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Data Challenges Japanese Theory on Nanjing Population Size

December 13, 2003 is the 66th anniversary of Nanjing Massacre in which 300,000 Nanjing citizens were killed by invading Japanese soldiers. In recent years, right-wing Japanese scholars wrote many articles denying the fact, asserting that before the Japanese invasion there were only 200,000 citizens in Nanjing.

Zhang Lianhong, professor of Nanjing Massacre Research Center in Nanjing Normal University, published an article in Beijing Daily, in which he used historical fact to show that the population of Nanjing urban area was between 367,000 and 467,000, and the overall Nanjing population was between 535,000 and 635,000.

The article showed that since the 1980s, right-wing Japanese scholars have been arguing the population number of Nanjing. These scholars maintain that only 200,000 citizens lived there before Nanjing was occupied by Japan in World War II, concluding therefore that it was impossible for the Japanese army to have killed 300,000 Nanjing citizens, and that the "Nanjing Massacre" never happened.

Many fair-minded scholars argued with the Japanese over this, but they still insist their opinion is correct in some newly published academic papers.

According to Zhang Lianhong, after the Kuomintang government set up its capital in Nanjing in 1927, the geographic boundary of Nanjing changed a lot. In 1927, Nanjing only included the urban area. In March 1935, 21 townships formerly under the jurisdiction of Jiangning County were merged into Nanjing, so Nanjing extended its boundary. Later, the number of Nanjing citizens increased a lot, reaching 1.015 million by June 1937.

After the August 13, 1937, when Japanese aggressor troops launched a large-scale offensive against Shanghai, Nanjing was also under threat of war. Many Nanjing citizens moved to other cities for security. From August to November 1937, 48.9 percent of its citizens moved to other areas, and 17.6 percent of its rural citizens moved to other places. At the beginning of November 1937, more than 547,000 citizens still lived in Nanjing. A Japanese military spy report revealed that more than 530,000 citizens lived in Nanjing in late October of 1937.

After the Japanese army occupied Shanghai, many people, mainly government officials, started a second migration. During that period, traffic facilities were not enough to take all citizens who wanted to move to other cities from Nanjing, so travel tickets were extremely expensive, and many Nanjing citizens could not afford to leave. On November 23, 2003, the Nanjing government announced that more than 500,000 citizens stayed in Nanjing.

In early December 1937, Tang Shengzhi, commander of the Nanjing defense army, closed all the gates of Nanjing and blocked off travel to other cities, so it became impossible for Nanjing citizens to leave after December 1937. In this period, some people moved to the city from rural areas, but this movement did not change the overall population number of Nanjing.

After the August 13 Incident of 1937, many refugees came to Nanjing, many of whom want to go further to hinterland. However, due to limited transport facilities, most refugees were not able to leave Nanjing before the city was occupied. There was no exact number of the refugees flooding to Nanjing per day, but if it was assumed as 1,000, the number of people contained in Nanjing was 30,000.

No exact statistical data shows how many Chinese soldiers stayed in Nanjing after the Japanese army occupied it, but it is estimated that more than 116,919 Chinese soldiers and officers participated in the war defending Nanjing and more than 47,382 soldiers were reported lost, of whom less than 10,000 died during the war. Therefore, at least 37,000 Chinese soldiers stayed in Nanjing City after the Japanese army occupied it.

In conclusion, before the Japanese army occupied Nanjing, the following people stayed in Nanjing: original Nanjing citizens (300,000 to 400,000); refugees (more than 30,000); and Chinese soldiers and officers (more than 37,000). Therefore, 367,000 to 467,000 people stayed in Nanjing urban area before occupation. Plus the rural population of 168,000, the overall Nanjing population should number between 535,000 and 635,000.

Some Japanese scholars ignore the fact that the Nanjing population included both the city population and rural population. It is unfair to ignore the rural area because the massacre happened in both city and country areas.

(China.org.cn by Wang Sining and Daragh Moller, December 28, 2003)

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