The day of Dec. 13 marks China's National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims, an occasion to remember those killed by Japanese invaders, to expose the atrocities committed by the Japanese military, and to cherish peace that is so dear to a country once ravaged by wars.
President Xi Jinping's two meetings with Xia Shuqin, a survivor of the Nanjing Massacre, shed light on how he thinks about peace as the leader of the country.
Xi first met Xia, then 85, in Nanjing on Dec. 13, 2014, during the state ceremony for the first National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims. Xia was invited to the ceremony to unveil a monument to the massacre victims.
At the ceremony, Xi and Xia, together with a teenager who is the offspring of massacre victims, unveiled a memorial "ding," a type of ancient Chinese-style cauldron. The ding was engraved with 160 Chinese characters that recount the brutal history of the Nanjing Massacre as well as the inception of the memorial day. The practice of engraving historical events on bronzeware goes back thousands of years in China.
"I have never been so thrilled in my life," Xia said at the ceremony.
On Dec. 13, 1937, Japanese troops captured Nanjing, then the Chinese capital. Over a period of six weeks, the invaders killed more than 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers. The city was looted, women and even young girls were raped, and untold number of citizens were injured.
Xia, then 8, was stabbed three times on her back by a troop of Japanese soldiers who broke into her home, and fell into a coma. She was later awakened by the crying of her 4-year-old sister, only to find the other seven family members were all dead.
Xi and Xia would meet again on the same day three years later, on the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre. After learning at an exhibition that there were no more than 100 massacre survivors still alive, Xi said all the survivors must be taken good care of.
After touring the exhibition, Xi noticed Xia and went up to clasp her hands, wishing her good health and long life.
"Xi is very attentive to those who fought and died in the war against Japanese invaders, the Nanjing Massacre survivors, and foreign friends who helped Chinese during the massacre, as well as their relatives," said Zhang Jianjun, the curator of the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, when talking about Xi's visit to the museum in 2017.
As of October 2021, 61 survivors of the Nanjing Massacre on the record remained alive, with an average age of 91 years.
"The purpose of the annual memorial for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre is to evoke every good-hearted person's yearning of and commitment to peace, but not to prolong hatred," Xi said when addressing the memorial ceremony in 2014.
"Only if everyone cherishes and safeguards peace, and only if everyone remembers the bitter lessons of war can there be hope for peace," Xi said.