The Nanjing Massacre in Fiction and the Expression of the Idea of the Nation-state

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.6, 2015


The Nanjing Massacre in Fiction and the Expression of the Idea of the Nation-state



Li Yongdong


The Nanjing Massacre is an event of horrific violence in domestic and overseas war history. Many writers have taken it as their topic, but literary research on the subject is comparatively weak and does not go beyond the analysis of single works. It is therefore necessary to conduct comprehensive research on the Nanjing Massacre in China and overseas fiction from the perspective of the idea of the nation-state. Chinese, Japanese, American Chinese, and Western writers have joined in narrating the Nanjing Massacre from their different discourse standpoints. Some interpretations of the Japanese forces’ violence have focused on the terrible slaughter, while others have focused on rape. In terms of writing style, there are two approaches: writing by generals and writing by soldiers. Chinese writers’ narratives of the massacre differ in terms of nation-state and class; those of Japanese writers include faithful description and historical examination, but also the spiritual slaughter of the Chinese people; and American writers of Chinese origin and Western writers write fiction imbued with religious feelings and reflection on human nature and life, but their work is flawed by Eurocentrism and they turn the massacre into a story of the West rescuing China. In recent years, the writing of biographies of the prostitutes of Qinhuai River and singing the praises of foreign missionaries have been at the forefront of narratives of the Nanjing Massacre. We should take heed of this and reflect on it.