In 1937, the Japanese army moved on from Shanghai and attacked
Nanjing that was the capital of the Republic of China. Chiang
Kai-Shek who was the president of the republic had ordered his
elite troops to evacuate. The government also moved on up the
Yangtze River. The army leaders thought that it was better to wage
a war of attrition with the best troops inland than to let the army
be destroyed in Nanjing.
However, tens of thousands of troops remained to defend the city.
They were ordered to defend the city to the death. Civilians tried
to flee, but many were caught in the city because bridges, roads
and transportation out of Nanjing were destroyed both to slow
Japanese advance and to keep the troops and civilians in the city.
The accounts of the capture of the city by both foreigners living
in the city and the Chinese themselves are of widespread rape and
senseless killing of civilians. The estimates on the number of
Chinese killed in the six week period after the Japanese captured
the city vary a lot. The estimates of the numbers of deaths vary.
It was hard to know because many bodies were burned in burning
houses and buildings and many were thrown into the rivers. There
was much looting and criminal acts against both the soldiers and
the civilians. Maybe it would have been better for the government
to have helped the civilians to flee and to have let the army have
an escape route.
Or maybe the fight to the death that happened in both Shanghai and
Nanjing served to impress the Japanese who were also known for
fighting to the death in WWII.
The mausoleum instructs that 300,000 people were killed in the
massacre. Other estimates vary from less than 200,000 to more than
300,000 people killed. Part of the reason for the different
estimates is that some estimates are for the entire Nanjing
Municipal region and some estimates are for only the main urban
The memorial was built by the Nanjing Municipal Government in 1985,
and it was extended in 1995.