School Immersion Nanjing, China
The Dunman High School JH History Department brought a group of 37 students on an Overseas Learning Journey to Nanjing-Shanghai from 1-8 June. The objectives of the trip were to explore how current historical portrayal of the Republican era and the 2nd Sino-Japanese War shaped modern Chinese nationalism, to experience the history of the outbreak of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War and World War II in Asia through the exploration of important historical sites in Nanjing-Shanghai as well as to immerse in a local school (Nanjing First School) to experience Chinese culture, society and education.
Through their visits to historical sites such as Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, site of CCP First Congress and Nanjing Presidential Palace, students experienced the manifestation of Chinese nationalism in today’s society and how it has shaped people’s thinking and even political developments. Another highlight of the trip was students’ 2 days immersion programme at Nanjing First School, where our students interacted with their Chinese counterparts. The warm hospitality provided by the school made the stay a very pleasant one. Students also had a taste of academic rigour when they attended a 3 hours History lecture at Fudan University. To conclude the trip, students did a presentation for their peers, sharing their key learning points accumulated through the 7 days programme. It would not be presumptuous to say that our students left Nanjing-Shanghai steeped in historical knowledge and a better appreciation of Chinese culture. Below are two students’ reflections on their learning experiences.
Reflection by Shermaine Loke (14Y4H)
I had an exciting and memorable time in Nanjing and learnt many things along the way.
Firstly, I now understand that the assertion of power by China in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region is a result of their history. The Chinese have a rich history characterized by the rise and fall of various empires and the appearance of figures like Sun Yat Sen and Mao Zedong. Given this history, the Chinese are extremely proud of their country and feel superior. Hence, they feel that they are entitled to much more in the SEA region. Also, the strong anti-Japanese sentiments are a result of the injustices China was dealt in the past. It is also to prevent such events from happening again that China feels a need to be able to assert influence.
Secondly, I have a deeper insight into propaganda, the way information is portrayed by the Chinese government. As the Communist Party of China is now in power, there are monuments to honour the communist martyrs, making the party seem more legitimate. The party also maintains its hold over China by emphasizing the fact that it is the party that has helped China develop into what she is today. At the same time, a strong sense of nationalism is cultivated by the government’s actions. They whitewash any wrongdoings and portray China as a victim while showcasing the injustices dealt against China. Through this portrayal, the Chinese are taught to think in a certain way and to feel that they need to reassert their dominance. This propaganda is quite subtle, but impactful.
Reflection by Joanna Lee (14Y3H)
I am honoured to have been given this chance to participate in this year’s history immersion programme 2014. It has not only been a memorable but also fulfilling experience for me. Through this trip, I have learnt to stand from different perspectives when viewing an issue. Also, one should probe further towards understanding issues and attempt to read between the lines. As Winston S Churchill had once said, “History is written by victors.” This proves to show that the history as we know it is purely based on biased points of view by the various victors or survivors. Hence, a country’s history can be jaded for all we know. In the case of Modern Chinese Nationalism, the 2nd Sino-Japanese War and World War II, has played a huge factor in shaping the course of Modern Chinese Nationalism. Although Modern Chinese Nationalism is not evident as one may see it literally, it still lives strongly in the patriotic hearts of the Chinese. Analyzing the objective of sources is thus crucial as history is only tales written by those with authority to influence the perspectives of future generations by what those in power, the victors themselves, want us to believe. This trip has also provided me with an eye-opening experience in immersing in Chinese culture through the lenses of a local and has deepened my understanding on how Chinese society and education play a part in affecting Modern Chinese Nationalism.