Robert John PERRINS

Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu Province. The city for a while was the capital of the Ming dynasty and of Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist Party. In 1937 and 1938 many thousands of residents of the city were victims of war crimes by the Japanese army.

Nanjing (Nanking), the capital of Jiangsu Province in central eastern China, is located on the southern bank of the Yangzi (Chang) River. Nanjing has played an important role in Chinese history. Indeed, the city’s name means “southern capital,” and Nanjing was the capital of the kingdom of Wu (220–280 CE) and several other minor dynasties between the third and sixth centuries before becoming the capital of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) between 1368 and 1421. In the early 1420s Yung Lo (reigned 1403–1424), the third Ming emperor, moved the capital to Beijing, the “northern capital.”

However, Nanjing continued to play an important role in the administration and economy of the lower Yangzi River area during the later Ming and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties because of its proximity to the major river of central China and the Grand Canal, which linked the southern part of the empire to the administrative north. During the Taiping Rebellion of the mid-nineteenth century Nanjing was the rebels’ capital between 1853 and 1864.

After the October 1911 revolution the new president, Sun Yat-sen, proclaimed the founding of the Republic of China (1912–1949) in Nanjing. Between 1927 and 1937 the city again was the national capital under Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang). In December 1937 Nanjing was captured by the Japanese army, beginning the Nanjing Massacre, one of the worst atrocities of the War of Resistance against Japan (1937–1945), known outside China as the Second Sino-Japanese War. The victorious Japanese armies raped and killed many of the local civilian population, which resulted in the name given to the massacre by the Chinese, “The Rape of Nanjing.” Between 100,000 and 300,000 Chinese had been killed by the time order was restored six weeks later. (The exact numbers have been the subject of some dispute, in part depending on whether the source is Chinese or Japanese. The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal concluded that 200,000 lives were lost, but other researchers have concluded that the number was closer to 300,000.)

Since the Communist victory in 1949 Nanjing’s industrial base has developed to include not only its traditional textile manufacturing but also porcelain manufacturing, iron and steel mills, and light machinery. Nanjing continues to be an important regional transportation hub and administrative center.

Whither the Nanking government?

During the Civil War (1945–1949) between the Communists and the Nationalist Party (Guomindang, also spelled Kuomintang), Nanjing (known as Nanking at the time) became the capital of Nationalist China under Chiang Kai-shek. This extract comes from Mao Zedong’s statement of 4 April 1949, “Whither the Nanking Government?”

Two roads are open to the Nanking Kuomintang government and its military and administrative personnel. Either they cling to the Chiang Kai-shek clique of war criminals and its master, U.S. imperialism, that is, continue to be the enemy of the people and so perish together with the Chiang Kai-shek clique of war criminals in the People’s War of Liberation. Or they come over to the people, that is, break with the Chiang Kai-shek clique of war criminals and U.S. imperialism, perform meritorious service in the People’s War of Liberation to atone for their crimes and so obtain clemency and understanding from the people. There is no third road… The massacre which occurred in Nanking on April 1 was no accident. It was the inevitable result of the actions taken by the government of Li Tsung-jen and Ho Ying-chin to protect Chiang Kai-shek, his sworn followers and the forces of U.S. aggression. It was the result of the absurd trumpeting about “honourable peace on an equal footing” by the government of Li Tsung-jen and Ho Ying-chin and by the sworn followers of Chiang Kai-shek, which had the purpose of countering the Chinese Communist Party’s eight terms for peace, and particularly the punishment of war criminals. Now that the government of Li Tsung-jen and Ho Ying-chin has sent its delegation to Peiping to negotiate peace with the Communist Party of China and has indicated its willingness to accept the Communist Party’s eight terms as the basis for negotiations, it should, if it has the slightest good faith, start by dealing with the Nanking Massacre, arrest and severely punish the chief criminals, Chiang Kai-shek, Tang En-po and Chang Yao-ming, arrest and severely punish the thugs of the secret police in Nanking and Shanghai and arrest and severely punish the chief counter-revolutionaries, who are obstinately opposing peace, actively disrupting the peace negotiations and actively preparing to resist the advance of the People’s Liberation Army to the south of the Yangtse River. “Until Ching Fu is done away with, the crisis in the state of Lu will not be over.” Until the war criminals are eliminated, there will be no peace in the country. Isn’t this truth clear enough by now?

Source: Mao Zedong.. (1949, April 4). Whither the Nanking government? In Selected works of Mao Tse-tong. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from

Further Reading

Brook, T. (Ed.). (1999). Documents on the Rape of Nanking. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Fogel, J. A. (Ed.). (2000). The Nanjing Massacre in history and historiography. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Hobart, A. T., & Ayscough F. W. (1929). Within the walls of Nanking. New York: Macmillan.

Mote, F. W. (1977). The transformation of Nanking, 1350–1400. In G. W. Skinner (Ed.), The city in late imperial China (pp. 101–154). Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.

Source: Perrins, Robert John (2009). Nanjing. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1544–1545. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Nanjing (Nánj?ng ??)|Nánj?ng ?? (Nanjing)

Download the PDF of this article