The Chinese National Anthem

China national flag

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The official national anthem of China is titled, "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 honors soldiers and revolutionaries who fought 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.

Becoming the Chinese National Anthem

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" became a banned song. In its place, many used "The East is Red," which was a popular Communist song at the time.


"March of the Volunteers" was eventually restored as the Chinese national 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.

Lyrics of the Chinese National Anthem


Stand up! Those who are unwilling to become slaves!


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


The Chinese people have reached a most dangerous time,


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


Arise! Arise! Arise!


We are millions with one heart,


Braving our enemy’s gunfire, march on!


Braving our enemy’s gunfire, march on!


March on! March on! Charge!

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Chiu, Lisa. "The Chinese National Anthem." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, Chiu, Lisa. (2020, August 29). The Chinese National Anthem. Retrieved from Chiu, Lisa. "The Chinese National Anthem." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).