A piercing air-raid siren echoed across Nanjing on Thursday morning as people stood still in the Jiangsu province capital to pay silent tribute to the victims of the Nanjing Massacre.
In February 2014, China's top legislature, the National People's Congress Standing Committee, designated Dec 13 as National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims.
The commemoration, which marked 81 years since the massacre, was held at the Memorial Hall for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders. More than 8,000 people attended the ceremony in the main hall.
During the event, soldiers placed flowers beside the victims' memorial, doves were released to signify peace and students recited the Declaration of Peace, a poem that calls on the Chinese people not to forget history and cherish peace.
Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said that the country mourns and remembers the victims killed by the Japanese invaders, and commemorates the heroes that sacrificed themselves during the war as well as foreign friends who lost their lives fighting together with the Chinese people.
"The Chinese people will remember history and cherish peace," he said. "The Chinese people will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development."
On Dec 13, 1937, Japanese invaders occupied Nanjing and killed some 300,000 Chinese people in six weeks.
Lin Boyao rang the "Peace Bell" at the ceremony together with other people from different walks of life. Lin and 13 other overseas Chinese living in Japan donated 500,000 yuan ($72,600) to help cast the bell in 2003.
"The sound of the bell reminds Chinese people of the tragedy, which happened 81 years ago," said the 79-year-old man.
"Memorial activities will also be held in Japan this month to mourn the victims. Few Nanjing Massacre survivors are still alive," said Lin.
"They cannot go to Japan to attend the memorial activities this year due to their health. I hope that they can maintain good health and pass the history on to the next generation," he added.
Li Zhenming, son of a Nanjing Massacre survivor, lost his father Li Gaoshan in February. The elder Li, born in 1925, was captured twice when Japan occupied the then capital of China, but he somehow managed to survive both detentions.
"My father often said that we cannot forget what happened, and that we want peace, not war," he said. "The massacre brought us nightmares, but it also makes us hold a firmer stance of peace."
Wu Xianbin, curator of the Nanjing Folk Anti-Japanese War Museum, said that the ceremony will remind people of the peace obtained through blood and tears, and contribute to future world peace.
"The museum has held exhibitions of the Nanjing Massacre in Japanese cities to let more people there know about the massacre. Sometimes we met right-wingers who protested against us, but more Japanese people gave us support and help," Wu said.
Liu Min, a student at Nanjing Agricultural University, said that all her classmates stood up in class and paid silent tribute for one minute as soon as they heard the air-raid siren.
"Every Chinese should remember the tragedy that our country suffered," she said. "I really hope that different countries can communicate more frequently and maintain friendship and peace."