Saturday, July 03, 2004

June 20th, 2004 - International Refugee Day and the Rape of Nanjing

Thoughts and Observations:
I arrived in Nanjing on the 19th by train (hard seat) from Shanghai. It was another coudy day.

On the train I saw scores of rice fields and industry - factory after factory and smoke stack after smoke stack.

In some areas I saw large industrial factories and rivers and canals all around them. The water of these rivers and canals was black! utterly devoid of light those waters were. It was a bleak scene. The smoke of these factories were processing coal.

Then between the scores of rice fields and factories I saw concrete 2 to 3 storey buildings - which were all uniform in architecture and design. These apartment buildings too were bleak; they were devoid of any sense of unique style in their architecture. They were not even painted - they simply looked like giant, dull, grey cinder blocks.

When I arrived at Nanjing train station I received maney stares from all the Chinese around me as I walked to the exit of the station and out of the station.

The Touts:
The touts at the station, as the ones in Shanghai, approached me advertising their hotel with their brochures full of pictures. Most only knew how to say "hello" and that was it. Because of the language barrier they are really unable to push their hotels on the potential, targetted, customer.

As a result I find that all the touts in China to be passive - or not nearly as aggressive as any of the touts I have come across in Southeast Asia.

I spent the afternoon and evening in Nanjing walking far east within the city until I passed the Ming Ruins of the Heavenly Gate and the Eastern Gate of the old Ming Wall - the longest wall ever built to fortify a city - it is 33 km or 20 miles in length.

From there I attempted to return to Nanjing University - where my dormitory was located. Along this walk I found a local and perhaps low to middle class area. One or two blocks within this rea had 5 barbershop brothels. They, as in Shanghai, were next to legitimate barbershops. These barbershops didnt have touts trying to lure me in. The women simply stayed within patiently waiting. In some cases I saw a few working girls asleep.

Invasion of the Uniform Restaurants:
The interior design of the restaurants I saw on this walk - in fact all the restaurants in China - were all the same. Simply an open room with off-white walls and tables and chairs within and that is it. The tables all had porcelein white, boring plates. There were few or no paintings on the walls.

I never saw any degree of creativity put into decorating these restaurants. They were all very dull and uninspiring visually.

Also it should be said that all the buildings in Nanjing or any city in China besides the big ones like Shanghai and Beijing whether residential or corporate or business oriented were the same in design: dull, boring, and uniform.

And as I continued to walk on the streets of Nanjing I found myself completely uninspired by anything that I saw.

I saw no indications of creativity or innovation on the streets, in the people, or in the buildings. Everything was sadly the same - dull and boring.

This I believe is a result of the decades of communism striving to twist the country and its people into an egalitarian one. All forms of art, architecture, music and dance and expression that was not in favor of the Party was stamped out.

As a result I feel that there are no indications to be found on the streets of Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing of the 5,000 years of old and ancient Chinese history and culture.

I have found the Chinatowns of Southeast Asia to reflect more of traditional China than China itself. And I find that sad.

Teaching Chinese Kids for 10 Minutes:
Today I walked into a kind of Community Center for Children and the Arts. I went up to the second floor to look at the ballet classes but instead I was looking into an English class for elementary school children. I was soon invited in to observe. The teacher was very good and I was impressed with how much fun the kids were having, and how much they knew, and how eager they were to learn.

I eventually was asked to teach the class for 10 minutes. I screamed and yelled in my comedic ways and the kids simply stood their laughing their heads off. I guess they had never seen teacher break so many teaching taboos. I left the class with all of them following me and screaming, "Good-bye Teacher!" They got in trouble for doing so by the other teachers.

Nanjing Massacre Musuem Notes:
On December 13th of 1937 the Japanese Imperial Army sacked the city of Nanjing. As an immediate result the Japanese slaughtered 300,000 civilian Chinese in less than a couple of weeks.

On the grounds of the Musuem you will find the Jiant Deng Meng (10,000 Person Grave)which was a former execution ground. There I saw the skeletal remains of thousands of Chinese slaughtered by the Japanese. Some of the bones had bullet and bayonet marks on them. The mass grave is composed 7 layers of bodies piled on top of each other - this suggests irregular deaths and hurried collective burials. I saw the skull of a six-year old child whose head was severed from its body before burial. There were the remains of a woman whose upper and lower jaws were severly parted - suggesting that something was shoved into her mouth. Hairpins, copper coins, buttons, snail shells were found scattered all over the mass grave.

