Cornell University

History Professor Chen Jian - "In the Dark Shadow of History and Memory: Revisiting the 'Rape of Nanjing' in Light of Diaoyu/Senkaku"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Goldwin Smith Hall, Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium
232 East Ave, Central Campus

Cornell Professor Chen Jian, Michael J. Zak Professor of History for US-China Relations, will discuss the current East Asian territorial disputes in light of the 75th anniversary of the December 13, 1937 Nanjing Massacre. With disscussant Naoki Sakai, Goldin Smith Professor of Asian Studies, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Professor in the Graduate field of History.

December 13, 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the “Rape of Nanjing,” a dark chapter in 20th-century Chinese, Japanese, and world history. During the Cold War, representations of history and memory of the Nanjing Massacre became heavily overshadowed by changing social and political environments—national as well as international—in East Asia and the world, making it an iconic event profoundly entangling such critical categories as ethics, “victim mentality,” legitimacy narrative, and historical/national identity. Towards the later phase of the Cold War yet especially in the post-Cold War era, conflicting narratives of Nanjing increasingly have emerged as an outstanding domestic and international political issue, with the potential of jeopardizing Chinese-Japanese or even Chinese-American relations and threatening the prospect of peace and stability in East Asia and the World. All of this, as Professor Chen Jian contends, helps understand the origins, implications, and meanings of the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute between China and Japan.

Event Type



East Asia Program




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Contact Name

Joshua Young

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Professors Chen Jian and Naoki Sakai

Speaker Affiliation

Cornell University, History

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T. Joshua Young

T. Joshua Young left a review 12/5/2012

An important topic, which drew a crowd of roughly 100 people. Professor Chen argued that the peoples of China and Japan must, in different ways, deal with the national legitimacy narratives that keep the two countries from engaging in a meaningful reflection on the atrocities of the 1937 Nanjing massacre. Further the U.S. must act responsibly toward this history. We all owe an ethical reflection on the events to the vicitims.