Sequences from the Core Exhibit
Sequences from the Essay

The “pop-up“ components in this unit on the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 are reintroduced here as independent “Visual Narratives.”

Keep in mind that these popular woodblock prints served as propagandistic “reportage” on developments at the front, and were done by artists back home who relied on their imaginations after reading written cables describing battlefield developments.

Japanese at the time regarded the defeat of “old China” as a victory over “traditional old Asia” itself—with their own nation representing the true path of modernity and progress. “China,” long admired as inspiration to traditional Japanese culture, was suddenly
perceived as backward and decrepit. As a consequence, more than a few of these war prints reveal a harshness, derision, sadism, and even racial contempt vis-a-vis China and the Chinese that was unprecedented for Japan—and that would reappear with shocking violence in Japan’s better-known aggression against China in the 1930s and 1940s.

Keep in mind that uncensored war prints can be disturbing to view, even years after the depicted events.
Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Throwing Off Asia, by John W. Dower

On viewing images of a potentially disturbing nature: click here.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
© 2008 Visualizing Cultures