Before they celebrate, they remember Chinese grieve past and recent deaths before they are ready to usher in Christmas.

  • Colours of China
  • Monday, 18 Dec 2017

Terrible memory: Monks praying during a religious assembly to pay tribute to victims of the Nanjing Massacre in front of a memorial wall at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. — AFP

CHRISTMAS is around the corner. Just like in Malaysia, this festival to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ is widely celebrated in China.

In Beijing, most malls and major streets in commercial areas are decorated with Christmas trees and ornaments. There are also English Christmas songs adding to the festive atmosphere.

But the people are not in a celebratory mood yet due to a series of events that took place recently.

Last Wednesday marked the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, one of the darkest pages in human history in which Japanese invaders slaughtered some 300,000 people, and burnt and looted the city of Nanjing, then China’s capital, for over a month right after they captured it on Dec 13, 1937.

China held a state memorial ceremony at the memorial hall of the massacre in Nanjing to remember the victims, who were mostly innocent civilians and unarmed soldiers.

At the ceremony, Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said the event was to proclaim the Chinese people’s firm stance on maintaining peace.

“War is a mirror, which makes people better understand the value of peace,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who attended the memorial ceremony, also met with some survivors of the massacre, according to Xinhua, China’s national news agency.

In 2014, China designated Dec 13 as a national memorial day for victims of the Nanjing Massacre.

Malaysia, then Malaya, was not spared from the Japanese invasion. Since I was a child, I have heard stories from my grandmother of how the Japanese assigned to human lives value as meaningless as that of grass.

A mother of two young children then, she was forced to hide in the forest and lived in a makeshift shelter to keep out of Japanese sight.

But in every war story, there were lackeys. My grandmother said the Japanese army entered the village with help from the locals, and killed those who blocked their path.

She quickly covered her face with dirty coal dust, wrapped her legs up and pretended to be severely injured as she carried my uncle in her arms.

The soldiers left after a thorough check in the village.

Over the decades, I have heard others telling me that the past is the past and we should let go. My message to the Japanese is very simple: if you want others to forgive you, first you have to apologise and ask for forgiveness.

But they have not. The Japanese are still trying hard to cover up the truth by censoring their sins from history.

Tamaki Matsuoka told Xinhua their textbooks only mention that Japan lost the war, and describe the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but say nothing about the invasion.

The former teacher only found out about it after visiting Nanjing in 1988. At an exhibition, she saw photos of the heads cut off and the women raped, and realised the sufferings of the victims for the first time.

Since then, she has decided to reveal the historical truth to her students and countrymen by interviewing survivors, writing books and producing documentaries.

“It is not just for the Chinese, but more for the Japanese people. Peace could collapse before you know it.

“We shall pass on the truth and only by doing that, can we consolidate the foundation of peace,” she added.

Apart from the victims of the Nanjing Massacre, the Chinese also mourned the passing of the famous poet Yu Guangzhong, who died at the age of 89 last Thursday.

Yu, who was born in Nanjing and moved to Taiwan in 1950, had dedicated half a century to literature, and his masterpiece Nostalgia has generated much resonance worldwide.

Some of his works were collected in textbooks in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Last week, social media sites and news portals as well as WeChat were also flooded with video clips of the death of Wu Yongning, a 26-year-old Internet sensation famous for performing stunts on the rooftops of tall buildings.

The young stunt enthusiast started releasing videos of his stunts on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site, in February and has more than a million followers.

But his posts stopped last month.

It was later revealed that Wu had fallen to his death from the 62-storey Huayuan Centre, the tallest building in Changsha of Hunan province, while carrying out a stunt on Nov 8.

The video of his fall was widely shared last week.

In the clip, Wu is seen grabbing the edge of the rooftop with his hands and pulling his body up several times, as he usually did.

But this time, he failed to make it back to the rooftop and fell.

His death raised a debate on whether it was a worthwhile challenge or if he was merely putting himself in unnecessary danger, as the former film extra was not taking any safety precautions.

Chinese officials have also warned about such acts to garner followers and fame.

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Opinion , Beh Yuen Hui , columnist


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