimated population size for Nanking on the eve of the fall of the city, based on the archives available in China.77 The question of how many people were living in Nanking at the time of the massacre had been an essential element since Hora’s work in the 1970s, but Hora himself had been unable to provide a detailed estimate. Sun then co-edited a book on the Nanking Massacre in 1997, providing an overview of Chinese research during the 1980s and 1990s.78

  • 79 Sun 1997.
  • 80 For example, Wang 2011, in a “revised international edition” published in Hong Kong by another hist (...)
  • 81 Sun 1997: 106–112.
  • 82 Kasahara 1997.
  • 83 Rabe 1998 for the English-language translation.

40The year 1997 saw a wealth of publications from various sources. Sun published his influential Nanjing baowei zhanshi 南京保衛戰史 (History of the Battle to Defend Nanking), this time in Taiwan.79 As in the case of Bu Ping, the most important and most neutral Chinese studies were published overseas.80 Sun’s Nanjing baowei zhanshi analyses the fall of the Chinese capital from the perspective of the Nationalist troops, with Sun following up his 1990 estimate of the population of Nanking with a study of the composition of Chiang Kai-shek’s army at the time of the battle to defend the city, as the imperial army closed in.81 As we have seen, this question of the size of the Chinese garrison force is as important as that of the population. On both these points, the publications by Chinese scholars supplemented the detailed calculations of Japanese historians, who subsequently used them in their work. This can be seen in the writings of historian Kasahara Tokushi 笠原十九司 (1944–), who in 1997 published Nankin jiken 南京事件 (The Nanking Incident).82 A specialist in modern Chinese history, Kasahara combined all of the approaches adopted by researchers to date –personal accounts, IMTFE documents, military histories and sources, population estimates by Chinese scholars– to produce a summary of research from the previous three decades. His Nankin jiken is the best-known study of the massacre in Japan, alongside Hata’s Nankin jiken – gyakusatsu no kōzō, published in 1986. However, the conclusions of these two historians differ significantly. Kasahara suggested a death toll of 130,000 –mostly soldiers– basing his estimate on the figures produced by Sun Zhaiwei, while Hata in his 2007 revised edition continued to rely on Smythe’s original estimate of 40,000. Finally, an important new source, the Diaries of John Rabe, was published in Germany in 1997 after being rediscovered by Chinese-American journalist Iris Chang (1968–2004).83 Chang helped bring the Nanking Massacre to public attention outside East Asia with her 1997 book The Rape of Nanking.

  • 84 Higashinakano 1998.
  • 85 For example, it was sent by the Sasakawa Foundation to the Centre d’Études sur la Chine Moderne et (...)
  • 86 Kobayashi 1998.

41All of these studies and publications came under fire from the two aforementioned conservative organisations founded in 1997 (Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and Nippon kaigi). Since then, an outright denialist school has been led by Higashinakano Shūdō 東中野修道 (1947–), a jurist specialising in East German law and with close links to the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, with whom he co-published two books. In 1998, Higashinakano published “Nankin gyakutsatsu” no tettei kenshō (published in English as The Nanking Massacre: Fact Versus Fiction: A Historian’s Quest for the Truth), which specifically attacked Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking.84 The English translation was widely disseminated free of charge to research institutes overseas during the second half of the 2000s.85 In 1998, Kobayashi Yoshinori 小林よしのり (1953–), a far-right activist who had defected from the left, published a manga entitled Sensō-ron 戦争論 (On War), in which he adopted the same stance on the Second Sino-Japanese War in general and on Nanking in particular, namely that it was a “fabrication” by the Allies.86 The rhetoric of these two authors was characteristic of the negationist school; it aimed to reject the validity of all the evidence accumulated to date, despite its growth in volume since the 1990s.

