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Denton Horror 2 - 266 KIRK A DENTON Figure 11.8 Entranceway...

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Unformatted text preview: 266 KIRK A. DENTON Figure 11.8. Entranceway, courtyard, and exhibition hall of the Unit 731 Museum i‘é‘faflfi’il’fiv Inside the exhibition building, which housed the administrative offices of Unit 731, this mood is maintained by dark hallways and exposed—bricked rooms. As you enter the building, there is a prefatory hallway that sets the theme for the entire museum and memorial site. On either side of the hall—- way are bronze reliefs, in which are carved large characters: to the left, qz’cm shi bu wang; and to the right, hon shi zhz‘ 5111' (to not forget the past is to be master of the future). As discussed above, the recurring emphasis on recalling the past in Chinese museums is all about moving beyond the past so as to make China a “master” of the future; recalling the horrors of the past is a step toward leaving behind the “century of humiliation” and marching toward a more glorious future when that remembering will longer be necessary. Implicitly, then, remembering humiliation is connected to the emergence of China as a global economic and political power. The “Preface” to the exhibits proper says that the experiments carried out by members of Unit 73] make them “the cruelest fascist war criminals 267 Horror and Atrocity: Memory of Japanese Imperialism n the history of humankind.” It gives the figure of 3,000 killed by Unit 731 riments, and another 300,000 killed as a result of germ warfare tech— 36 CD 0 )—l O 09 he evil history of Unit 731 is to use facts to warn later people,-to allow his- ory to call for human peace, civilization, and progress, and not let historical .‘agedies repeat themselves.” ' . . The exhibits themselves are presented with a dark aesthetic, that creates {somber and serious mood. The thrusth the exhibits is to present authen— c artifacts so as to “let history, give testimony.” The museum generally ar of Resistance or the september'18 History Museum. Instead, it favors graphs and material objects—things that authenticate what happened tthe site—such as hangers for human viscera, laboratory test tubes, saws, calpels, and clamps, as well as prisoner identity cards. Mileh attention is aid to the testimony of former members of Unit 731. One room is devoted “Confessions” (qianhui) of various Japanese military figures, who in the 9808 began to reveal the truth of Unit 731’s aCtivities in China. There are graphic photographs in the museum to be sure, but for the most art the horror has to be imagined from the artifacts. This may be a con— eious choiCe on the part of the curators, but it may also be because photo- graphs and film footage do not exist. As the exhibits recount repeatedly, the Japanese destroyed much of the Pingfang site at the end of the war in order to destroy evidence of their crimes. The ruins, we are told in one museum CT" 0 c—r O evidence of the Japanese army’s destruction of evidence.” Graphic dioramas are few in the museum. One shows Japanese doctors performing medical experiments; another, called the Erdaogou Plague Scene (:iE?’Q E), depicts a bubonic plague attack on the village of Erdaogou. The nearly life— size diorama is in two parts, with the spectator walkway running between them: To the left is a dead figure with two mourners by its side, an older woman mourns from the door of their hovel of a home; to the right a corpse is being carried away on a stretcher, The horror is rather muted. The diorama ends with a list of the names of those known to have died in the attack. In comparison with many other new museums in China, multimedia is also used sparingly. There is, however, .a small film auditorium, which continuously projects a documentary about Unit 731. On the wall of the auditorium is written “Do not forget national humiliation.” The film uses fictionalized scenes as well as documentary photos and is not easy viewing. When I visited the museum in the summer of 200.4, a young woman, a y developed at the site. “Our purpose,” says the preface, “in exposing, akes less use of dioramas and multimedia than, say, the Museum of the catalogue, are “evidence of the J apanese'army’s germ warfare crimes, and. 268 KIRK A. DENTON Korean I believe, suddenly ran out of the viewing room and vomited in the hallway. Like some of the other museums discussed here, the Unit 73] Museum has several exhibits devoted to memoriali’zation. One room is called “Re_. member Us” (iEErfiil‘l), a kind of memorial hall consisting of a plaster ‘ structure made to look like stone with a flame cutting through it; below is "a wreath and a plaque, which tells us that the victims are mostly nameless. To the left and right of the'room‘ are the names of four known victims. The final exhibit is a long hallway, on the left side of which is the “List of the Victims” (W X’E’E‘g i). There are plaques (in stone, with black characters) for those nameable victims, extending down the