Museum opens to pay tribute to China's "comfort women"

October 26, 2016 10:05 PM EDT

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A museum dedicated to Chinese "comfort women", as those who were forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels were euphemistically known, opened in Shanghai this month.

Powerful black and white images of the women line the walls of the museum that showcases victims' testimonies as well as historical objects including Japanese military issued condoms, a pair of laced women's shoes and tattered identification documents.

Many of the visitors to the museum, in the Shanghai Normal University, were young students with little knowledge of the stories the museum has collected over the years.

"My first feeling is that I'm shocked. Those pictures on the wall that are testimonies to the lives of some of the survivors (shocked me) ... We cannot shake off the pain or memory that they have given us," said 22-year-old student, Dong Zhenyu.

Another visitor noted that the museum brought to life the experiences of the women rather than the war they were entangled in.

"Most of our understanding comes from anti-Japanese TV dramas. Students get most of their understanding through middle school text books ... and there is little explanation of what comfort women are," said Bi Lihua.

Only a handful of China's "comfort women" are still living and the director of the museum hopes that the collection will shine a light on them into the future.

"There has been little actual reflection nor concern in regards to this sort of disaster committed against our people," said Su Zhiliang.

"We provide a window for people to reflect on this issue. We must face history and understand how we must walk the path of a better, peaceful future."

Japanese forces invaded China in 1931 and remained there, fighting both Chinese Nationalist and Communist forces, until the end of World War Two in 1945.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Adela Suliman.)

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