Epilogue: the internationalisation of research

42Research on the Nanking Massacre, stimulated by increased awareness among scholars and with the aid of journalists, has undergone several phases since its beginnings in the latter half of the 1960s. The result is some fifty years of accumulated research and studies of which I have presented just some of the key works. The research conducted by Hora Tomio in the early 1970s initially focused on documents and evidence collected for the IMTFE, in which survivor accounts and the records of Chinese burial organisations were key. In contrast, from the second half of the 1970s through to 1992, military historiography came to dominate, harnessing military sources of a different nature to the evidence presented at the IMTFE between 1946 and 1948. Finally, a period situated between the fiftieth (1987) and sixtieth (1997) anniversaries of the massacre, with the fiftieth anniversary of the end of WWII (1995) in between, saw an increase in testimonies and a proliferation of sources and documentary compilations –notably military– as well as advances in Chinese research made in collaboration with Japanese academics.

43On the eve of the new millennium, historical research had reached a state of completion following thirty years –since Hora’s 1967 publication– of scholarship and exchanges between historians from Japan, China and also Taiwan (in the field of military history). As previously noted, the period from 1986 to 1997 had seen an explosion of studies, discoveries and publications of source materials. All of the most important studies, based on key sources, date from this period. Yoshida, Hata and Kasahara subsequently refined their work by publishing studies on specific points, or by revising their original publications, as Hata did in 2007 with an expanded version of his 1986 opus. Despite this, it seemed reasonable to suppose that no major new advances would come out of the field after 2000. Scholarship has continued to grow in other directions instead.

44Firstly, although the main corpora of sources were published in around 1990, new materials have continued to come to light. This is attested by the provision of access in 2005 to certain documents for research purposes, like the diaries of Chiang Kai-shek, held at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.87 Similarly, access to documents has been partially improved thanks to institutions making certain resources and studies available online, as the National Institute for Defence Studies has attempted to do in Japan. Another example is the creation in 2001 of the Japan Centre for Asian Historical Records, reflecting Prime Minister Murayama’s 1995 pledge to provide internet access to archives.88

  • 89 Hatano 2006, chap. 4.
  • 90 Yang 2008.
  • 91 Kirokushū henshū iinkai ed. 2009.
  • 92 Gunji shigaku 2017; Iwatani 2017. See also the Dictionary of the Asia-Pacific War (Yoshida et al. 2 (...)
  • 93 See for example the Chinese contributions in Kitaoka & Bu 2014.
  • 94 Wakabayashi 2001; Wakabayashi 2007.
  • 95 Yoshida 2006.

45Secondly, there has been a growth in collaborative research since 1997, either in the form of individual projects or governmental ones. While Japanese research outputs were stabilising somewhere between Hata and Kasahara, Chinese scholarship, in the wake of Sun Zhaiwei and Bu Ping, began to assert itself in the East Asian historical debate. In 2006, Yang Tianshi 楊天石 (1936–), a historian from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, co-published with Hatano Sumio 波多野澄雄 (1947–), a historian of international relations, a study on the military history of the Kuomintang specifically focused on the Battle to Defend Nanking.89 Two years later, Yang then published a study in Hong Kong on Chiang Kai-shek and the beginnings of the Second Sino-Japanese War.90 Such publications have helped improve global knowledge of the conflict. Academic exchange has also occurred in the form of a series of international symposia held in nine countries across Asia, Europe and North America in 2007 and 2008.91 The internationalisation of scholarship on Nanking can also be seen at the linguistic level. While Japanese researchers initially worked almost exclusively on Japanese-language documents and sources between 1967 and 1992, this has not been the case since the 1990s, when the Japanese historiography of the Second Sino-Japanese War came to be dominated by scholars fluent in Chinese. This is evident in a special edition of the journal Gunji shigaku 軍事史学 (Journal of Military History), published in 2017 to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War.92 The same is true of Chinese historians studying the imperial army using Japanese documentation.93 This internationalisation has also seen the United States gradually enter the debate and conduct research on Nanking, in parallel with a spike in interest in the subject of “comfort women”. Following on from Iris Chang’s famous book in 1997, scholars like Bob Wakabayashi have turned their attention to the Nanking Massacre, initially from the angle of negationism, then widening their focus through projects combining American and Japanese historians.94 Around the same time, in 2006, Yoshida Takashi, a historian specialising in nationalism at Western Michigan University, published a book examining how perceptions of the Nanking Massacre have evolved in public memory in Japan, China and the United States.95

  • 96 Kitaoka & Bu 2014, vol. 2, p. 319–396.