length of the hall, some one hundred in total. The exhibit-ends by echoing the preface, saying that some 3,000 died as a result of Unit 731 experiments and another 300,000 were hurt (shanghai 155%) in germ warfare produced from these experiments. The museum not only serves to help the spectator remember the past but also emphasizes the need to remember and the remembering itself. Behind the exhibition building are “ruins”~—the foundations of buildings that were part of the larger Unit731 complex (figure 11.9). There are, for example, the ruins of the building used for germ research. The museum has plans to develop these ruins into a more integral part of the site. At present, - some of the ruins surrounding the exhibition hall have plaques informing the spectator about the site, but many still do not. As suggested above, this museum derives its power from the site and its ruins. Because of the power - of the site, the museum does not have to recreate an atmosphere, like the Ho— locaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which seeks to recreate the feel of experiencing life in the concentration camps.54 This museum seems to self—consciously avoid a Disneyfication of horror and play up the authentic aura of its site-The exhibits are simple, the lighting is dim, and the display is mundane, and all lack the technological sophistication now often found in Chinese museums. Although these aspects may also be partly due to a lack of funds or of curatorial training, I think the curators are self—consciously avoiding the aestheticization of objects that were used to inflict unimagi— nable suffering. The September 18 History Museum: Spectacles and Memory The September 18 History Museum in Shenyang was established in 1991 on the sixtieth anniversary of September 18, 1931, when the Japanese Kwan- tung Army blew up a railway bridge, accused the Chinese of doing it, and then used the incident as pretext for occupying Shenyang and southern Man— churia. The date is conventionally seen in the PRC as the beginning of the Japanese occupation of China and of resistance to it. In its early phase, the museum consisted of a single monument: the broken calendar monument,_ which I discuss below. In 1997, the City of Shenyang approved funding for an expanded museum, and the present museum was completed two years later and opened on September 18, 1999. As the catalogue puts it, the mu— seum seeks to be a place for “patriotic and national defense education”- and to teach people “not to forget national humiliation and to invigorate China” (wu wang gnochi, zhenxing Zhong/ma a] EH11, Like other museums in China, this museum is active in educational outreach, organiz— ing, for instance, a mobile exhibition that travels around to schools.55 The museum building, also designed by Qi Kang, is among the more interesting architectural designs of new museums in the PRC (figure 11.10). It is situated outside the central core of the city on the site of the explosion 270 KIRK A. DENTON Figure 11.10. Main exhibition hall of the September 18 History Museum that was used by the Japanese as a pretext for attacking Shenyang and even— tually occupying all of Manchuria. Unlike the Unit 731 Museum, however, the museum’s symbolic power does not derive particularly from the histori— cal site. Instead, the building’s design and the use of external space imme— diate-1y around the museum give it power. What first catches one’s eye as one enters the main gate is the giant stone calendar (figure 11.11), riddled with bullet and bomb holes and opened to the date September 18, 1931. The text on the calendar reads: “Around ten o’clock at night, the Japanese army blew up the Liutiao Lake section of the Southern Manchurian Railway. Under the pretext of blaming the Chinese army for committing this act, they attacked and occupied the army’s north headquarters. Under orders not to resist, our northeast army retreated in pain, disaster befell the nation, and the people, rose up angrily in resistance.” Although it is intended to stress the historical importance of this date in Chinese history, the calendar also suggests that time has stopped and that China is somehow stuck in the memory of this national insult. However, by commemorating this tragic event, the museum ‘arrouspieces of sculpture appear around the plazain front of the mu- se building. As at the Nanjing Massacre memorial, thereis large bell ca led the “Jingshi zhong” 'lfii'fli‘fill (Awaken the world bell); on one side of ell are the words “do not forget national humiliation,” and a descrip- , of the September 18 Incident appears on the other.56 A bomb stele dam bei) shows what looks like a cement support, an original piece of iutiao Lake Bridge. On the facade of the museum building itself is a h g‘e relief in bronze called “Guonan” (National disaster), created by the 'sc pture Department of the Shenyang Lu Xun Fine Arts Academy. The placard informs one that the relief, which stretches along the white facade o the wall of the museum, is inspired by traditional Chinese