Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18

I was teaching a junior writing class this morning when sirens began going off outside.  I asked my students what they were for, and they told me that sirens sound every September 18 to mark the anniversary of Japan's invasion of China (almost 80 years ago).  "That's interesting," I said, and told them that the same siren is used in my part of the world to warn people of coming tornadoes.

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.


  1. Good reminder for all of us to be sensitive to those around us--so many people are hurting. We see it so often in school. Wish all could grow up with good families around us as we have had the privilege to do.

    Like your quote at end of blog.

  2. That's a great insight on Chinese culture. I can't imagine any college students here crying now about Pearl Harbor, or even 9/11. Is it just a one-day thing, or is there is a deep-seated resentment towards Japan?

  3. That's a good question, and probably not one that I can discuss here. I'm sure there's some good reading on the topic, though. There's also a book called "The Rape of Nanking," which is a historical account of Japanese atrocities in the city of Nanking. It could give you some idea of why the Chinese haven't forgotten.