Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Songs of 1989: March of the Volunteers

With China gears up for an extravaganza to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, her blaring and rising national anthem is expected to be featured in TV news and featured stories.

China's national anthem, March of the Volunteers, was originally composed as a theme song for a patriotic movie during the anti-Japanese war era, when the nation was facing "its greatest peril." As such, the song was awe-inspiring in its grandiosity, urgency and even desperation. A while back, China Beat published a nice and comprehensive essay on the origin of the song and its lyricist and composer.

As a national anthem, March of the Volunteers was played at the beginning of most important public events in the country. That was no different in 1989, when Chinese students staged their protests. They sang the song early and often in their own marches and demonstrations, with utmost proud and passion. Quite ironically, at the end, when they were facing the tanks and soldiers of the Communist army, the two songs they repeatedly sang were March of the Volunteers and the Internationale, the anthem of the Communism.

A version of the song can be heard here.

Arise! All who refuse to be slaves!
Let our flesh and blood
Become our new Great Wall!
As the Chinese nation faces its greatest peril,
All forcefully expend their last cries.
Arise! Arise! Arise!

May our million hearts beat as one,
Brave the enemy's fire,
March on!
Brave the enemy's fire,
March on!
March on! March on! On!



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