Mittwoch, 4. März 2015

Anthem


This blog’s subtitle is “In China steckt Ich” which means “China Contains I” and to me that’s my major insight into China. Everything I’m subjected to here, I observe here, I indulge in here, I detest here, I like and learn here, helps me to reflect my own self. One such reflection of China is the difference between the people’s republic of China (PRC) and the republic of China (ROC or Taiwan). The Chinese refer to it as the question of the two coasts. It is a long and complicated story and I want to dwell only on one aspect, I particularly connect strongly to: their national anthems, especially in relation to the German anthem.
The country I was born in, does not exist anymore: the German Democratic Republic (fun fact: a “socialist” country). For the UN the ROC does not exist too and for the PRC Taiwan is undoubtedly a provence of China and no sovereign country. Yet the ROC has “embassies” all over the world and takes part as Chinese Taipeh in the Olympics, where it needs a national anthem. Since it’s not allowed to use the ROC’s official anthem the “Three Principles” a different anthem is used the so called “National Flag Anthem”. Together with the “March of theVolunteers”, which is the national anthem of the PRC, we have a total of three national anthems in current use. If you count in a certain way, you could say Germany had three anthems as well. One, the Austrian “Emperor’s Hymn
its melody is used in the “Song of Germany” (two) of which the third verse is the current national anthem of Germany
and three the “Risen From Ruins” the national anthem of the reintegrated soviet occupation zone short GDR.
When I realized China had this multiple-hymn-thing going on too, I was happy that I wasn’t the only one with a split national anthem syndrome and discovered some interesting facts about these hymns.
Would you have thought that the PRC’s anthem is a film music? It is, “Children of Troubled Times” by director Tian Han, who gave it quite bloodthirsty lyrics in modern Chinese, that express well the struggles of the Chinese. He died during the cultural revolution. Nie Er, the composer died young too, but is now an icon. The fierce music reminds me a bit of the Marseillaise. Imagine enjoying your gold medal on the podium to a John Williams soundtrack!
The ROC’s anthem is the hymn of the Kuomintang Party pledging devotion to it’s founder Sun Yatsen’s policy of the three principles, so I guess that is the reason why it cannot be played officially, because it’s to big a challenge of the singularity of the Chinese communist party. It is written in a style of traditional Chinese poetry and unlike most anthems very gentle, shy and restrained, very Taiwanese one could argue.
The ROC’s “National Flag Anthem” is a winning entry in a composing competition and to my ears the one with the catchiest melody and the more beautiful lyrics making comparisons between the ROC’s flag it’s colours and symbols to the Chinese people and landscapes. Although it is clearly an anthem it still retains an innocent touch.
After the unification in Germany during the heated debate about the question af an national anthem, some futilely suggested the “Children’s Hymn” by Bertold Brecht. The “National Flag Anthem” is not at all the same, but it reminds me of that discussion. Especially with all the nationalism in Asia and currently in Europe, it is a nice reminder. Maybe when the ROC and PRC unite they wisely choose this one.
Although...I did like the East-German one much better than the West-German one. After twentyfive years I got used to it, but everytime I hear or sing the beginning of “Unity and Justice and Freedom” it still sounds super-dull to me. (No offence to Haydn, whom I adore). Don’t get me wrong, no nostalgia here, but as a kid I felt pretty betrayed, when it was decided that “my” anthem was dropped in favour of that rip off song for an AUSTRIAN :) emperor, no way!! Can you imagine?  No wonder fuel was added to the debate when a composer put out a version - the so called “Hymnen-Mix”- that included both anthems in one song.
I also do understand why people did not want the “Risen From Ruins” as their national anthem, because the copyright infringement to Ludwig van Beethoven is not solved yet. Scholars say Hanns Eisler took the first four notes from one of Beethoven’s “Bagatellen”, which I think is ridiculous, every rhesus macaque can compose these notes and if I had to, I’d rather follow those, who think it’s stolen from the song “Goodbye Johnny”.
In the end, all I want to share is the strange sentiment for a piece of music of my childhood. As well as the idea that China as a mirror brings these things up in me. I find it interesting that it is China where I found a Bavarian Swab, that actually feels, like me, that the East-German anthem is the smoother one.
But in order not to revive this senseless discussion I decided to create a “Hymnen-Mix” of my own with the Chinese anthems. Enjoy!

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