Much of the following is based on CCP folklore and, and therefore not necessarily accurate. Links within blockquotes added during translation – JR.
Main Link: 中国人民解放军军歌作曲者郑律成
Zheng Lücheng, famous composer. Born in Korea’s South Jeolla Province, Guangju, Yanglin Village in 1914, into a poverty-stricken family. Original name Zheng Fu’en, later, for his passion for music, changed into Lücheng. His father was a patriot, his three older brothers all gave their lives for the cause of Chinese and Korean revolution. In spring 1933, Zheng Lücheng and a group of Korean patriots came to China, entered the Korean anti-Japan resistance organization[s] in China, and ran the Nanjing “Korean Revolutionary Cadres’ School”. After graduation, he was active in resisting Japan in Nanjing, Shanghai, and other places, and in his spare time, he studied music.
After the outbreak of the National Anti-Japanese War, Zheng Lücheng whole-heartedly went to Yan’an in October 1937, joined the Shaanbei Public School [for training cadres] and studied at the Lu Xun Academy of Art and Literature. At the beginning of 1938, he became the Anti-Japan-Resistance University of Military Administration’s musical director and vocal-music instructor at the Lu Xun Academy of Art and Literature. In January 1939, he joined the Chinese Communist Party. In May 1942, Zheng Lücheng took part in the Yan’an Arts Work Conference and attentively listened to Chairman Mao Zedong’s teachings. In August 1942, Zheng Lücheng was sent to the headquarters of the Eighth Army at the Taihang Mountains, as education director of the North China “Korean Revolution Military Administration School”. In January 1944, he returned to Yan’an.
Zheng Lücheng frequently joined the anti-Japanese front and created a great number of musical works that reflected the soldiers’ battles against the Japanese. In April 1938, he wrote the “Ode to Yan’an” which spread from Yan’an to the whole country right after it came out, and inspired many progressive young people to hurry to Yan’an and to throw themselves into the revolution. In 1993, the “Ode to Yan’an” was included into the twenty Chinese Classics of the 20th Century, to enter the Chinese annals of music forever. In fall 1939, he completed the “Eighth Route Army Choruses” together with Gong Mu, among these, the “March of the Eighth Route Army Song” and “Eighth Route Army Anthem” which became military songs being sung in many places. During the liberation war, the “March of the Eighth Route Army Song” was changed into the “Military Anthem of the People’s Liberation Army”, with some changes to the text.
After the victory in the Japanese War, Zheng Lücheng returned to North Korea and served successively as the Korean Workers Party Kangwon Province Committee’s propaganda director, North Korean People’s Army club director, the North Korean People’s Army Orchestra director, the Korean National Music University’s composing department director, etc.. During this time, he wrote songs in praise of Korean people’s struggles and Sino-Korean friendship, “Korean People’s Army March”, “Sino-Korean Friendship” and many other works. In 1950, he returned to China and took Chinese citizenship, settling in Beijing. He worked at the Beijing People’s Theater and Ensemble. He went thoroughly into factories, the countryside, and borderposts, left his footprints in many places, seeking for material for new works, and wrote a great number of musical works for workers, peasants and soldiers.
Within several decades, Zheng Lücheng wrote more than 360 songs of different forms and genres, which won universal acclaim. Among them, the “Military Anthem of the People’s Liberation Army”, by its simple and succinct language, its sonorous rhythm, solemn and heroic melody, created a deep impression of the People’s troops’ image, the overwhelming way it pressed forward with an indomitable will, advancing fanfare, following the route of the army’s growth and its victory, and became part of the People’s Liberation Army’s combat effectiveness and political work. On July 25, 1988, the Military Central Commission officially made the song the People’s Liberation Army’s military anthem.
Zheng Lücheng passed away in Beijing, on December 7, 1976.
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Main Link: 郑律成 (baike.baidu)
Note: Ding Xuesong (丁雪松), born in Sichuan Province in 1918, was a cadre in Yan’an and married Zheng Lücheng there. She was a Chinese citizen; Zheng took Chinese citizenship around 1950.
On the eve of the birth of New China, Ding Xuesong was appointed to build Xinhua’s Pyongyang branch office as the office’s director. In October, one week after the branch office’s establishment, China and Korea announced the establishment of diplomatic relations. On June 25, 1950, the Korean War suddenly broke out. With the tensions on the Korean peninsula and domestic decisions on their mind, it was decided to immediately establish an embassy in Pyongyang. Its main task was to maintain contacts between the two parties and armies, and to get aware of changes on the battlefield without delay. With Ding Xuesong as the Xinhua branch office director and a member of the embassy, Zheng Lücheng’s situation became more difficult, and each of them having separate things of their own to do, their feelings for each other were [still] too deep to part with each other. So the only way was for Zheng Lücheng and Ding Xuesong to return to China. Ding Xuesong, with help by a letter written by the ambassador to Chief State Councillor Zhou Enlai, asked for both her and Zheng’s return to China, plus requesting a renewal of Zheng’s party membership, and Chinese citizenship for Zheng. Even though Zhou Enlai was very busy, he quickly approved the requests, and Mao Zedong obtained Kim Il-sung’s agreement. Kim Il-sung was very generous, saying “Zheng Lücheng wants to return to China? That’s alright. The Chinese Communist Party developed so many cadres for us, and if you want a Zheng Lücheng now, that’s no problem.”
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He [Zheng] and Ding Xuesong were both persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, and he fell into a deep depression. Tragically, when he heard of the fall of the Gang of Four, which signaled the end of the Cultural Revolution, he suffered a stroke and died.
From 1979 to 1984, Ding Xuesong represented the PRC as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Netherlands and later to Denmark.
Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Lily Xiao Hong Lee (ed), New York, 2003, page 145.
Zheng Lvcheng, CRI/Soundcloud, Aug 4, 2012
[Update, Dec 23, 2012: now removed, but if you want the soundfile, contact me by email or comment.]