What is the national anthem of China, and what are the lyrics in English?

21 July 2021, 18:01

Students with hearing impairment perform China's national anthem in sign language in Haikou
Students with hearing impairment perform China's national anthem in sign language in Haikou. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

The national anthem of China, ‘March of the Volunteers’ is a communist anthem reflecting the country’s values of courage, resolution and unity.

China’s national anthem is ‘March of the Volunteers’, known more widely in China as the Chinese National Song, or the National Song of the People’s Republic of China.

The song has had a chequered history in terms of use and, like many other countries, the national anthem China has used at any given time in history has been determined by its leadership at that time.

‘March of the Volunteers’ was written in 1935, and adopted from the time China’s communist party took power in 1949. It was written in the vernacular language, with lyrics by Tian Han and music by Nie Er.

Read more: The world’s greatest national anthems, ranked

What is the history of the Chinese national anthem?

The song was used as the theme music for the film Sons and Daughters in a Time of Storm, which tells the story of China’s fight against Japanese invaders in northeast China in the 1930s, and encapsulates messages of determination and sacrifice for national liberation, as well as China’s emphasis on values such as courage, resolution and unity in the face of foreign aggression.

It therefore serves the current regime’s communist values, having been heard and officially recognised in its current form since 1982.

The break between the song’s first use in 1949, and the 1982 re-introduction was due to Mao Zedong’s rule of the country and the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, during which time the song was banned and replaced with ‘The East Is Red’ as the de facto anthem, with the old tune also being used with alternate lyrics. The ‘March of the Volunteers’ lyricist Tian Han was imprisoned by Mao.

Since being reinstated, ‘March of the Volunteers’ has been given official national anthem status, and adopted by Hong Kong and Macau upon their transfer to China in 1997 and 1999, respectively.

The national anthem has been enshrined in the Chinese Constitution since 2004. The anthem is a national symbol of China, and is played at state occasions and sporting events such as the Olympics.

Read more: 12 glorious pieces of classical music inspired by the Olympic Games

The lyrics of the Chinese national anthem in English

Stand up! Those who refuse to be slaves!
With our flesh and blood, let's build our newest Great Wall!
The Chinese Nation is at its greatest peril,
Each one is forced to let out one last roar.
Stand up! Stand up! Stand up!
We are billions of one heart,
Braving the enemies' fire, March on!
Braving the enemies' fire, March on!
March on! March on! On!

The lyrics of the Chinese national anthem

Qilai! Buyuan zuo nuli de renmen,
Ba women de xuerou zhucheng women xin de changcheng.
Zhonghua Minzu dao liao zui weixian de shihou,
Meigeren beipo zhe fachu zuihou de housheng.
Qilai! Qilai! Qilai!
Women wanzhong yixin,
Mao zhe diren de paohuo,
Qianjin!
Mao zhe diren de paohuo,
Qianjin! Qianjin! Qianjin! Jin!

起来!不愿做奴隶的人们!
把我们的血肉,筑成我们新的长城!
中华民族到了最危险的时候,
每个人被迫着发出最后的吼声。
起来!起来!起来!
我们万众一心,
冒着敌人的炮火,前进
冒着敌人的炮火,前进!
前进!前进!进!