China Beat Archive



Zhang Lijia

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September 24, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright September 24, 2009 Zhang Lijia. Used by permission.


The massive museum, a modern structure of grey bricks and white-painted cement, stands a little abruptly, halfway up Xiayun Mountain, in Fangshang County, in western skirts of Beijing. It is the ‘Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China Museum’, dedicated entirely to this revolutionary song.

On a recent sunny afternoon, when a friend and I descended – or should I say ascended as the mountain, at 2161 meter above sea level, is known as ‘the roof of Beijing’ – we found ourselves the only visitors. The spacious car park was empty. Yiaotangshang, a quiet mountain village, isn’t on any tourist map. Now it is poised to go down in history as the birthplace of the most famous revolutionary song in China.

The museum complex felt like a mini-‘Red Base’. By the foot of the mountain, three national flags flapped in the chill wind. In the main hall, staves of the song’s music, in gold, glared on a red wall, behind a golden hammer and sickle. As someone who grew up in China and knows the lyrics by heart, I couldn’t help but start to sing aloud, to the amusement of the museum staff. In the revolutionary spirit and against the market economy trend, entrance is free.

The museum is made up of three separate parts. Here photos, documents, statues and wax figures enlighten visitors of the song’s history, its composer Cao Huoxing, and the glorious history of Chinese Communist Party. It also houses a 400 square meter stage. To liven things up, there’s even an animated slide show, recounting the story of how Cao composed the song.

In October 1943, Cao, a young member of the ‘Iron Blood’ propaganda troupe, was traveling through the village. The troupe had been staging performances in the countryside, to mobilize the masses to join in the revolution and fight against the invading Japanese. In responding to the Nationalists’ claim that “without the Nationalists, there would be no China,” Cao penned and composed the song at a temple in the village where he was staying.