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Cultural destruction by Japanese invaders during Japanese Aggression against China

Submit Time:15-07-2015 | Zoom In | Zoom Out

Author: | Source:Red Flag Manuscript, 2015/13


By: Editing group of Concise History of China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression

In defiance of the international laws of war, the Japanese invaders made brutal massacre during its aggression against China while vandalizing the Chinese culture by bombing, arson and plunder. They looted a great number of cultural relics and classic books, resulting in huge and irreparable losses. 

1.Serious damage to schools 

Before July 1937, China had 108 schools above junior college level, which were mainly situated in several big cities and the riverside and seaside areas in the southeastern part of China. The wanton bombing and plunder of the Japanese troops caused great damage to the colleges and universities of China. For example, Nankai University was seriously ruined by bombing. Therefore, some colleges, universities and middles schools in North China, Central China and South China were moved to the hinterland. From 1937 to 1939, a total of 69 colleges and universities were relocated. Some of them, such as Zhejiang University and Tongji University, were relocated for six or seven times due to the war.  

Most colleges and universities in the occupied areas were occupied or damaged by the Japanese troops. By the end of August 1938, a total of 91 schools above junior college level had suffered destruction, including 25 closed; more than 2,000 faculty members of colleges and universities lost their jobs and nearly 50% of the total students became dropouts due to the war. The school buildings of Tsinghua University, Peiyang University, Central University and Wuhan University were occupied by the Japanese troops and used as military camps or hospitals.  

In terms of secondary education, by the end of 1937, a total of 1,368 middle schools had been closed, and about 240,000 students were deprived of education or forced to move to the hinterland. By the end of 1938, a total of 203 secondary schools had been relocated in the hinterland. Secondary education in the occupied areas suffered a sharp decline. For example, in 1936, there were 46 middle schools in Nanjing, with more than 24,000 students, while in 1945, when the Japanese invaders surrendered, there were only 15 middle schools, with less than 6,000 students. 

In terms of primary education, before the war, there were more than 320,000 primary schools nationwide, with 18.36 million students. By October 1938, about 130,000 schools had been closed, with 257,000 teachers losing their jobs and 6.438 million students deprived of education. After the war, the survey by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China indicated that, in the 16 provinces and five cities (Peiping (currently Beijing), Nanjing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Qingdao) in the occupied areas, 1,867 of 2,676 secondary schools were damaged; 11,863 of 206,704 primary schools were destroyed.  

In June 1946, the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China compiled the fifth statistics of the financial losses of the schools and social education organizations nationwide during the war. The total losses reached USD2,374,435,793, excluding the losses in Northeast China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as the liberated areas of the CPC. 

2. Huge losses in classic books 

During the January 28 Incident in 1932, sixteen colleges and universities in the Songhu area (Wusong Estuary and Shanghai area) suffered destruction, including 12 with books and documents completely or partly damaged. More than 463,000 books in the Oriental Library attached to Commercial Press were burnt up by the Japanese troops. After the outbreak of the Battle of Songhu in 1937, more than 100 public libraries in Shanghai were looted, with more than 290,000 books burnt up. More than 586,000 books in public libraries in Peiping were looted or burnt up. The Branch Library at the Imperial Ancestral Temple of the Palace Museum was ransacked twice by the Japanese military police, and 6,551 magazines were looted by them in March 1939. Tsinghua University lost more than 180,000 books. The library of Peiping Normal University lost 32,000 books. More than 59,000 Chinese and foreign books (including the rare editions of books) in the library of the Private University of the Republic of China were plundered by the Japanese invaders.  

Nanjing suffered the biggest loss of books. The library of University of Nanking lost more than 70,000 Chinese books. The library of Central University had about 400,000 books before the war, and only 180,000 were left after the war. Jiangsu Provincial Sinology Library “lost about 70,000 collected books and about 90,000 published rare documents”. More than 200,000 books and magazines in the Nanjing Municipal Library at the Confucius Temple were burnt up, with the Dacheng Hall of the Temple burnt down. 

The library of Nankai University was bombed out by the Japanese bombers, losing about 100,000 books (after the war, only 10,566 books looted by the Japanese troops were recovered from Kyoto University of Japan). More than 120,000 books at Private Cheeloo University were burnt up by the Japanese troops. The Shandong Provincial Library lost 232,000 books, and the number of the reserved books only accounted for less than 4% of that before the war. The Zhejiang Provincial Library lost about 100,000 books and magazines and more than 100,000 printing formes of Sinology Publishing House. Zhejiang University lost about 32,000 books. Anhui Provincial Library originally had more than 100,000 books, which were hided in Tongcheng, Lihuang (currently Jinzhai) and other places. All these books were burnt up by the Japanese troops. The library of National Sun Yat-sen University originally had more than 350,000 books. More than 200,000 books and magazines were looted by the Japanese troops in the process of being moved to other places. Guangdong province lost 624,000 public books and 13,000 privately collected books. The Lanzhou Library in the northwestern area suffered the bombing of the Japanese troops in 1939 and lost more than 30,000 books and magazines.  

The Japanese invaders even established a special organization to plunder rare classic books from China. For example, in December 1937, the Books and Documents Collecting Committee in the Occupied Area in Central China was established to plunder rare books from Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou. Since late January 1938, Japanese cultural spies made investigation into more than 70 places with collected books in Nanjing. Some rare editions of books were looted and taken to Japan. More than 35,000 rare editions of books of the Central Library of the Republic of China stored at Fung Ping Shan Library (Hong Kong) were looted and taken to Tokyo Imperial Library and Isehara.  

