The Nanjing Massacre or Rape of Nanjing, previously written as the Nanking Massacre or Rape of Nanking, was an episode of mass murder and mass rape committed by Imperial Japanese troops against the residents of Nanjing (Nanking), then the capital of China, during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
The massacre occurred over a period of six weeks starting on December 13, 1937, the day that the Japanese captured Nanjing. During this period, soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army murdered Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants who numbered an estimated 40,000 to over 300,000, and perpetrated widespread rape and looting.
Since most Japanese military records on the killings were kept secret or destroyed shortly after the surrender of Japan in 1945, historians have been unable to accurately estimate the death toll of the massacre. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo estimated in 1946 that over 200,000 Chinese were killed in the incident. China's official estimate is more than 300,000 dead based on the evaluation of the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal in 1947. The death toll has been actively contested among scholars since the 1980s.
The event remains a contentious political issue and a stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations. The Chinese government has been accused of exaggerating aspects of the massacre such as the death toll by many Japanese, while historical negationists and Japanese nationalists go as far as claiming the massacre was fabricated for propaganda purposes. The controversy surrounding the massacre remains a central issue in Japanese relations with other Asia-Pacific nations as well, such as South Korea.
Although the Japanese government has admitted to the killing of a large number of non-combatants, looting, and other violence committed by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of Nanjing, and Japanese veterans who served there have confirmed that a massacre took place, a small but vocal minority within both the Japanese government and society have argued that the death toll was military in nature and that no such crimes ever occurred. Denial of the massacre and revisionist accounts of the killings have become a staple of Japanese nationalism. In Japan, public opinion of the massacre varies, but few deny outright that the event occurred.