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Martyrs' Anthem

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This article tells the tragic tale of how the creators of one of the most renowned national anthems "March of the Volunteers” became victims of the complex politics of the Cultural Revolution. Both composers Nie and Tian joined the Communist national party in the early 1930s inspired by nationalist sentiment. The ‘March’ became a huge success becoming one of the most popular songs in China both with Nationalists and Communists especially after war with Japan began in 1937. Nie died just two months after the film premiered drowning in the ocean. The ‘March’ was officially confirmed as the national anthem in 1949 and Tian played up on the political nature of his work, saving him from the “Anti-Rightist Campaign” which devastated Chinese intellectuals. In 1966 Tian was singled out on the front page of Peoples Daily magazine as a ‘Poisonous Weed’ and he was forced to sign that he was a traitor. After being arrested and handed over to the Red Guards he was tortured eventually dying two years later. However the song out lasted the politics in 1978 the ‘March’ was bought back in.
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Keywords: March of the Voulenteers; cultural revolution; national anthem; national pride

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 February 2014

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  • The World of Chinese is a bi-monthly English magazine and web portal dedicated to Chinese language and culture. Each issue focuses on one specific aspect of Chinese culture and explores it in depth. Previous issues have gone under such broad themes as Adventure, Social Media and Youth. Along with culture, the magazine also looks at travel within China, and Chinese cuisine. The magazine was relaunched into its current format at the beginning of 2011. Whereas previous incarnations had included content such as business and economics, and had made much greater use of the Chinese language, this latest version leans more on contemporary issues in Chinese society. The aesthetic of the magazine was also completely overhauled, giving it a more unconventional appearance. The magazine is owned by the Commercial Press, and is targeted at expatriates living in China, as well as students studying the language.
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