Before the war, China had a total of 1,848 libraries. However, statistics in 1943 indicated that, due to the invasion and damage of the Japanese troops, only 940 survived the war, representing about 50.86% of the number before the war. In accordance with the incomplete statistics made by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China in January 1946, during the eight-year war of resistance against Japanese aggression, China suffered the loss of public collection of more than 2.253 million books, 44,000 volumes in 441 cases covering 5,360 categories, and private collection of more than 488,000 books, 1,215 volumes in 168 cases covering 18,000 categories. The actual losses were far more than that. The damage and losses caused by the Japanese Aggression against China to the Chinese libraries have great impacts on the cultural and education development of China.  

3. Plundered and damaged cultural relics and historic sites  

During Japan’s aggression against China, some Japanese societies and scholars followed the paces of the Japanese invaders and made predatory archaeological investigation and excavation to the tombs and monuments under the disguise of “archaeological research”, and looted valuable cultural relics to Japan. The Society for East Asian Archaeology and others excavated Piziwo Prehistory Site, Muyang City Site of the Han Dynasty, Yingchengzi Tombs of the Han Dynasty, sites of the Liao Dynasty, site of the palace of Shangjing Longquan Prefecture of Bohai Kingdom, Beida Ancient Town Site, Huichun Baliancheng Palace Site, and the sites of the Capital City of the State of Zhao in Handan and the ancient town of the State of Qi, and the sites of the ancient towns of the states of Teng and Xue, the site of Lingguang Hall of Lord Lu of the Han Dynasty in Qufu, and the site of Yinxu of the capital city of the Shang Dynasty and other sites in East China and Central China. In May 1938, Matsumoto Nobuhiro et al excavated the historic sites in Hangzhou, Nanjing, Xinyang and other cities, looted the unearthed cultural relics and housed them in Keio University.  

The ancient buildings of China suffered from unprecedented damage in the bombing and arson of the Japanese troops. Nanjing City Wall that is incomparable in the world, the embrasured watchtower of Zhonghua Gate, the city wall of Guanghua Gate and Zhonghua Gate were mostly bombed out. In December 1937, the Japanese troops set fire to Jiaoshan Ancient Temple in Zhenjiang, and Bishan Nunnery, Songliao Pavilion and Shuijing Nunnery were burnt to ashes and 119 ancient rooms of Dinghui Temple were burnt down. The Lingxing Gate, Dacheng Hall and all wing halls and pavilions of the Confucius Temple of Nanjing were all destroyed. The ancient temple on the Niushou Mountain in the southern suburb of Nanjing was bombed out and a large area of the civilian buildings of the Ming and Qing dynasties along the Qinhuai River were destroyed into ruins. In August 1938, Peiping Yunju Temple which had a history of more than 1,200 years was razed to the ground by Japanese bombers.  

When the Japanese troops were stationed in Shanxi Province, a total of 279 valuable ancient buildings of Fangshan, Xiangyuan and Fenyang counties were burnt out. Ancient temples and nunneries destroyed by the Japanese troops in Qinxian County of Shanxi Province included the Yongtai Temple of Qiaocun Village and Puxing Temple of Kaicun Village of the Northern Wei Dynasty, Nanjing Yuantong Temple and Rensheng Guangji Temple of the Tang Dynasty, Wusu Daming Temple of the Song Dynasty, Duancun Yongqing Temple of the Yuan Dynasty, Yanli Fuxing Temple and Beizhang Shifo Temple of the Ming Dynasty, totaling 36 sites. The ancient temple Wang’aizhao Lama Temple of Inner Mongolia was magnificent with 259 pavilions, 49 main halls, bell tower and drum tower, and 13 tombs of ancestors of seven clans of Yeke Juu League, which were all built with silver and gilded. On February 9, 1941, the Japanese troops broke into and ransacked the temple in three days. After robbing all the Buddha statues, saddles, arrows and bows embedded with gold and silver, as well as wall-hanging and valuable scriptures, they burnt down the temple.  

In April 1938, Japanese bombers bombed Changsha and Yuelu Academy which was created in the ninth year of Kaibao period under the reign of Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty (AD 976) was destroyed. In 1940, the Japanese troops demolished and destroyed more than 20 cultural and historic sites of Jingsha of Hubei Province to build barracks. In order to develop the airport, they destroyed the Chengtian Temple of Jingzhou which had a history of more than 1,500 years.  

Shanxi, Shandong and Henan provinces suffered from the worst damage of temples, steles, towers and tombs and no temple survived the aggression of the Japanese troops. The statue of Yan Ying in Gaomi, the statue of Sengge Rinchen in Heze, Xiaochang Stele and the Tomb of Yanzi of Yancheng, the ancient tower of Yishui, Xuanmiao Taoist Temple of Anyang, and the Cottage of Zhuge Liang in Nanyang and all the other antiquities, monuments and ancient buildings were destroyed one after another.  

The museums of China also suffered from serious damage. Before the war, China had 37 influential museums, but only 18 of them survived in 1944, a loss of more than a half. And three fourths of the other museums attached to the schools and libraries were also destroyed. A total of 88 pieces of books, books of rubbings, calligraphic works and paintings and articles stored by the Preparatory Office of the Central Museum in Peiping and kept by Wang Zhenduo were robbed after Peiping was occupied by the Japanese troops. The Peking Man Skull was lost in the transit, becoming a major loss of the history of the world science.  

In 1946, the General Catalogue of the Lost Cultural Relics of China in the Wartime and Their Valuation formulated by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China included books, cultural relics, calligraphic works and paintings, steles, monuments and ancient buildings of 17 provinces (excluding Northeast China), amounting to more than 3.6 million pieces and 1,870 cases, and 741 monuments.  

The Japanese troops undermined the Chinese culture and destroyed and plundered the classic books and ancient objects, causing an unprecedented catastrophe and irreparable, huge losses to China.  

(Excerpts from the Concise History of China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression published by the People’s Publishing House in May 2015) 

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