46Finally, closer international ties have been established at the political level. Abe Shinzō, during his first term as prime minister in 2006 to 2007, requested that a Japan-China Joint History Research Committee be established in order to resolve the issue of their shared past. The committee was led on the Chinese side by historian Bu Ping, and on the Japanese side by Kitaoka Shin’ichi 北岡伸一 (1948–), a historian of Manchukuo with more conservative leanings. The many and frequently difficult meetings gave rise to a report published in 2014 in both languages, with the section on the beginnings of the Second Sino-Japanese War written by Hatano Sumio and, on the Chinese side, Rong Weimu 荣維木 (1952–) from the Institute of Modern History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.96 This report is a model of its kind and gives a detailed presentation of the various stances and respective arguments over five decades of research, without attempting to find a consensus. It was published at a time when Abe had been back into power since 2012 and it is not known what he or the Liberal Democratic Party thought of it. The results of the work by the Japan-China Joint History Research Committee illustrate the disparities between the political and academic worlds, which are the only explanation for the persistence of the debate on Nanking at the political level.

47The question of the Nanking Massacre continues to grow today. Initially driven by the victims’ families or by small groups of researchers, it subsequently became the main hobbyhorse of Japanese neo-conservatives before finally becoming a source of intergovernmental friction after 1997 with the rise of the PRC. This notwithstanding, from a European perspective, the subject raises questions regarding knowledge of the history of the Second Sino-Japanese War. As such, it is vital we promote awareness of the results of historical scholarship in East Asia.

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Notes

1 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai (ed.) 1989, documentation vol. 1, p. 48–49.

2 Family names precede given names, as is customary in East Asia.

3 Matsui commanded the Central China Area Army continuously from 30 October to its disbanding on 14 February 1938. He had his headquarters in Suzhou from 5 to 15 December 1937, in other words during the Battle of Nanking, when the massacres in the suburbs, the killing of military POWs and “mopping-up” operations took place (see elsewhere in this paper). After holding a victory parade to celebrate the capturing of the city on 17 December, Matsui left for Shanghai on 22 December. He was also commander of the Shanghai Expeditionary Army until 2 December, in other words during the entire Battle of Shanghai, at which point the position passed over to Prince Asakanomiya Yasuhiko 朝香宮鳩彦(1887–1981). The 10th Army was formed on 20 October 1937 and sent as reinforcement to Shanghai, where it arrived late. It played an important role in the Japanese decision taken in the field to extend their operations to Nanking.

4 This paper will not go back to the 1950s and 1960s to include an inventory of the huge number of Japanese and Chinese publications on the beginnings of the Second Sino-Japanese War, from the Marco Polo Bridge Incident (July 1937) to the Battle of Nanking.

5 Ingrao 2009, p. 123. Translation by Phoebe Green (2011).

6 Wakabayashi 2007. On the memory debate, see Mitter 2007 and more particularly Yoshida 2006. On the Japanese advance on Nanking and siege of the city, see for example the work of Danish journalist Peter Harmsen (2017).

7 Hsü 1939, Hora 1985, Brook 1999. Hsü later served as vice-representative of the Republic of China at the League of Nations beginning in 1940.

8 Brook 1999, p. 4.

9 Rabe 1998 (English translation).

10 Document published in Hora 1985, vol. 1, p. 374–380.

11 Yoshida 1997.

12 Hora ed. 1985.

13 Di er Zhonghua lishi dang’anguan ed. 1987. See also note 61.

14 Nankin jiken chōsa kenkyūkai ed. 1992.

15 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai 1989–1993.

