During the break, one of the students raised her hand to tell me a bit more information. She explained that they remember the anniversary because the Japanese "did very terrible things," and to her, it wasn't "interesting;" it was tragic. She was wiping away tears as she said this.
I learned two things:
1) Japan's invasion of China is not a distant memory here. In some ways, the wounds are still fresh.
2) Be careful that I don't take the tragedies of another culture lightly, even unintentionally.
I think the following quote demonstrates the Chinese mindset on this issue:
"A nation should never forget the trauma it suffered and its people should have sirens wailing in their hearts forever." Qi Shenhong, researcher with the provincial Party school in northeast China's Liaoning Province.