Machine gun bullet casings were also found.

Iron nails were also found embedded in some of the skulls, pelvis's, and limbs.

From Shanghai the Japanese invaded several towns:
Massacre at Jingshanwei - Japanese 10th Army
landed on Hangzhou Bay and killed 351 innocent peasants

Massacre at Suzhou
In the town of Changshou 3,000 civilians were killed and 374 Chinese women raped

Massacre of Xuxi
2,000 people were killed and then the Japanese set fire to the city after looting and occupying it.

Massacre at Changzhou
The Japanese Imperial Army killed 4,000 refugees. Groups of Chinese women were escorted to the headquarters of the Japanese troops to be insulted, gang raped, and shot to death.

Massacre at Jiangyin
1,000 people killed

Massacre at Zhengjiang
The Japanese shot peope at random with machine guns. The raped, looted, and burned.

The Chinese Nationlist Government headed by Chiang Kai Shek (who by the way blew up a massive dam to slow down the Japanese Imperial Army - it resulted in the deaths of over a million Chinese peasants and 50 million homeless peasants) moved the capital from Nanjing to Chongqin in 1937 November 20th.

100,000 Chinese troops evacuated Nanjing before the Japanese arrived leaving the civilians of the city to fend for themselves.

The Japanese threw 190,000 Chinese corpses into the Yangzi river turning the river into a bright red.

There was one case of two Japanese Generals who held a contest in Nanjing. The contest between the two generals entailed decapitating the most heads from Chinese prisoners with their samurai swords. Gunkichi Tanaka was able to decapitate over 300 individuals.

Another torture technique was burning alive Chinese civilians.

There were over 20,000 cases of rape in Nanjing by the Japanese Imperial Army. They did not spare small girls, the old or pregnant. Many of the women - after being raped - were disemboweled and left on the road side to die.

Many girls who survived suffered from veneral diseases from countless incidences of gang rape.

Several foreign residents - particularly John H. D. Rabe - stayed in Nanjing to set up the Safety Zone in Nanjing to protect 250,000 refugees.

The Trial of the Internationl Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo brough 28 Class A Japanese War Criminals to justice. They were all sentenced to death. They were hung on December 22nd 1948 in Tokyo.

A good book to read about these events is The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang.

June 18th, 2004 - Last Day in Shanghai

Today will hopefully be my last day in Shanghai. It is yet another dreary day. I, unfortunately, never had the pleasure of seeing Shanghai in bathed in the beauty of sunlight.

Comic Store
Yesterday I went to the Old Main Post Office and then into town in search of a few bookstores, which I found. I also found a comic book store that sold Japanese comics in English imported from the U.S.? The clientele of the store were Chinese men and women? Very odd. There was a second floor to the establishment full of tables where patrons could sit down and read their comics - much like a manga kissaten in Japan. The selection of comics though was not vast and as a result I didnt see how a business such as this could stay in business. The comics were also very expensive. One copy usually sold for more than 10 U.S. dollars.

The Shanghai Musuem
I went to the Shanghai Museum which was extremely impressive with its very modern, clean, efficient, and conservative design. I spent a lot of time looking at the bronze vessels that the Bronze Age of China is famed for. These vessels stretch back to 4,000 B.C. Some of the vessels were large - in my opinion they served as a cauldron to burn offerings like the ones I saw just in front of the Temple of the City Gods in the Old Chinese Quarter of Shanghai. The dissappointment I had in the musuem is that you walk around through the halls of the museum such as the one dedicated to bronze vessels and see these objects completely out of context. You only read and little label that explained that the vessel was either a "wine vessel" or a "food vessel" and its date within a historical time line.

One vessel though had a depiction of a temple scene giving some idea of the context of these vessels.

These bronze vessels are sine works and most definitely associated with some sort of religious or royal purpose. The depiction I mentioned before shows devotees ascending steps to a temple altar where there is a priest to greet them. This is where the vessels were most probably used - I believe.

After seeing in Myanmar the amount of wealth donated by common people to the stupa's and temples all over the country it is easy to understand how powerful the temples were in ancient times; and their connections to the royal families or warlords of ancient times.

