Nieh Erh

Nieh Erh


Born Feb. 15, 1912, in Yüt’an District, Yünnan Province; died July 17, 1935, near Kugenuma, Japan. Chinese composer. Became a member of the Communist Party of China in 1931.

Nieh Erh taught himself to play Chinese national instruments in his youth and later learned to play the violin. Beginning in 1929 he studied European music theory. Having joined the National Revolutionary Army in 1927, he moved to Shanghai in 1931, where he took part in the revolutionary movement. Nieh Erh was a member of the League of Chinese Youth and the Society of Friends of the Soviet Union.

Among Nieh Erh’s compositions is the one-act opera Hurricane Over the Yangtze. The composer also wrote revolutionary, patriotic, and lyrical group songs (written for motion pictures), many of which became extremely popular. His song “March of the Volunteers,” from the motion picture Children of the Storm and Clouds (1935), with lyrics by the poet-Communist T’ien Han, subsequently became the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China. Nieh Erh’s work is imbued with the spirit of revolutionary struggle and is marked by national musical elements and innovative features.

A monument to Nieh Erh has been erected in the small town of Kugenuma, Japan, near where he drowned in the sea. His songs are still sung in China today. However, after the Cultural Revolution, the original words were replaced by new ones glorifying Mao Tse-tung and his policies.


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