Often called “San Min Chu I” (pronounced “San Min Joo Ee”), from the first line of the anthem, the lyrics are taken from the text of a speech given by Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the first president of China (and written by three speech-writers) at the opening ceremony of the Whampoa Military Academy on June 16, 1924. This speech was designated as the Kuomintang’s (KMT) party song in 1928, after which the KMT then publicly solicited contributions for a tune to fit the words. The melody submitted by Cheng Mao-yun was the undisputed winner out of 139 contenders. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Ministry of Education held two separate competitions for lyrics for a national anthem, using the KMT party song in the meantime as a temporary national anthem. None of the entries reviewed by the Ministry of Education were deemed appropriate, so the party’s anthem was finally adopted as the official national anthem of the Republic of China in 1937. When the communists took control of the government in China, the Republic’s government fled to the island of Taiwan, and continued use of the anthem there.
Special thanks to: Josh Lim for some of this information, and to Paul Simon for the sheet music.