16 Inoue 2017, Nanta 2019.

17 Inoue 1953.

18 Tōyama et al. 1955, Brunet 2010.

19 Imai 1963, p. 308–313.

20 Rekishigaku kenkyūkai 1970, vol. 1 and vol. 9.

21 Honda 1972.

22 Kasahara 2007, p. 109–110; Wakabayashi 2007, p. 115–148.

23 The two officers in question, Mukai Toshiaki 向井敏明(1912–1948) and Noda Tsuyoshi 野田毅(1912–1948), were tried at the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal in December 1947 and executed in January 1948.

24 Hora 1967.

25 Hora 1972.

26 Hora ed. 1985 (reprint).

27 Hora 1972, p. 173–193.

28 Ibid., p. 180.

29 Document no. 1706, Hora 1972, p. 176.

30 For more on this subject see: Hayashi 2005, p. 101–110, Kushner 2015, p. 137–284.

31 Figure put forward by the prosecution. Brook 1999, p. 2.

32 Negationists claim that the figure of 300,000 was invented either by the Allies or by the Communist Party of China after the 1980s, but Hora’s discussion shows that a higher figure had already been suggested by the Republic of China (now Taiwan) in the 1940s. See for example: Kobayashi 1998, p. 44–45. See the discussion about Tanaka Masaaki later in this paper.

33 Kasahara 2007, p. 118–120.

34 See part 4 of this paper for a more detailed discussion of the competition between Japanese witnesses. Jacques Massu’s book was itself criticised by another war survivor, Marcel Bigeard (1916–2010), who asserted that Massu’s views amounted to nothing more than personal opinion. He pointed out that “his book […] should have been called My Battle of Algiers and not The Real Battle of Algiers, because every colonel or even captain could have written their own account.” The argument that first-hand testimony is better able to establish historical truth than reconstructions by historians is thus highly tenuous. Bigeard 1975, p. 276.

35 Vidal-Naquet 1987, p. 37–41 and p. 134–155.

36 Ienaga 1998: 365–372; Nanta 2001.

37 Nanta 2001; Nanta 2010.

38 Bōei kenkyūjo senshi-shitsu 1975.

39 Qin Xiaoyi et al. 1981–1988.

40 See for example, for the previous decade: Zhongguo renmin daxue 1962: 347–471

41 Tanaka 1987.

42 See the analysis by Wakabayashi (2001).

43 Kreissler 2007. Chinese name: Qinhua Rijun Nanjing datusha yunan tongbao jinianguan 侵华日军南京大屠杀遇难同胞纪念馆.

44 Yoshida 1986.

45 Yoshida 1986, p. 113–115; Hayashi 2005, p. 131–133.

46 Yoshida 1986, p. 165.

47 Hata 1986, expanded edition 2007.

48 Hata 1961.

49 Hata 1986, p. 214.

50 Hata posits that there are three “factions” within Nanking scholarship, validating revisionism as a historical “school of thought” and categorising other Japanese scholars as “maximalists”. Hata 1986, p. 184–187.

51 Fujiwara 1987, two vols.

52 Fujiwara 1987, vol. 1, p. 235–240.

53 Fujiwara 1987, vol. 1, p. 225–227.

54 Fujiwara 1988.

55 Fujiwara, 1987, vol. 1, p. 225–227.

56 Awaya 1989; Awaya 1995.

57 Di er lishi dang’anguan ed. 1987.

58 See note 61.

59 Nankin jiken chōsa kenkyūkai 1992; Nankin senshi henshū iinkai 1989–1993.

60 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai 1989, vol. 1, p. 728–732.

61 The documents presented by Kaikōsha in the section on Chinese materials are from three main corpora: Zhonghua minguo shi baocun wenxian ziliao congkan 中華民國史保存資料叢刊, 1912–1949 (Corpus of Documents Conserved for the History of the Republic of China), compiled before the ROC moved to Taiwan; Kangri zhanzheng zhengmian zhanchang 抗日战争正面战场(Frontline Battles in the War of Resistance Against Japan) compiled in 1987 by the Second Historical Archives of China (PRC); and Nanjing baoweizhan 南京保卫战(The Battle to Defend Nanking), compiled in 1987 by the publisher Zhongguo wenshi chubanshe 中国文史出版社.

