The following is from the text of an e-mail sent to Jeff Kingston from Cindy Yang, a Chinese university student.
What disappointed me most about the memorial was that I had expected the exhibition to be condensed and focused, but, things were just the opposite. Although disappointed, I had to give the memorial the right to be huger than necessary — were it not so, it would have been politically incorrect in some sense.
After the visit, I often wondered why I was not the least touched or moved by the exhibition. One reason is that I was already familiar with that history, so nothing on display made me feel aghast or strike me as particularly overwhelming. The second reason is that my family have not much, if not nothing, to do with the city. For me, the massacre is like a legend — I believe it to be true only because I choose to.
The third reason is that I have long rejected unconsciously the idea that such a horrendous incident ever happened. I’ve watched the movie “Schindler’s List” a dozen times and cried my soul out. But I never shed a tear for books or movies related to the Nanjing Massacre.
I have been intentionally keeping myself at an emotional distance from the massacre — not only to prevent myself from being crushed by the cruel history, but also to keep my mind cool and unaffected so that I can analyze the history in a rational way, rather than let my perception be overwhelmed with and misled by too much emotions.
As for the relationship between the Chinese and the Japanese, I would like to share some of my thoughts. To begin with, neither side should take the massacre too personally. When people take things personally, their emotions gain ground over reason, giving rise to unjustified hatred, which often leads to calamity.
In about 30 years, all people who once lived and had any kind of personal experience about the massacre will be dead. The future relationship between the Chinese and the Japanese in regard to the massacre will solely depend on how people who have no personal experience of this matter view and interpret it.
I suggest that both the Chinese and the Japanese accept the massacre as an established historical fact, try to analyze it in an objective manner and draw up schemes to prevent similar calamities from happening. I believe that the national characteristics of the Chinese and those of the Japanese played crucial roles in the massacre.
In the light of this, a thorough and in-depth analysis seems particularly important. I would also suggest that China, including its government and its people, stop assuming the role of a once-scarred victim and stop [emphasizing] its old tragedy too frequently. If one indulges in the past, no matter how good or bad it is, one loses hold of the present. The past is to be learned and remembered, not a burden that hinders the march into the future.
As for the Japanese, their national characteristics contain some particularly dangerous elements that are likely to result in calamities like the massacre. Hopefully, they can face those elements with a positive attitude.