Julian Yi Cao
Masters Program in the Humanities
“Visualizing Japan’s Wartime Pan-Asianism: The Ideological Landscape in Triumphal Entry into Nanjing


Left: Kanokogi Takeshirō 鹿子木孟郎. Triumphal Entry into Nanjing 南京入城図. Oil on canvas. 205.0 x 495.0 cm. 1940. The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

Right: Japanese General Iwane Matsui 松井石根, enters Nanjing, China, December 17th, 1937. Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images.


Time: Friday, February 7th, 3-5 pm
Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)
Discussant: Jiakai Sheng (Ph.D. Student, History)


The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Julian Yi Cao (Associate Professor, UNIST, Korea), who will present his thesis “Visualizing Japan’s Wartime Pan-Asianism: The Ideological Landscape in Triumphal Entry into Nanjing” this Friday. He summarizes his thesis as follows:

This thesis examines Kanokogi Takeshirō’s (1874-1941) painting, Triumphal Entry into Nanjing (1940), as a visual representation and witness of Pan-Asianism at its critical transformation in wartime Japan. A tribute to the Japanese army and the Yasukuni Shrine, the painting depicts the scene in which the army, after taking over China’s capital on December 13th, 1937, held an official ceremony of the city entry on the 17th. Nanjing invites a new way of looking at Japanese wartime art produced in the 1930s and 40s, most of the existing research on which focuses only on the representation of either the establishment or disintegration of the human figures. This thesis argues that Nanjing shifts the visual emphasis from the representation of human figures to the identified landscape elements, thus inverting the pictorial construction by giving both visual and ideological primacy to the compositional background instead of the foreground. It successfully overcomes the circumscriptions of both objectivity and a mere record of war. Instead, the painting actively witnesses the historical event by involving its viewers into a nationalistic participation, through which the notion of a communal body is given form.

This thesis, while providing a detailed visual examination of Nanjing and its comparison with photographs and architecture, combines different types of media and literature—including news reports, memoirs, and travelogues—in order to demonstrate Nanjing’s capacity as an ideologically charged symbolism that uses the landscape to generate a specific interpretation—of the occupied territory and its national icons—that fits with Japan’s own Pan-Asian and colonial ideals. In general, this thesis intends to shed light on the art historical understanding of the subtlety and ambiguity of Japan’s wartime ideology, one that consists of both violence and a (re)imagination of Asia that overcomes borderlines and modernity.


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