calligraphy. I ndeed, from a distance, the movement of the relief along the wall does ' "suggest sweeping dark brush strokes on white paper. Only close to the relief 272 KIRK A. DENTON can one notice figures of suffering victims of the Japanese attack embedded in the bronze (figure 11.12). The relief thus suggests, perhaps recalling Mao’s phrase about the people being a blank slate, that the “people” emerge from writing itself; the people are the object/subject 'of history/historiography. As in many such representations in history museums in China, bronze rep- resents the earth and the peOple are shown to be part of the earth, tied to "the motherland; territory and the body politic are inextricably joined. On the facade of the street side of the building is another similar bronze relief called “Fen qi”. (Anger rising), meant to represent the spirit of resistance. It depicts. soldiers heroically fighting the enemy. Taken together, the two reliefs that coVer the museum’s outer walls rep— resent the victim and victory narratives discussed at the beginning of this chapter. The last important artwork outside the museum is the “Memorial Stele of the Victory of the War of Resistance,” which in its shape hearkens back'to the “bomb Stele” near the entrance to the site; it restores to an upright . position the bridge support blown dewn by Japanese bombs on September 18, 1931. Like the two reliefs, these two steles (bei) convey the intertwined narratives of victimization and victory. The major trOpes of the external design of the museum and its outdoor memorials and sculptures are presented in more narrative form in the- mu- seum exhibitions. First, the Prefatory Hall (Xu Ting) echoes the two modes of representing the war and sets the context for appreciating the chrono- logical exhibits that follow (figure 11.13). The not—quite-rectangular hall is subtly lit with ceiling floodlights; it has a black marble floor and white plaster reliefs cover the four walls. There is a strong contrast between the dark floor and lighted white reliefs. The reliefs, we are told in the catalogue, represent the mountains of China, while the black marble floor represents its rivers, referring visually to the phrase baishan heishui El Lhflm (white mountains, black rivers), a surrogate term for Dongbei (i.e., the Changbai Mountains and the Heilong River). Although the room thus has a local flavor, mountains and rivers are commonly used to stand for China as a whole.57 On the floor near the middle of the hall is a four—foot—high black marble pyramid capped by a red “eternal flame” (not real fire, but some sort of electric light), representing the martyrs of the Northeast, with their spirit of unyielding resistance and their national heroic spirit (Ejbxfix Emil-$5FEW iflfifi/fififlllfigfifi). On the four sides of the pyramid is text in Chinese, Japanese, English, and Russian. We are told in the text that September 18 is “etched” (ningke iii 31]) in the hearts of the Chinese people and that it marks the beginning of fourteen years of Japanese occupation 1' wall of the September 18 gure 11.12. Detail of relief on the front exterio History Museum 1 274 KIRK A. DENTON Figure 11.13. Prefatory Hall of the September 18 History Museum during which many people sacrificed their lives. Above the pyramid are fourteen blue lights (one for each year of occupation), which cast a blue pal‘l on the red “flame” below. The visual contrast between the somber blue of occupation and the heroic red of resistance embOdies the tension between victimization and heroic resistance narratives. After the memorial hall, the spectator proceeds down a long walkway to the beginning of the exhibition proper. The exhibition opens with an overtly internationalist perspective: Japanese imperialism is portrayed as part of a larger global fascism and China’s resistance as part of global resistance to it.58 This internationalizing of the struggle can perhaps be seen as part of China’s present efforts to “join with the world,” but it also serves to link Ja— pan’s evil with the globally recognized evil of the Nazis. However, it strikes me that this is a rather token internationalism and that both the thrust and the details of the exhibition are solidly within the nationalist paradigm. The exhibition is structured in six display halls; (1) Historical Background; (2) Outbreak of the Incident and the Loss of the Northeast; (3) Japan’s Bloody Rule in the Northeast; (4) The Resistance Struggle of the Northeast Army and People; (5) The Whole Nation Resists, the Northeast is Restored, and the Final Chapter of Japanese Imperialism; and (6) Let History Be a 275 Horror and Atrocity: Memory of Japanese Imperialism .; _,_ >15 V . l‘ "Mirror, Hope for Peace, and Be on Guard Against the Return of Japanese Militarism. As is almost universal in Chinese history museums, the mate- "-a1"‘k\"s presented chronologically. The exhibits make conventional use of . 