62 Kasahara 1997. The term POW is used here but clearly this may appear inappropriate. It is used in the sources themselves to refer to captured soldiers.

63 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai (ed.) 1989, documentation vol. 1, p. 303–367.

64 Nankin senshi henshū iinkai (ed.) 1989, documentation vol. 1, ibid., p. 326.

65 Kasahara 2007, p. 160–161.

66 Kizaka ed. 1989.

67 Hata 1986, p. 214.

68 For more information on the minimalist estimations of Nanking’s population at the time of the massacre, see the overview by David Askew (2001), who draws on these figures, and his chapter in Wakabayashi 2007, p. 86–114.

69 Hora, Fujiwara & Honda eds. 1992.

70 Kasahara 1992, p. 321–328.

71 See the discussion of these publications in Kobayashi 1996, in particular p. 91.

72 Bu 1995.

73 Nanta 2001; Yoshida 2009: 141–148. Members of the Liberal Democratic Party launched a petition denouncing the prime minister’s statement.

74 Rekishi kentō iinkai 1995, p. 252–271.

75 Aoki 2016; Nanta 2017, p. 65–68; Leroy 2018.

76 Takahashi 2012, p. 77–81.

77 Sun 1990.

78 Sun & Wu 1997.

79 Sun 1997.

80 For example, Wang 2011, in a “revised international edition” published in Hong Kong by another historian from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

81 Sun 1997: 106–112.

82 Kasahara 1997.

83 Rabe 1998 for the English-language translation.

84 Higashinakano 1998.

85 For example, it was sent by the Sasakawa Foundation to the Centre d’Études sur la Chine Moderne et Contemporaine at EHESS (Paris), “with a view to raising awareness of research outputs”. In his book, Higashinakano refutes the validity of all evidence, from the oldest to the most recent. He was sued for libel in Nanking by a Chinese woman who witnessed the atrocities. Having lost the case on 23 August 2006, he then initiated proceedings in Tokyo to establish his non-responsibility but once again lost. At around the same time, between 2003 and 2006, the families of Mukai and Noda, the officers involved in the 100-head killing contest, filed a defamation suit against Honda Katsuichi and a group of newspapers.

86 Kobayashi 1998.

87 Gunji shigaku 2017, general introduction.

88 https://www.jacar.go.jp/

89 Hatano 2006, chap. 4.

90 Yang 2008.

91 Kirokushū henshū iinkai ed. 2009.

92 Gunji shigaku 2017; Iwatani 2017. See also the Dictionary of the Asia-Pacific War (Yoshida et al. 2015).

93 See for example the Chinese contributions in Kitaoka & Bu 2014.

94 Wakabayashi 2001; Wakabayashi 2007.

95 Yoshida 2006.

96 Kitaoka & Bu 2014, vol. 2, p. 319–396.

Auteur

Arnaud Nanta is Senior Research Fellow at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (UMR 5062, IAO, Lyon). He studies the history of modern and contemporary Japan, with special attention to the history of social sciences and humanities in prewar Japan and its colonial empire (Taiwan, Korea). His publications deal with the history of archaeology, anthropology and historiography. They include: "Physical Anthropology in Colonial Korea: Science and Colonial Order (1916-1940)", in Richard McMahon, ed., National Races: Transnational Power Struggles in the Sciences and Politics of Human Diversity, 1840-1945, University of Nebraska Press, 2019; “Colonial Historiography in Taiwan and Korea under Japanese Rule. 1890s-1940s”, Politika, 2020; “Anthropologie coloniale, ‘gestion des sauvages’ et essentialisation des populations autochtones à Taiwan du temps de l’empire japonais (1895-1945)”, Moussons, 35, 2020.

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