From December 1937 to January 1938, Japanese forces carried out a series of brutal attacks on the city of Nanking, then the capital of the Republic of China. The event, whose estimated death toll reaches 300,000 according to some sources, became known as the Nanjing Massacre. The massacre has caused tensions in Sino-Japanese relations for years. China and Japan’s collective memories of the massacre are different: China believes while Japan denies the events. To form a collective memory, a nation uses rhetoric to construct meaning for their people. While rhetorical messages are often constructed through writing and speech, visual artifacts such as memorial structures and commemoration ceremonies can also function rhetorically to evoke meaning and create national identities. for others too. This I.S. studies the link between a nation’s collective memory of a traumatic event and rhetorical constructions of its national identity. Specifically, I examine China’s 2017 commemoration ceremony of the Nanjing Massacre using a visual rhetorical analysis. My analysis uncovers three different themes that show how China’s commemoration of this event projects three views of China as a nation (i) Textures of Power: Hard and Soft, (ii) China: Frozen in Time and Moving Forward, and (iii) The One and the Many. Each theme creates a yin and yang effect for the viewer; placing opposites together to construct and project a Chinese national identity rooted in the perpetual confluence and embodiment of paradoxes.


Singh, Rohini


Communication Studies


Speech and Rhetorical Studies


Memory, Collective Memory, Nation, National Identity, Visual Rhetoric

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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