Collegiate Learning Day lecture on “War and Peace Memorials of World War II in the Pacific: Who and What do they Memorialize”

The battle for peace!

Master Pong delivered his Collegiate Learning Day lecture on “War and Peace Memorials of World War II in the Pacific: Who and What do they Memorialize” on September 28, 2016, at the Dr. and Mrs. Lau Chor Tak Lecture Theatre, Anthony Lau Building (E-4-G078), to a large audience. The event was jointly sponsored by CKYC and CKPC. Professor C.S. Liu, Master of CKPC, chaired the meeting, and the CKYC Chamber choir gracefully rendered the UM and CKYC Anthems, as well as Più non si trovano, K.549 by
W.A. Mozart.

Professor Pong examined closely the layout, design, organization, and display of materials and information in (1) the Memorial Hall for Compatriots Killed in the Nanjing Massacre 侵華日軍南京大屠殺遇難同胞紀念館, (2) the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park 沖繩県和平祈念公園, (3) the Yasukuni Shrine靖國神社 in Tokyo, as well as examples drawn from (4) the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park 広島平和記念公園, (5) the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park長崎平和記念公園, and (6) the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall 中國人民抗日戰爭紀念館.

The central (ostensible) theme of these memorials, with the exception of (3), the Yasukuni Shrine, is peace. But Prof. Pong asks, is the graphic representation of brutality perpetrated by one people against another the best way to promote peace? Does the portrayal of Japanese deaths either in the bloody battle of Okinawa or the indiscriminate killing and maiming of civilians by the A-bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki give the Japanese a license to promote peace and sidestep the accountability for war crimes (“The Rape of Nanjing”)? Where do “dark tourism”, “peace tourism” and “war tourism” intersect? Why is it possible for some Japanese to admit brutality against Koreans and Taiwanese (both Japanese citizens in pre-1945 Japan) and not admit the much greater cruelties inflicted on the Koreans in Korea and the Chinese in China? What is the role of the victim mentality in the “war on peace” in both China and Japan? Why do people memorialize their dead soldiers (e.g., the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the National Cemetery in Arlington, or the eternal flames in many war or peace memorials)? Why do the Japanese honour dead soldiers so openly (some would say “shamelessly”) and the Chinese do not? Why don’t the Chinese have any meaningful “national cemetery”. Finally, Prof. Pong asks why is it so difficult (or awkward) for China, one of the Five Victorious Powers in World War II, to celebrate Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day)? There was no military parade to celebrate the victory until September 2015, 70 years after the War. All previous military parades in Beijing were held on October 1, to celebrate the founding of the nation. These provocative questions duly provoked questions from the audience. Honest Chiu suggests that all these memorials only serve to perpetuate hate, and there is too much of it. Shovoraj asks why young people seem not to be getting the message about hate and patriotism. Vinchl Lin argues that the Chinese need to remember how poor they were in the time of World War II, and how much they have come along, and how important it is for the Chinese not to be brutalized again by foreign invaders. Her remarks drew applause from students from Mainland China. Prof. Hao Zhidong suggests afterwards that the Chinese still need to further reflect on how they think about war and peace.

September 28, the day of the lecture, was Confucius’ Birthday, the first anniversary of Collegiate Learning Day in UM, Teachers’ Day in Taiwan, MC Michael’s Birthday, and also Professor Pong’s birthday! How fitting it is to have such a lecture on this day!

“Dare to Think; Care to Act” – CKYC motto.

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