The dedication and strong beliefs of the Burmese for their Nat gods and Buddhist gods causes them to attend and worhip in the temples as much as they can. And when they do attend they donate as much money as they can spare. Or they buy golden paper from the temple or other ornament in order to make offering to the relics and statues within the temple. This donated money is then used to maintain the temple. But, I can imagine that milleniums ago the temple made a considerble profit and that possibly this profit was given as tribute to the royal family or used by the royal family - but this is only a guess. I will have to read up on all of this. Regardless though I can understand why in ancient times the relationship between royalty and temples were so strong. Temples made the power of royalty legitimate for the common people, etc. etc. etc.

Moving on - after the bronze vessels I went into the hall dedicated to the history of Chinese ceramics and porcelein - a purely Chinese invention.

I also saw Chinese coinage, stamps - originally and strictly used by bureaucrats, jade ornaments, adn tribal clothing of the various Chinese ethnic groups.

After exiting the Museum I was approached by a middle-aged Chinese man who was with some friends and who wanted to take a picture with me infront of the Shanghai Museum - very odd and funny.

In the evening I had dinner in a giant shopping mall which looked no different from any posh shopping mall in the U.S. - all of its shops were western ones.

The Communist Dynasty
I have yet to be culturally shocked by China. I have found more traditional Chinese elements outside China than within it. This is the result of Chinese Communism wiping away the ancient cultural traditions of the country. As pointed out to me by a man in my dorm room - China had always been ruled by powerful fuedal dynasties that propogated the hierarchal and rigid class structures and systems that kept the masses in place for 4,000 years. Farmers stayed farmers as royal families stayed royal. Although know that anyone could study to become a civil servant and thus move up - but this mobility never passed on to offspring.

Supposedly this all changed in 1911 when Sun Yat-Sen ended 4,000 years of dynasty rule by ending the Ming dynasty. Thus the Republic of China was born giving way to the Nationalists and the Communists who grew to be at odds with each other.

Although Mao preached egalitarianism and Communism to peasants all over China to form his army that pushed the corrupt Nationalist to Taiwan it seems that he simply reinstated another dynasty. The Communist dynasty - where yet again the masses of Chinese people were forced to do what the Party wanted. Obeying them and having no voice. What is the difference between that and the dyansties before 1911 A.D.?

Nothing. China hasnt changed a bit.


June 16th - Shanghai's Barbershop Brothels

I saw for the first time after having heard about them in Thailand - for they exist in places like Hat Yai for Malaysian Muslims who cross the Thai border for some exotic fun - the barbershop brothel. In Shanghai I found an entire area of them north of Yan'an Xilu (street) and Yan'an Zhonglu (street).

Wuding Xilu (street) Notes:
This particular street has barbershop brothels on every single block and in some cases one block would be host to several of them.
It is interesting camoflage for a brothel to disguise itself as either a massage parlor, kareoke bar, or barbershop. It makes sense and is quiet clever. The legitimate version of these establishments serve male customers, thus the brothels uses this as camoflage. Most of the barbershop brothels that I saw in Shanghai were situated next to or near legitimate barbershops. They (the barbershop brothel) all had the Chinese characters for beauty and hair on their windows along with the number 60 and the Chinese character for minutes - obviously what kind of barbershop charges by the hour? They (the barbershop brothels) distinguish themselves from their legitimate barbershop counterparts by their spinning barbershop pole which is illuminated in the color pink or in some rare cases blue. Some of these poles also have heart symbols on them. The color pink is typically the Asian (Japan, Korea, China, etc.) recognized color that denotes stores or shops and so forth as selling porn merchandise (DVDs, and S&M devices) or brothels of some kind or another.

If you look through the window of one of the barbershop brothels you will see that it is darkly lit in a soft pink glow. There are mirrors and chairs set up much like a traditional barbershop but it is plain to see that it has been years since they have ever - if ever - been used for that purpose. And you will see Chinese women scantly dressed lounging around bored out of their minds. They are sitting within simply waiting for a customer.
In some cases the windows are tinted so that you can not clearly see in, but the pink glow within is aparant letting all walking traffic know exactly what kind of establishment it is.

In terms of clientele these barbershop brothels are for local customers. They do not advertise themselves to foreigners or sex tourists. Some of these barbershop brothels are so run-down and delapitated that it is simply apparent that they are servicing lower-class, blur-collar, Chinese men (perhaps migrant working men from the country side).

This area that I found these barbershop brothels in is far west of the Bund in Shanghai; it is an area not frequented by tourists.