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Contact: Justin Harmon 609/258-5732
Date: November 12, 1997

Student-Run Conference to Examine Nanking Massacre on its 60th Anniversary

PRINCETON, N.J. A student-organized conference will examine historical questions associated with the Japanese assault on the Chinese capital of Nanking in December 1937. The conference, which will feature a keynote address by journalist Ian Buruma, author of The Wages of Guilt , takes place November 20 and 21 in Dodds Auditorium of Robertson Hall.

An exhibition of photographs and documents relating to the Nanking massacre, held in collaboration with the library of the Yale Divinity School, will be on view November 17 to 22 at the gallery of the Princeton University School of Architecture. In addition, the student organizers have arranged screenings of three related documentary films, with presentations by their producers, on November 18, 19, and 21. Burumas keynote will be November 21 at 4:30 p.m. in Dodds Auditorium.

The events commemorate the 60th anniversary of the events in Nanking, in which the city fell to invading Japanese and six weeks of atrocities ensued, including mass executions, rapes, and looting. Estimates of the number of deaths vary, but most experts agree that the toll could have been as high as 200,000, and that the tragedy profoundly affected both Chinese and Japanese society and culture. The powerful political forces that shaped accounts of the Nanking events in both societies which have ranged from outright denials of the massacre to exaggerated reports of the atrocities and the death count -- raise questions for scholars of historiography, the discipline that considers the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources.

The Chinese people are aware of the massacre, and many are bitter about it and about the politics that have clouded the truth of what happened, said Fei Fei Li 99, a native of Beijing who is co-chair of the conference and related events. Many of the conferences that have been organized around the massacre have been little more than Japan-bashing. We wanted to have a conference where the best scholars on both sides could try to get at the truth, so that people could try to understand and maybe to communicate.

Li moved to New Jersey with her family when she was 16. She and a group of her undergraduate friends thought of the idea for the conference several months ago, when they realized the 60th anniversary of the massacre was at hand. The students received logistical help from Lis high school mathematics teacher, as well as advice and support from various Princeton faculty and visiting scholars. The student organizers include two natives of Singapore, as well as several Chinese-Americans. Li majors in physics; her co-chair, Ying Zhou 99, studies architecture. Most of the others in the group major in the sciences or engineering. Their decision to devote so much time and energy to the conference stems from a passionate concern for the issues it will address and from a conviction that Princetons own academic recources make it the perfect place, in Lis words, to host it.

Among the Princeton faculty who will participate in the conference are Richard Falk, professor of international law and practice, co-editor of Crimes of War (1971) and author of On Humane Governance (1995); Sheldon Garon, professor of history and author of Molding Japanese Minds: The State in Everyday Life (1997); Norman Itzkowitz, professor of Near Eastern Studies and a student of the resolution of ethnic conflict; Perry Link and Ying-Shih Yu, both professors of East Asian Studies and experts on Chinese culture and society; and Ruth Rogaski, professor of history and an expert on contemporary Chinese history.

Invited participants include Buruma, a frequent contributor to such publications as the New York Review of Books , Newsweek , and The New Yorker ; Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II ; Ikuhito Hata, a professor of Japanese History at Chiba University in Japan and the author of several volumes on Japanese wartime history; Tokushi Kasahara, professor of modern Chinese history and East Asia at Utsunomiya University in Japan and author of One Hundred Days in the Nanking Safety Zone (1995); and Shi Young, secretary general of the Chinese American Journalists Association, founding editor of New AsianAmericans magazine, and author of Rape of Nanking: An Undeniable Evidence in Photographs . Martha Lund Smalley, archivist at the Yale Divinity Library and editor of Anglicans in China: American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre , will give a talk on the exhibition. Documentarists Lou Reda (Japanese War Crimes ) and Nancy Tong (In the Name of the Emperor ) will introduce their works. The film Magees Testament , a documentary that relies on footage taken by the Rev. John Magee, chairman of the Nanking Red Cross Council during the Japanese occupation, will be introduced by Magees son, David.

A complete schedule of the conference and the related films follows. Selected photographs from the exhibition are available on-line at a web site created by the students:

Among the sponsors of the event are Princetons International Center, the School of Architecture, the Presidents Office, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Center for Jewish Life, the Department of East Asian Studies, the Office of the Dean of the College, the Center of International Studies, the English Department, and the Anthropology Department.