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March 24, 2012

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Discord over composer's home

CONTROVERSY surrounds the fate of the former home of Nie Er, the composer of China's national anthem.

The city's historic protection authority insists the house on Gongping Road in Hongkou District must be preserved.

But residents and renovation officials claim the century-old building is in poor condition and should be razed.

And in any case, they add, Nie - who in 1935 composed "March of the Volunteers" in Shanghai - only stayed in the house for a few months.

The house is due to be demolished, along with other old residential buildings in the area, and replaced with new homes to improve living conditions for residents, officials with the district's building renovation office said yesterday.

The office has been soliciting the opinion of residents.

"The condition of the houses, including Nie Er's, is inadequate and residents frequently complain," an office official said yesterday.

A bronze plaque outside the two-story shikumen-style wood and brick structure with a red tiled roof describes it as a "historic monument."

About 10 families live in the house.

"The district's historic protection authority hung that plaque in 2004, but has done little to renovate or protect the building that is more than 100 years old and in poor condition," said Liu Bifang, a resident who has lived in the house for some 40 years.

She said an old neighbor told her Nie had composed some songs in the house and sometimes played the violin on the flat roof.

However, Liu would like to see building demolished. "We hope the building will not be protected, as we dream of moving out of this house," she said.

The Hongkou renovation official said the building must be demolished due to safety concerns.

"Moreover, Nie only lived in the house for nine months," the official added.

Nie lived in the Gongping Road house from July 1930 until April 1931, according to historical records.

However, city historic buildings protection officials and experts insist the house has historic significance and should be preserved.

"As long as a celebrity lived in the building - no matter for how long - it should be kept as a protected historic building," said Ruan Yisan, a professor in urban planning at Tongji University.

"It must remain as it is listed as a historic protected building," according to Li Kongsan, an official with the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission.

He said the renovation authority had to apply to the commission if it thought the house should be demolished due to its condition.

Shanghai has more than 1,500 buildings deemed to be former residences of famous people but many are not well-protected.

Li said the cultural relics commission had begun devising a standard to define historic residential buildings.

Creator of anthem

Nie Er (1912-1935), born in Kunming, in southwest China's Yunnan Province, is best known for composing China's national anthem, "March of the Volunteers."

In 1935, Nie wrote the music in Xiao Hong Lou (Little Red House) on Hengshan Road in Shanghai's Xuhui District. Two years later, poet and playwright Tian Han (1898-1968) wrote the lyrics for the song that would become the national anthem.

On July 17, 1935, Nie drowned while swimming in Fujisawa, Kanagawa, in Japan, at the age of 23.

Nie wrote 37 pieces, most about working-class life.


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