The Rape of Nanking, also known as the Nanking Massacre happened during the Sino-Japanese war and is said to have been a brutal murder of between 40,000 and 300,000 civilians in China’s capital city. The massacre happened over six weeks in December of 1937 and is considered the worst atrocity committed during the World War II era.

Preceding Events

Before Nanking was invaded by the Japanese military, a tough battle took place at Shanghai. The Japanese Army was met with stiff resistance from the Chinese, something they had not expected and which infuriated the Japanese to such an extent that it gave them an appetite for revenge. When the Japanese finally reached and conquered Nanking, they invaded the city with orders to kill all of the captives.



The Japanese saw surrender as an atrocity and had little respect for the 90,000 Chinese soldiers who surrendered. They killed them all, some in horrendous ways. After slaying the men, the Japanese allegedly went on and gang-raped over 20,000 women before killing them too. For six weeks there were citywide stabbings, burnings, strangulations, rapes, drownings, thefts and massive destruction of property. It is said that the streets of Nanking literally ran red from all the blood.


Key perpretators of the Nanking Massacre were tried in front of the International Military Tribunal of the Far East, as well as the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal, found guilty and executed. The event however is still highly debated politically. Several historians and Japanese nationalists have claimed that it has either been fabricated or highly exaggerated for war propaganda. The issue is still a stumbling block in Japanese relations with China and other Asian nations.

This article is part of our larger educational resource on World War Two. For a comprehensive list of World War 2 facts, including the primary actors in the war, causes, a comprehensive timeline, and bibliography, click here.

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"What was the Rape of Nanking?" History on the Net
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May 30, 2023 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/what-was-the-rape-of-nanking>
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