NANJING, China -- One of the more striking exhibits at the Nanjing Museum of the Site of Lijixiang Comfort Station is the story of Akiko, a married Japanese woman conscripted to be a "comfort woman" in a military brothel in China during World War II. Greeting a visiting soldier one day, Akiko realizes that he is her husband, drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army. Despairing at their situation the pair commit suicide together.
Newspapers in wartime China trumpeted this calamity to demonstrate the depths to which Japan had demeaned its own people. A popular dramatic production of the tragedy followed, reproduced on stage in China in 2014 and later. But the story is of dubious veracity: According to Chinese history enthusiast Zhu Delin and others, it initially appeared in an anti-war literary arts magazine in 1938. It is a pastiche of real events and a fictional story that served as excellent propaganda during the war, but should not be presented in a museum as fact.