About 35,000 rare photos of China's transportation and culture during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) were exhibited at Kyoto University, and many Chinese netizens were shocked to see them and considered them hard evidence of Japan's invasion of China.
The photos, which will be exhibited at the university's museum from Wednesday to April 14, were included in a photo exhibit titled North China Railway Archive (NCRA) compiled by the university's Institute for Research in Humanities (IRH) over eight years.
These photos were accidently found in 2008 when the IRH moved office. They are valuable historical materials of the Chinese customs and landscapes, Ishikawa Yoshihiro, who was in charge of the NCRA project, told the Global Times on Thursday.
The 35,000 photos were collected by the "north China transport company," a Sino-Japanese joint venture in China from 1939 to 1945, according to the NCRA website.
The Global Times reporter learned that, except for some photos of soldiers holding guns, few of the photos show any traces of war.
Ishikawa said that the company was mainly focused on using them for advertising. "So it is possible that the photographer wanted them to look like this," he pointed out.
"I hope to attract more people to pay attention to China's history and Sino-Japanese relations by releasing this huge collection of photos," said Ishikawa.
However, when reports of the exhibit spread on Chinese social media, many Chinese netizens said that the photos were evidence that Japan invaded China, and that Japan should apologize sincerely.
"Such an explanation is also reasonable," Ishikawa said, noting that "different people have a different understanding and interpretation, and the right to evaluation should be given to the audience."
On Sina Weibo, the related topic generated over 200,000,000 views as of press time.
According to the NCRA website, many of the photos were taken in Beijing and Tianjin, but some of the photos were taken in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, where the Japanese troops embarked on more than 40 days of slaughter in 1937 that killed about 200,000 civilians and unarmed Chinese soldiers.
Staff member of the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders told the Global Times on Thursday that the memorial hall paid high attention to the photos, and experts need time to verify whether those photos were taken during the Nanjing Massacre.