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The third national memorial day was held in eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, on Tuesday to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of Chinese people slaughtered during the Japanese invasion almost eight decades ago.
On Dec. 13, 1937, Nanjing, the Chinese capital for six dynasties, fell to Japanese invaders who went on to slaughter civilians for more than a month. About 300,000 Chinese were killed, and 20,000 women raped.
The Nanjing Massacre left a deep psychological scar on the Chinese for generations to come.
On Tuesday morning, in a chilly wind and drizzle, more than 8,000 people, dressed in black with white flowers pinned to their chests, gathered at a square in front of the Memorial Hall for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre.
Sirens blared for one minute throughout the city. Doves were released, traffic came to standstill, and pedestrians paused to mourn the deceased in silence. The ceremony was broadcast live in Nanjing's public venues, including subway stations where commuters stopped to watch.
Addressing the event, Zhao Leji, head of the organization department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said the massacre, which blatantly violated and trampled on international treaties, was a very dark page in the history of mankind.
The Chinese people will never forget history and will always treasure peace, said Zhao, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.
Drivers honked their horns to echo the siren. One of them, a 36-year-old man surnamed Xu, gestured to a roadside electronic screen with the slogan "Victory for Justice, Victory for the People, Victory for Peace," saying, "That is our common aspiration."
Photo taken on December 13, 2016 shows the scene of state memorial ceremony for China's National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims at the memorial hall for the massacre victims in Nanjing, capital city of east China's Jiangsu Province. Photo: Xinhua
Among those attending the ceremony were several survivors of the war, now in their 80s. Xia Shuqin, 87, wept. She and her younger sister were the only survivors of a family of nine. Xia said she had attended every memorial day and would continue to do so.
The number of registered survivors of the massacre has fallen to 107.
In the evening, over 500 attendees from China, Germany, Canada, the Republic of Korea and Japan held a virgil for the deceased.
Forty school children, held candles and circled the square slowly. "We are all moved," said Jiang Xiaojie.
Chen Deshou, 85, a survivor, stared at the 1,500 candles in silence. Chen, then a six-year-old boy, saw his aunt stabbed to death by a Japanese soldier. Over the past decades, he has flown to Japan numerous times to testify on his painful history. "We should let more people know the truth," he said.
Besides Nanjing, other cities have also held memorial events.
Over 400 soldiers, 300 students, and relatives of veterans laid flowers for victims at the Museum of the War of the Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing.
The 9.18 Historical Museum in Shenyang, built in 1999 to remember the invasion of Japanese troops into the northeastern China city on September 18, 1931, opened an exhibition on the brutalities of war.
The Nanjing Massacre is seen in China as the nadir of an era in which it was bullied and humiliated by foreign powers. In February 2014, China's top legislature designated December 13 as national memorial day for the victims of Nanjing Massacre.
"Without a strong army and a powerful state, Chinese people would have never stood up," said Shi Jianwei, a Nanjing retiree who attended the ceremony. "We should turn the lessons of humiliation into a motive for the nation's rejuvenation."