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Book Review on the Rape of Nanking Essay

The book The Rape of Nanking: the Forgotten Holocaust of World War II is a non-fiction book that Iris Chang wrote in 1997. The book gives an account of the massacre and atrocities that the Japanese army committed against the Chinese in Nanking (Nanjing) between 1937 and 1938.

This occurred after the Japanese army captured this city, which was then the capital of China. The author tried to give an account of all the events that took place during the massacre and all the atrocities based on her two-year research on this historical injustice.

This book became instrumental in bringing the Nanking atrocities into the knowledge of the Western and the eastern readers. It also asserts that the Japanese government has made no effort to make reparation for what its soldiers had done to the Chinese people. This book has received both acclamation and criticism.

Iris Chang never witnessed the Nanking atrocities. Her inspiration to write about the Nanking massacre came partly because of the stories her grandparents had given her about this event and partly due to her quest to learn more about this event from existing literature.

Her literature search never provided her with any comprehensively written material about the Nanking massacre. She wondered why nobody had ever written about such great evil against the Chinese people. This journalist and author then set out to find more about this massacre and document it in a book.

The Nanking massacre took place between 1937 and 1928. The Japanese military officers, who thought that Japan had a right to dominate Asia, began war against China. They thought that they could overcome the Chinese army and capture the country in three months but this proved hard. In December, 1937, the Chinese army who had become weak due to the undeclared war with the Japanese abandoned Nanking to reorganize themselves because they felt that the Japanese army was overpowering them.

The Japanese army seized this opportunity, marched into the city, and occupied it without a fight. The Japanese army started the massacre by killing the Chinese prisoners of war and the civilian men. They did this wholesome murder claiming that these men were fleeing Chinese soldiers who had abandoned their uniforms.

The discipline of the Japanese soldiers deteriorated and as a result, they killed about 300,000 people. This is what the author of the book The Raping of Nanking refers to as the raping of this city. The Rape was also in a literal sense because the Japanese soldiers raped about 20, 000 Chinese women, most of whom they ended up killing. The Japanese army carried out all these atrocities in Nanking within six weeks.

They executed the victims in many ways. They beheaded some, buried alive others, mutilated others and killed some of them by use of fire, ice or dogs. A group of aliens including John Rabe and Minnie Vautrin created safety zones and helped protect the civilians against the army’s brutalities.

The author of The Rape of Nanking structured the book into three parts. In the first part, the author narrated the events that took place during the massacre in Nanking. She did this by presenting the events from the perspective of the Japanese army, the Chinese victims and the volunteers who helped put up safety zones.

In the second part, Chang wrote about what other countries said concerning the atrocity. In the third part, she made an analysis of the whole issue concerning the events that took place during the massacre. In this part, Chang gave her opinion regarding the cause of the massacre and explained the conditions that led to the issue being in the background for decades after the war.

The general subject matter of this book is the Nanking massacre and atrocity. The author gives a detailed account of the events of this atrocity and gives some explanation on the events and circumstances that led to the atrocity and what followed there after. The authors’ thesis is that the Japanese government was responsible for the massacre in Nanking.

In this, she asserts that the Japanese government has not fully taken responsibility and appropriately compensated the victims of the atrocity. The author also demands that the Japanese government should come out publicly and apologize to the Chinese people.

The author uses authentic sources to get the information about the events that took place during the massacre. During her two-year research on the Nanking atrocity, the author was able to get access to the diaries of Minnie Vautrin and John Rabe. These people had helped the Chinese people by creating for them safety zones during the massacre.

Their daily account of events during this period was an authentic source of information for what was taking place during that time. She also interviewed the surviving victims of the rape of Nanking. These sources of information contributed substantially to the author’s initial sources of information about this historical event, like the stories she had received from her parents and the materials she had read about the incident, making the account more authentic.

Chang employed different techniques in bringing out the information in this book. She used narration to bring out the events that took place during the massacre and explains the methods the Japanese soldiers used to carry out the atrocity. She also used interviews in the book.

The author also employed the use of maps, figures and photographs to aid in bringing out the reality of the Rape of Nanking. In page seven, the author confirms that she used a different form of names than they are currently applied. She says that for Chinese names, she used either pinyin or Wade-Giles. She used the traditional method of listing the surname first in the names of people in both Chinese and Japanese names. This system enabled her to use the name “Nanking” in the place of the current name “Nanjing”.

Many people widely appreciated the work of Chang in bringing out the account of the massacre. She brought out the account in a terrifying manner making some people to see the book as terrible to read. This account, especially about the massacre, was the truth and very accurate. She also brought into the picture the foreigners who helped the civilians get protection during the massacre. These were initially in oblivion.

Even though Chang’s work was successful in bringing out the atrocity of Japanese Soldiers against the Chinese, it also had some lapses. There are some inaccuracies in this book. For instance, she brings out a vague and stereotyped historical background of the Japanese. She also used speculations to show that the Japanese leaders were happy about the Rape of Nanking (Chang 1997, pg. 179).

Chang also does not give an adequate explanation of the cause of the massacre. She explains that the Japanese army lacked food and the means to feed the many prisoners of war they were holding and, therefore, decided to kill them. This does not justify the whole scenario. The book does not give any justification for the soldiers’ acts of torture, rape and murder of women and children.

In conclusion, Iris Chang carried out an intensive research for two years to come up with the book The Rape of Nanking: The forgotten Holocaust of World War II. Her efforts were fruitful because she brought out to the world the issue of Nanking massacre, which had gone underground for many years.

She successfully and accurately explained the events that took place in Nanking and brought to light the behaviors of the Japanese soldiers during the massacre. The soldiers demonstrated the highest level of inhuman behavior as they were handling their enemies. The Japanese soldiers, most of who were teenagers, received brutalization during training.

Their trainers made them to take the enemies as animals and they encouraged rape and murder as weapons of revenge. It was not the national character of the Japanese army, that led to the massacre but it was the lapse of soldiers’ discipline. The author shows how such an army can cause destruction and animosity to other human beings. Though the book has its inaccuracies, it is important that the author wrote it to bring into light a historical massacre and atrocity to the Chinese people.

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1. IvyPanda. "Book Review on the Rape of Nanking." February 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-on-the-rape-of-nanking/.


IvyPanda. "Book Review on the Rape of Nanking." February 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-on-the-rape-of-nanking/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Book Review on the Rape of Nanking." February 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-on-the-rape-of-nanking/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Book Review on the Rape of Nanking'. 27 February.

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