The bell tolled and Nanjing was in grief as nearly 3,000 people gathered in the eastern China city on Wednesday to mourn 300,000 lives lost to the Japanese aggressors 69 years ago.
The rally was held in a square in front of the memorial hall for the Chinese victims massacred by Japanese invaders in Nanjing Wednesday morning, with the crowd mourning for the dead and presenting wreaths.
The mourners, including Nanjing school children, survivors of the massacre and international friends, passed a Nanjing peace declaration that calls on "all the peace-loving people to be united in building a peaceful, harmonious and reconciliatory new world".
"We are here today to review the past and lament the dead in order to reveal the atrocities of Japanese aggressors, check the Japanese rightists' attempts to distort history and remind the Chinese nation to draw a historical lesson," said Sun Anhua, vice chairman of the Jiangsu Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory.
By recalling China's past humiliation, he said the Chinese people, particularly the younger generation, should push forward the nation's modernization and reunification drive and promote world peace and common development.
Indignant at the Japanese rightists' attempt to whitewash history, the memorial hall for the Chinese victims massacred by Japanese invaders in Nanjing in 1937 is set to include exhibits depicting visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, where convicted Japanese war criminals are honored.
The exhibits will be displayed after the major expansion of the memorial hall is completed in December 2007, according to curator Zhu Chengshan on Tuesday.
Japanese rightists' denial of the massacre and Japan's history distorting textbooks will also be shown in the hall, Zhu said.
Japanese aggressors occupied Nanjing, then capital of China, on Dec. 13, 1937, and launched a six-week massacre. Historical records show that more than 300,000 Chinese people, including disarmed soldiers and civilians, were massacred.
Tens of massacre survivors attended Wednesday's gathering. "I've been here to mourn the dead every year on Dec. 13," said Zhao Bin, 69. "We must not forget history."
She Ziqing, 74, presented a bouquet to his mother, who was slaughtered by the Japanese. "Sixty-nine years on, the pain is always there," he said tearfully.
"When the Japanese troops invaded Nanjing on Dec. 13, 1937, they killed almost every Chinese in sight. Many people fled to the bank of the Yangtze River but most of them were shot dead. My dad narrowly escaped the gunshot and crossed the river, but my mom who stayed home was killed," said the old man.
Wu Xianbin, a Nanjing-based businessman, opened to the public on Wednesday a privately-invested exhibition hall that holds his personal collection of more than 30,000 historical photos, 70 Japanese military maps and 500 other wartime heritage items.
The hall, built at a cost of 3 million yuan (375,000 U.S. dollars), opens for free. "Based on this exhibition, I'll build a platform for academic exchanges on wartime history," Wu told Xinhua.
A group of monks and Buddhist disciples from China and Japan also rallied Wednesday to lament the Nanjing Massacre victims.