China’s anthem, written in 1935, was adopted when the Communists took power in 1949. The anthem was also the theme song of the film, “Sons and Daughters in a Time of Storm”. The film tells the story of those who went to the front to fight the Japanese invaders in northeast China in the 1930s, when the fate of the nation was hanging in the balance. The “March of the Volunteers” gave voice to the Chinese people’s determination to sacrifice themselves for national liberation, expressing China’s admirable tradition of courage, resolution and unity in fighting foreign aggression. The anthem is almost never known as “义勇军进行曲” (“Yìyǒngjūn Jìnxíngqǔ”) [the March of the Volunteers]. Most people in China just call it the “中国国歌” (“Zhōngguó guógē”) [Chinese National Song], or, more formally, the “中华人民共和国国歌”(“Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó guógē”) [National Song of the People's Republic of China].
During the Cultural Revolution (a period of Chinese history roughly from the mid 1960s to the early or mid 1970s, when Mao Zedong was in power), “The March of the Volunteers” was forbidden to be sung (Tian Han, the writer of the lyrics, was also imprisoned), and the song “The East Is Red” (a song that mentions the Communist party and Mao, neither of which are in “The March of the Volunteers”) was the de facto anthem. In 1978, after Mao’s death, “The March of the Volunteers” was restored as the anthem, but with different words, which mention Mao and the Party. The original lyrics were restored in 1982.
Special thanks to: Josh Lim for some of this information and Jo Hyo-roe for the sheet music.