Tian Han

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Tian Han
Tian Han
Tian Han
Born(1898-03-12)12 March 1898
Guoyuan, Qing dynasty
Died10 December 1968(1968-12-10) (aged 70)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Pen nameTián Shòuchāng, Bóhóng, Chén Yú, Shùrén, Hànxiān, etc.
OccupationPlaywright, novelist, poet
Alma materTokyo Higher Normal School
GenreNovel, poem, drama
Notable worksMarch of the Volunteers
Yi Shuyu
(m. 1920⁠–⁠1925)

Huang Dalin
(m. 1927⁠–⁠1929)

Lin Weizhong
(m. 1930⁠–⁠1946)

An E
(m. 1930⁠–⁠1968)
ChildrenTian Dawei
Tian Han
Traditional Chinese田漢
Simplified Chinese田汉
Courtesy name
Traditional Chinese壽昌
Simplified Chinese寿昌

Tian Han (12 March 1898 – 10 December 1968), formerly romanized as T'ien Han, was a Chinese drama activist, playwright, a leader of revolutionary music and films, as well as a translator and poet. He emerged at the time of the New Culture Movement of the early 20th century and continued to be active until the Cultural Revolution, when he was denounced and jailed for two years until his death, before being "posthumously rehabilitated" by the Chinese authorities in 1979. He is considered by drama historians as one of the three founders of Chinese spoken drama, together with Ouyang Yuqian and Hong Shen.[1] His most famous legacy may be the lyrics he wrote for "March of the Volunteers" in 1934, which were later adopted as the national anthem of the People's Republic of China.[2]


Tian Han (right) and Nie Er (left), respectively the lyricist and the composer of "March of the Volunteers", photographed in Shanghai in 1933

During the May Fourth Movement in 1919, Tian became famous for the vigorous anti-imperialist and anti-feudalist activities in the circle of artists and intellectuals he gathered.

Tian was educated at Tokyo Higher Normal School (present-day University of Tsukuba) in Japan. Returning from Japan in 1921, Tian established the Creation Society together with Guo Moruo and Yu Dafu, and other Chinese intellectuals. The Southern China Society, also headed by Tian, played a leading role in promoting dramatic performances in southern China. In 1927, Tian taught at the Department of Literature of Shanghai Art University. Later, he joined The League of Chinese Left-Wing Dramatists. In 1934, he collaborated with the activist Liu Liangmo on the patriotic anthem, March of the Volunteers.

Tian used various aliases and pen names including his courtesy name Tián Shòuchāng (田壽昌), Bóhóng (伯鴻), Chén Yú (陳瑜), Shùrén (漱人), and Hànxiān (漢仙).

Tian, then Chairman of the Union of Chinese Drama Workers and Vice-Chairman of the All China's Federation of Literary and Art Circles, was attacked in 1966 for his historical play Xie Yaohuan (1961), regarded as an attack on Chairman Mao's policies and the CCP leadership. Criticism of this play, along with two other historical plays (Hai Rui Dismissed from Office by Wu Han and Li Huiniang by Meng Chao), were the opening salvos of the Cultural Revolution.[3] Tian was denounced in a 1 February 1966 People's Daily article entitled "Xie Yaohuan is a Big Poisonous Weed" (田汉的《谢瑶环》是一棵大毒草 Tián Hàn de Xiè Yáohuán Shì yī kē Dà Dúcǎo).[4] The Jiefang Daily called Xie Yaohuan a "political manifesto". The play was condemned for, among other things, of "being a wholesale inheritance of China's theatrical legacy and promoting traditional plays", "disparaging revolutionary modern plays" and "promoting bourgeois class liberalism and obfuscating the direction for the workers, peasants and soldiers", Tian was incarcerated as a "counterrevolutionary" in a prison run personally by Kang Sheng, and died there in 1968. After the end of the Cultural Revolution, he and Xie Yaohuan were “rehabilitated posthumously” (considered to be rehabilitated after death) in 1979.[5]


Although a proponent of western style theater (話劇 huàjù) in China, Tian also produced a number of works with historical themes.[6]

Major plays[edit]

  • Kafeidian Yi Ye (A Night in the Coffee Shop) 1922
  • Wufan Zhiqian (Before Lunch) 1922
  • Huo Hu Zhi Ye (A Night of Capturing the Tiger) 1924
  • Suzhou Ye Hua (Night Talk of Suzhou) 1928
  • Hu Shang de Beiju (A Tragedy of the Lake) 1928
  • Ming You Zhi Si (Death of a Noted Actor) 1929
  • Nan Gui 1929
  • Mei Yu (Plum Rains) 1932
  • Yueguang Qu (Moonlight Melody) 1932
  • Luan Zhong 1932
  • Yangzi Jiang de Bao Feng Yu (Storm on the Yangtze) 1935
  • Hui Chun Zhi Qu (Spring Melody) 1935
  • Hong Shui (Flood) 1935
  • Lugou Qiao (Lugou Bridge) 1937
  • Han Jiang Yu Ge (Fisherman's Song of the Han River) 1939
  • Qiu Sheng Fu 1942
  • Liren Xing (Women Side by Side)
  • Guan Hanqing 1958[7]
  • Xiè Yáohuán (謝瑤環) 1961[3]


  • Baishe Zhuan (The White Snake) (1958)

Film scripts[edit]

Song lyrics[edit]


In popular culture[edit]

Tian Han was the prototype for the figure of "Kuang Wentao" (played by Bo Gao) in the 1959 biopic Nie Er,[10] which retold the story of the composition of the Chinese National Anthem on the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. For the 50th anniversary in 1999, he was represented directly in the film The National Anthem, played by He Zhengjun. His story was also told in The National Anthem, a 27-episode television series, and in the play Torrent (狂流, Kuángliú), produced in Beijing in the year 2000.

In the 2009 film The Founding of a Republic, he was portrayed by Donnie Yen.


  1. ^ Chen 2014, p. 5.
  2. ^ Tian Han. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b Wagner 1990, p. 80.
  4. ^ "T'ien Han and his Play Hsieh Yao-huan". Current Background. Hong Kong: American Consulate General (784): 1. 30 March 1966.
  5. ^ Wagner 1990, p. 137.
  6. ^ Wagner 1990, pp. 82–83.
  7. ^ Wagner 1990, p. 82.
  8. ^ "Go to the People (1927): Tian Han and the Southern Film Society," "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-02-17. Retrieved 2015-02-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) The Chinese Mirror (accessed February 16, 2015).
  9. ^ Wagner 1990, p. 87.
  10. ^ Wang Zhuoyi. Revolutionary Cycles in Chinese Cinema, 1951–1979, pp. 140 f. St Martin's Press (New York), 2014.

References and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
New office
Chairman of China Theatre Association
July 1949 – December 1968
Cao Yu