1 “liphotographs, texts, and maps; but more than the other museums discussed ' his chapter, they employ innovative exhibition techniques that reveal influences of pOpular and visual culture. What stand out in the museum .5 numerous models, dioramas, and multimedia displays. History and Sat ocity are Offered. as visual and dramatic spectacles for. the visitor/For Xa ple, through cracks in a wall, the spectator can peer, rather voyeuristi— ,:into a life—size scene recreating a gruesome, though somewhat campy, \ors may be shielding it from younger. visitors, but'it also draws atten- i tothe very notion of spectatorship. A “demonstration, scene” (yanshi ging ‘igfififiifigfi, a framed scene with lights and recorded narration s .Pingdingshan MasSacre of 1932, is also typical of the spectacle-like Visual quality of exhibits in this museum. ' ' usic often combines with three—dimensional visuals to give many dis— 3 a highly theatrical quality. For instance, in the second exhibit there is a play of bronze statues of refugees titled “Sorrow of Exile” (Liuwang hen fit'l‘E), which shows an array of citizens fleeing the Japanese occupation "f the Northeast (figure 11.14). The “citizens” include peasants, but also stu- nts, who appear to be doing anti—Japanese propaganda work. The sculpture clearly drawing on conventional historical memories of the Japanese oc— pation in which the image of refugees from the Northeast figured promi— 'jently. On the wall behind the bronze sculptures are the music and lyrics to «the Songhua River” (Songhua jiang shang WIRE]: J1), a morose song :out September 18 and the loss of homeland. References to songs—gener— ‘ and songs are often played on speakers in its various halls. In the section on national resistance to Japanese occupation, there is an pressive large—scale diorama called “Camp Song” (Laying ge Eta—at) *gure 11.15). The song referred to in the title of the diorama was writ— by Li Zhaolin, a general whowrote it during a particularly difficult iod in his troop’s struggle against the enemy. The song played an im— . (e.g., Northeast Martyrs Memorial Hall). The diorama, designed by 11g J ihou Eéflg of the Shenyang HuaXia Exhibition Arts Engineering ,ompany, recreates the scene described in the lyrics of the song.59 The 1 31 operating room; By hiding the display behind a partial wall, the » consists of the bones of corpses murdered by the Japanese in the infa- ~ standard revolutionary songs—appear throughout the museum’s exhib: , ortant role in Maoist narratives and earlier museum representations of the , 276 KIRK A. DENTON Figure 1.1.14. “Sorrow of Exile” sculpture depicting refugees three—dimensional scene brings a highly theatrical element into the exhibi— tion space. Musical and theatrical spectacle combine to form an impressive display, one that serves little to propel the chronological narrative of the exhibition but that seeks to evoke emotional resonances of the lost homeland .and the heroic struggle, to recover it. As a museum brochure puts it: “With the ‘Camp Song’ . . . as its theme and the vast expanse of white snow and dense white birch forest as its background, the scene describes the unyield— ing struggling spirit and high revolutionary optimism of soldiers of the United Army.” Among the more powerful dioramas in the museum is one of life—size wax figures of Japanese war criminals being tried in a Shenyang court in 1956. The twenty-eight wax figures are dressed in black, and their heads are bowed in recognition of their guilt; behind them is a collage of photographic images of Chinese victims of the war with soaring planes, exploding bombs, and huge plumes of smoke in the background. The diorama captures guilt Horror and Atrocity: Mentor I of Japanese Imperialism 277 Figure 11.15. “Camp Song,” a large-scale diorama at the September 18 History _ Museum and contrition in a highly emotional visual language. Corning near the end of the exhibition, it offers powerful testimony to the Chinese nationalist take on the fair judgment of history. The exhibition ends with the bronze sculpture “The Monument to Chinese Foster Parents” (13Fl $fifififi), a memorial donated by Japanese to the Chinese parents who raised Japanese children orphaned by the war (figure 11.16). It shows a Chinese peasant couple with a Japanese child standing between them and looking up lov— ingly at his “mother.” Obviously, the sculpture echoes the many images of Chinese mothers torn from their own children that are to be found in the museums discussed above. The sculpture portrays the Chinese in an unmistakably positive moral light; even after the Chinese were horribly vic— timized by brutal occupiers, the sculpture suggests, they still had compas— sion for the children of their oppressors and raised them, with presumably superior Chinese moral standards. r\ Figure 11.16. “Monument to Chinese Foster Parents,” a sculpture near the end of the basic exhibition in the September 18 History Museum Horror and Atrocity: Memory of Japanese Imperialism 279 The Concluding Remarks to the exhibition are rather revealing. The text _ eads: As we. are about t...
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