Cherry blossom in Nanjing

Cherry Blossom in Nanjing

When I arrive in Nanjing I am finally greeted by sunshine  instead of rain and the cherry blossom. I will meet Tom, my former roommate, and his family in the former capital of China. They are responsible, that I was already in China six years ago. In addition to a traditional wedding in Germany, they celebrated also a wedding ceremony for all relatives and friends in China, because Mingming and Tom’s parents are native Chinese.

Spring has arrive and the cherry blossom lures countless people to the lake and the Xuanwuhu Park. The surrounding streets have become clogged or turned into pedestrian zones to cope with the huge crowd of admirers who want to see the flowerage.  The cherry blossom is celebrated not only in China, but worldwide. However, the original form of the tree originates from China. From the Himalayas the trees found their way into the world about 2000 years ago. Nowadays there are hundreds of different types. The cultivation and hybridization have especially been driven by the Japanese.

Over the centuries the cherry blossom has become a national landmark for Japan. It can be found on the 100 yen coin and it is a recurring motif in painting and tattoo art (Irezumi). Due to the short flowering period of only two weeks, the cherry blossom symbolizes beauty and ephemeral life at the same time. It represents the beauty of the woman. In the field of military and political life the flower was given an important role as well. The Samurai interpret the motif of the cherry blossom as a short, but heroic life. The military of recent times has adopted this interpretation. In the Second World War the Japanese used the motive to strengthen nationalism. For the navy the cherry blossom is a flower of death and pilots painted their combat aircraft with cherry blossoms, before they lifted into the air as a kamikaze flyer.

Based on the history of Nanjing I wonder if anybody of the admirers draw such lines between the cherry blossoms and the Japanese and Chinese history. It is just 80 years ago, when the Japanese occupied Nanjing and created an inglorious entry into the history books, known as the Nanjing massacre (massacre of Nanking). Who still knows abot the atrocities? However among the admirers of the cherry blossom are hardly people of older age, which may have lived at this time. The city has survived and has become a symbol of modernity and the economic success of China.

The veil of forgetting spreads over China. […] Today, there are only 1800 survivors of 1937. Many of them are too old to say anything else, others have decided to remain silent.”

Tor Farovik in “Yangtze River”

Meanwhile, China and Japan have converged. Japan has invested millions in China. The past is not spoken.