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June 21, 2021

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Museum salutes noted composer

A FORUM plus an exhibition and a stage drama were held at the Xuhui Art Museum over the weekend reviewing the life and achievements of Nie Er (1912-1935), the composer of China’s national anthem.

Locals attended the monthly Hui Forum at the downtown museum to learn about the short but legendary life of Nie, and how the exhibition and drama about him were created.

They watched a 25-minute immersive drama about Nie in a 70-square-meter room at the museum.

The history of the Communist Party of China, the patriotism of Chinese youth and the spirit of the Party members in the 1930s were showcased through three classic songs composed by Nie — the “Song of the Newsboy,” “Graduation Song” and “March of the Volunteers,” the national anthem.

An exhibition “The Songs of Progress” is being held at the museum with archives, music and paintings about the early revolutionists and the Party’s history in the surrounding area.

The drama’s director, the curator of the exhibition and researchers shared their findings and stories about Nie and the museum, which was renovated from the Hongying Library in 1933. “The Song of the Newsboy focuses on poor children, while the Graduation Song encouraged youth to fight for the homeland,” said Tang Liqing, the curator of the exhibition. “The national anthem is the roar of the nation.”

The three songs composed by Nie influenced a whole generation in the 1930s, she added.

Jiang Tao, a director and professor with Shanghai Theater Academy, said Nie was a humorous, naughty and genial young man. He was a speech maker, actor and fitness fanatic

Jiang directed the play about Nie at the museum.

Nie was originally named Shouxin, which literally means “keep faith.” But he later changed his name to Er, or ear, to reflect his musical talent.

He composed the music for “The March,” which was later renamed “March of the Volunteers,” at another home at 1258 Xiafei Road in Huangpu District.

In 1934, lyricist Tian Han wrote the words for “The March.” He wrote the lyrics on a cigarette box shortly before he was detained by Kuomintang spies.

On July 17, 1935, Nie drowned while swimming in Fujisawa, Kanagawa, in Japan, at the age of 23. He had written 37 pieces of music, mostly about the lives of working-class people.


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