The few colonial-era temples still standing in the region should be protected and preserved, not left to rot.
by Ma Te
For more than 40 years, from the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 to the end of World War II in 1945, Japan dominated much and then all of northeastern China. Today, a great deal of evidence from Japanese colonial rule has been obliterated, but some traces can still be found — if you know where to look.
A century ago, imperial Japanese officials saw Northeast China, which they would eventually govern through the puppet state of Manchukuo, as a land of opportunity and fertile ground for their late-blooming colonial ambitions. Railroads, factories, and farms quickly sprouted up after 1905, along with a network of army bases to enforce their rule.
By 1945, there were more than 1.4 million Japanese living in the region — hundreds of thousands of them settlers — and they brought their culture and religions with them. The Japanese authorities recognized that the land’s spiritual colonization was just as important as its economic and industrial colonization, and they built Buddhist temples and Shinto religious shrines all across their new territory. The Chinese destroyed most of these structures after WWII, when they were seen as cruel symbols of the Japanese occupation, but a few of them still survive. Today, their remains pose a question: When and how should history be preserved?…
Image courtesy of Sixth Tone/Ma Te