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Anthem composer's home to be preserved

    Anthem composer's home to be preserved


    Nie Er, who composed the national anthem, lived in this house on Gongping Road in Hongkou District between 1930 and 1931. This picture was taken in 2012. 

    Newly started renovation work to prevent the collapse of a former home of the national anthem’s composer spurred fear among neighboring residents that the building was being demolished.

    The city government approved the use of the “dismantle and reassemble” concept to overhaul the house in which composer Nie Er (1912-1935) had lived on Gongping Road in Hongkou District.

    Built in 1918, the two-story shikumen, or stone-gate, house was listed as a memorial site by the district government in 2004. Nie, who lived in a northward room of 14.6 square meters in size on the second floor of the house from July 1930 to April 1931, composed the “March of the Volunteers” in 1935.

    “March of the Volunteers” was first adopted as the provisional national anthem in 1949 when People’s Republic of China was founded, and made the official Chinese national anthem in 1982.

    Workers have fully dismantled the house after surveying and recording its structure and components. The key components include window frames, windowsills, corner stones, walls, roofs and decorations. The secondary components include bricks, tiles and wooden structures.

    The components will be refurbished at a factory and reassembled based on the architecture and appearance of the house in 1918.

    Upon the renovation project’s completion by the end of 2020, the house will be opened to the public, according to the district government. The first floor will showcase Nie’s life and musical works. The China Record Corporation will display some historic music discs of his work on the second floor. A sculpture of the composer will be erected in a small plaza in front of the house.

    As the house was being dismantled, some neighboring residents worried that it was being demolished overnight. One of them said the historic value of the house would be tarnished if it were to be taken apart and rebuilt. The resident added that the city government should have solicited the public’s opinions about the renovation process.

    Expert evaluations

    However, Shanghai’s cultural heritage authority said a panel of the city’s top heritage protection experts had evaluated the renovation method before the city government gave its approval, said Li Kongsan, director of the cultural heritage protection department of the Administration of Cultural Heritage.

    “All the experts agreed that the building should be protected with the ‘dismantle and reassemble’ method given the house’s fragile structure,” an official with the district’s culture bureau said.

    Zheng Shiling, a history and architectural expert and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is among the experts who have examined the house between April last year and May this year, according to the bureau.

    About 10 families had lived in the house before the renovation project began. They have since been relocated by the government and were given housing subsidies.

    Liu Bifang, who had lived in the house for about 40 years, said an old neighbor told her that Nie had composed some songs in the house and he played the violin on the roof.

    After its renovation, the house will be connected via a glass corridor to a new landmark project, a Broadway-style opera house that will be built in the North Bund.

    The opera house, which will be located on East Daming Road, will host authentic Broadway performances. It will be designed like a “shining pearl” or “a pearl being placed inside a crystal box,” said the city government.

    It will have 2,000 seats on three floors, along with rehearsal halls, VIP receptions and lounges. However, the building’s construction schedule and opening date have not been announced.

    East Daming Road was formerly named Broadway Road because it had hosted Shanghai’s “oriental Broadway shows” early last century, said the district government.

    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, most about the lives of working-class people.