Brutal Japanese massacres Port Authur (China Lushunkou)

By | October 6, 2017

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Port Arthur Massacre (China Lushunkou) was an act of brutality by Japan during the First Sino-Japanese War. IJA troops kill 20000, only 800 survivors.

1894 was a disastrous year for the Qing Dynasty. Empress Dowager Cixi taxed the populous heavily to raise funds for her birthday celebration. To build the lavish Summer Palace, she also used funds that was set aside for the navy. This was a contributing factor for China’s defeat by the Japanese at the Battle of the Yalu River later that year on 17 September 1894. With control over the sea, Japan’s imperial ambition turned towards Port Arthur (China, not to be confused with Port Arthur Massacre) now known as Lüshunkou.

On 18 November 1894, Japan invaded Port Arthur by land and sea. Beiyang Fleet commander Admiral Ding Ruchang arrived in Tianjing to ask for reinforcements but was rejected. Port Arthur itself was unprepared for battle as local units looted the city. Commander Xu Bangdao leading forces North to engage the Japanese found himself cut off and had to retreat back to Port Arthur.

On the 21st, Japanese forces attacked and defeated Qing forces. On the 22nd, the Japanese army captured Port Arthur. The defeat of Port Arthur is one of many Qing setbacks in the First Sino-Japanese War (25 July 1894 – 17 April 1895).  Port Arthur is an important Beiyang Fleet base. Port Arthur was lost to the Japanese until the end of World War II.

After entering Port Arthur, the inhuman Imperial Japanese Army massacred the city’s population over 4 days of murder and rape.  Chinese dead was estimated at 20,000. Only 36 was spared to bury the dead. Later appraisal puts the number of survivors at 800.


Brutal Japanese soldiers showing off | Source:

Chief architect of this brutality was IJA 1st Division Commander Yamaji Motoharu. He was elevated to rank of Viscount in August 1895.


Port Arthur Massacre witnessed by foreigners


Aftermath of Port Arthur Massacre

As we entered the town of Port Arthur, we saw the head of a Japanese soldier displayed on a wooden stake. This filled us with rage and a desire to crush any Chinese soldier. Anyone we saw in the town, we killed. The streets were filled with corpses, so many they blocked our way. We killed people in their homes; by and large, there wasn’t a single house without from three to six dead. Blood was flowing and the smell was awful. We sent out search parties. We shot some, hacked at others. The Chinese troops just dropped their arms and fled. Firing and slashing, it was unbounded joy. At this time, our artillery troops were at the rear, giving three cheers [banzai] for the emperor.

— Makio Okabe, diary¹


Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were spent by the soldiery in murder and pillage from dawn to dark, in mutilation, in every conceivable kind of nameless atrocity, until the town became a ghastly Inferno to be remembered with a fearsome shudder until one’s dying day. I saw corpses of women and children, three or four in the streets, more in the water … Bodies of men strewed the streets in hundreds, perhaps thousands, for we could not count – some with not a limb unsevered, some with heads hacked, cross-cut, and split lengthwise, some ripped open, not by chance but with careful precision, down and across, disembowelled and dismembered, with occasionally a dagger or bayonet thrust in the private parts. I saw groups of prisoners tied together in a bunch with their hands behind their backs, riddled with bullets for five minutes and then hewn to pieces. I saw a junk stranded on the beach, filled with fugitives of either sex and of all ages, struck by volley after volley until – I can say no more.[11]

— Thomas Cowan, correspondent for The Times²


Other noted observers include Canadian reporter James Creelman of the New York World who was embedded with Japanese forces and British war artist and war correspondent Frederic Villiers.


The Japanese troops entered Port Arthur on Nov. 21 and massacred practically the entire population in cold blood. … The defenseless and unarmed inhabitants were butchered in their houses and their bodies were unspeakably mutilated. There was an unrestrained reign of murder which continued for three days. The whole town was plundered with appalling atrocities. … It was the first stain upon Japanese civilization. The Japanese in this instance relapsed into barbarism.

— James Creelman, New York World, 12 December 1894³


A frightful scene was before me. I have said that the land by which I had come out on the lake inclined steeply upwards, and the water was about fifteen feet below me when I arrived in sight of it. It was surrounded by crowds of Japanese soldiers, who had driven large numbers of the fugitives into the water, and were firing on them from every side, and driving back with the bayonet those who attempted to struggle out. The dead floated on the water, which was reddened with blood. The soldiers, yelling and laughing with vengeful glee, seemed to gloat over the agonies of their victims. It was fearful to see those gory forms struggling in the agitated water, those who still lived endeavouring to extricate themselves from the mass of corpses, falling fast, but often rising again with their last energies, streaming with water and blood, and uttering piteous cries and appeals for mercy, which were mocked by the fiends around them. Many women were amongst them; one I noticed carrying a little child, which, struggling forward, she held up to the soldiers as if in appeal. As she reached the bank, one of the wretches struck her through with his bayonet, and with a second stroke as she fell transfixed the child, which might have been two years old, and held its little body aloft. The woman rose and made a wild effort to regain the child, but evidently exhausted and dying, fell back again into the water. Her body—and in fact it was done with every body that came within reach—was hacked in pieces. Fresh batches of victims were being driven in, until there threatened soon to be no room in the water for any more. I could bear the spectacle no longer, but turned and fled from the ghastly spot.

— James Allan, author of Under the Dragon Flag, 1898

Painful memory

Today Lushunkou is a tourist destination and has good economic achievement but it’s population has neither forgotten nor forgiven Japan’s wartime atrocity.


This sign put up on 18 September 2006 at Dianyan Paotai (Fort), a tourist attraction in Lushunkou announced that “Japanese who refuse to acknowledge the history of Japanese invasion are not welcome”.

This sign at Dianyan Paotai (Fort), Lushunkou announces that Japanese are not welcome

This sign at Dianyan Paotai (Fort), Lushunkou announced that Japanese are not welcome


¹ ² Lone, Stewart (1994). Japan’s First Modern War: Army and Society in the Conflict with China, 1894–95. Palgrave Macmillan UK. ISBN 978-0-230-38975-5, pp. 155-156.

³ Paine, S. C. M. (2005). The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: Perceptions, Power, and Primacy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-61745-1,  p. 213.

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