December 13 has been a national Memorial Day in China since 2014, officially designated as the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Day. Since early this morning, many of my Chinese WeChat friends — a yoga studio owner, a journalist for the Sichuan Daily newspaper, a startup founder, PhD candidates at Tsinghua University and the University of Florida — have been sharing pictures and reposting articles regarding the holocaust that happened 80 years ago today. Fei Zhi, an educational WeChat account that posts in the form of comics, posted an article entitled “The Day 80 Years Ago” (link in Chinese), telling the story of the event with both illustrations and actual historical photos.

On Weibo, celebrities like Jackson Yi from TF BOYS, Yang Mi, Fan Bingbing, professional websites like Fengniao (a famous photography site), and even Sina NBA reposted emotionally charged pictures and videos of the memorial ceremony in Nanjing.

Weibo account of People’s Daily

During this time, all things related to Japan and Japanese are supposed to be regarded as sensitive and provocative. But do young Chinese today really think of this history in the same radical way as previous generations?

Here’s a comment on a post by superstar pop band TFBOYS:

If you have a peaceful time, it’s because someone has borne some burden for you; Don’t forget the national humiliation, and always ring the alarm.

And here are some representative comments on a Weibo post by TV star Yang Mi:

Don’t forget the national humiliation! Our generation should be stronger!

Remember the history; Cherish peace.

The official WeChat post by State newspaper People’s Daily includes sad and cruel stories told by survivors, who experienced the war and lived through hell in Nanjing, and never received an apology from Japan before they died, according to the article. It ends with:

It’s not easy to have this power. It’s not easy to enjoy peace.

Let the innocent bones and souls rest in peace; the past is the future, let the alarm always ring.

A friend of mine who is studying in the States wrote today: “’History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.’ We cannot forget, and must learn more.” Instead of simply hating and being angry at other countries, young Chinese are learning to cherish the safer and stronger country that they’re living in, and to treasure a time of peace that their grandfathers could not have imagined or expected. 

Cover image: Painting by Zhu Yan, reading: “It was messy that year; I hope you will have beautiful years in the next life.”