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The Chinese National Anthem

March of the Volunteers

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The Chinese National Anthem

The Hong Kong handover ceremony on July 1, 1997 featured the Chinese flag and national anthem, the March of the Volunteers.

KIMIMASA MAYAMA/AFP/Getty Images
The official anthem of China is March of the Volunteers 义勇军进行曲 (Yìyǒngjūn Jìnxíngqǔ). It was written in 1935 by the poet and playwright Tian Han, and the composer Nie Er.

The song honored soldiers and revolutionaries who were fighting the Japanese in northeast China in the 1930s. It was originally written as a theme song to a popular propaganda play and movie that encouraged the Chinese people to resist the Japanese invasion.

Both Tian Han and Nie Er were active in the resistance. Nie Er was influenced by popular revolutionary songs at the time, including the Internationale. He drowned in 1935.

Following the Chinese Communist Party's victory in the civil war in 1949, a committee was set up to decide on a national anthem. There were nearly 7,000 entries, but an early favorite was March of the Volunteers. It was adopted as the provisional national anthem on September 27, 1949.

Anthem Banned:

Years later, during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution Tian Han was jailed and subsequently died in 1968. As a result, March of the Volunteers was banned. In its place, many used "The East is Red" a popular Communist song.

March of the Volunteers was eventually restored as the Chinese anthem in 1978 but with different lyrics that specifically praised the Communist Party and Mao Zedong.

After the death of Mao and the liberalization of the Chinese economy, Tian Han's original version was restored by the National People's Congress in 1982.

The Chinese anthem was played in Hong Kong for the first time in the 1997 handover of British control of Hong Kong to China, and in the 1999 handover of Portuguese control of Macao to China. They were subsequently adopted as the national anthems in Hong Kong and Macao. For many years until the 1990s, the song was banned in Taiwan.

In 2004, the Chinese constitution was officially amended to include March of the Volunteers as its official anthem.

Anthem's Lyrics:

Listen to the composition of the song here. The lyrics are as follows:

起来!不愿做奴隶的人们!

Stand up! those who are unwilling to become slaves!

把我们的血肉,筑成我们新的长城!

Take our flesh, and build it to become a new Great Wall!

中华民族到了最危险的时候,

The Chinese people have reached a most dangerous time,

每个人被迫着发出最后的吼声。

Every person is being compelled to send issue a final roar.

起来!起来!起来!

Arise! Arise! Arise!

我们万众一心,

We are millions with one heart,

冒着敌人的炮火,前进

Braving our enemy’s gunfire, march on!

冒着敌人的炮火,前进!

Braving our enemy’s gunfire, march on!

前进!前进!进!

March on! March on! Charge!

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