Among the national anthems of this world, China’s is one of the most stirring, and it’s heard increasingly when the country’s athtletes win at international events or its leaders go abroad on state visits. What is perhaps not generally realized is the anthem’s roots in China’s struggle against Japanese imperialism in the 1930s.
The anthem, March of the Volunteers, was written in 1934 and featured the next year in the movie Sons and Daughters in a Time of Storm, about the anti-Japanese struggle. Although the tune is clearly recognizable, it is nothing like the grandiose rendering that we have become used to today:
It became better known to an international audience in 1944, when Italian-born American director Frank Capra used it in The Battle of China, an instalment in his Why We Fight series of propaganda films:
The tune was associated with left-wing politics and not adopted by Nationalist China. It was only after the Communist victory in a civil war in 1949 that it became the national anthem. When it is performed today, there is not much to remind us of its relatively humble beginnings as a movie song: