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Vietnam’s National Anthem and the Stories Behind it

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Most countries have a national anthem with which to express the pride of their country, to convey in it the cultural and historical stories of a nation, to be played on sacred or official occasions, and to represent the noble ideals that all people in the same country aspire to. Most national anthems of countries are public property according to the law. For example, when the American national anthem is performed or recorded during a broadcast of the National Football League (NFL), the NFL will own the reproduction, publishing, and performance rights to this particular show.

Meanwhile, Singapore law stipulates that the national anthem can only be sung or performed on appropriate occasions. Individuals performing or singing the national anthem must perform or sing in accordance with the original or remix that meets strict melody and lyrics requirements.

So, what is a national anthem song?

A national anthem is a song that expresses patriotism, evokes, and celebrates the history, traditions, and struggles of the people of that country, recognized by the government of a country as the official national anthem or widely used by people as a custom.

Whenever there is a flag-raising ceremony at a conference or a sports match between Vietnam and another country, I find that not many national anthems have the same heroic and tragic melody as the Vietnam national anthem, which explains why some consider Vietnam’s national anthem – Tien Quan Ca, by musician Van Cao – one of the most heroic national anthems in the world.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Vietnamese Table of Contents
  1. The first Vietnamese anthem
  2. Tiến quân ca (The Marching Song Lyric)
  3. Hoàn cảnh sáng tác Tiến quân ca (the Circumstances of Composing Tien Quan Ca)
  4. Những dịp hát quốc ca Việt Nam (Singing Occasions for the Vietnamese Anthem)
  5. Conclusion

1. The first Vietnamese anthem 

What is the national anthem of Vietnam?

According to Nguyen Ngoc Huy – a politician of the Republic of Vietnam and a Vietnamese poet and writer – Emperor Bao Dai came down to the stage to select a national flag and anthem during the Second World War. The Vietnamese flag was the Cờ long tinh and the national Vietnamese anthem was the song Đăng đàn cung ( [melody] on the ascent to the esplanade).

Vietnamese Flag in the Early 1940s

Đăng đàn cung is an ancient Vietnamese song and is still used in most of the textbooks teaching classical music and traditional instruments. This is a song from the ritual of Nam Giao sacrifice, used when the king comes to the altar to sacrifice animals and valuable sundries. The Nam Giao sacrifice ceremony, performed every 3 years on the winter solstice, was the most important ceremony in the court’s rites, where the king would make sacrifices on behalf of the nation.

In 1942 in Hanoi, musician Le Huu Muc recorded music and put other lyrics to Đăng đàn cung and called it Vietnam’s national anthem, naming it Tiếng gọi non sông (The Call of the River), also known as Hồn Việt Nam (Vietnamese soul). It was considered by some to be the national anthem, but little was known in the Central region.

Lời bài hát : Tiếng gọi non sôngThe Call of the River Lyric
Bên núi sông hùng vĩ trời Nam
Đã bao đời vết anh hùng chưa hề tan
Vì đâu máu ai ghi ngàn thu?
Còn tỏ tường bên núi sông
Xác thân tan tành
Vì nước quên mình
The majestic mountains and rivers in the South sky
For many generations, the traces of heroes have not disappeared
Why does people’s blood write for thousands of years?
And clearly on the side of the mountain and river
Broken body
Forgets ourselves for the country

2. Tiến quân ca (The Marching Song Lyric)

“Tiến quân ca” is a song composed by musician Van Cao in 1944 and has been used as the national anthem of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam since 1976. Before that, “Tiến quân ca” was the national anthem song of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 1945 to 1976. Since its birth, the song has been considered the official song of the Viet Minh Front. During the August Revolution of 1945, instead of “Vietnamese troops go,” Viet Minh participants often sang “Viet Minh troops go.” When officially chosen as the Vietnamese national anthem, the lyrics of the national anthem of Vietnam were modified in some ways compared to the original “Tiến quân ca” by Van Cao.

Vietnam national anthem lyrics in VietnameseVietnam national anthem in English
Đoàn quân Việt Nam đi
Chung lòng cứu quốc
Bước chân dồn vang trên đường gập ghềnh xa

Cờ in máu chiến thắng mang hồn nước
Súng ngoài xa chen khúc quân hành ca

Đường vinh quang xây xác quân thù
Thắng gian lao cùng nhau lập chiến khu

Vì nhân dân chiến đấu không ngừng
Tiến mau ra sa trường
Tiến lên, cùng tiến lên
Nước non Việt Nam ta vững bền
Soldiers of Vietnam marching onward
United in determination to save the nation
Our steps resound on the long and arduous road

Our flag, red with the blood of victory, bears the spirit of the country
The distant rumbling of guns mingles with our marching song

The path to glory is built by the bodies of our foes
Overcoming all hardships, together we build our resistance bases

Let us swear to fight relentlessly for the people’s cause.
Let us run to the battlefield!
Forward! All together, let’s go forward!
The Vietnamese homeland is strong and durable
Đoàn quân Việt Nam đi
Sao vàng phấp phớiDắt giống nòi quê hương qua nơi lầm than

Cùng chung sức phấn đấu xây đời mới
Đứng đều lên gông xích ta đập tan

Từ bao lâu ta nuốt căm hờn
Quyết hy sinh đời ta tươi thắm hơn

Vì nhân dân chiến đấu không ngừng
Tiến mau ra sa trường
Tiến lên! Cùng tiến lên!
Nước non Việt Nam ta vững bền
Soldiers of Vietnam marching onward
The gold star in the wind
Leading our people and our homeland out of misery and suffering

Let us unite our efforts in the struggle for building a new life
Stand up! With the same impetus, let’s break our irons!

For so long we have contained our hatred!
Let us be ready to make every sacrifice so that our life may be radiant

Let us swear to fight relentlessly for the people’s cause.
Let us run to the battlefield!
Forward! All together, let’s go forward!
The Vietnamese homeland is strong and durable

3. Hoàn cảnh sáng tác Tiến quân ca (the Circumstances of Composing Tien Quan Ca)

In the 21-year-old Van Cao’s memoirs “Why I wrote Tiến quân ca,” he confided: “The song was made in an unknown number of days in the narrow attic number 45 Nguyen Thuong Hien Street, next to a window overlooking a 2-story house, rows of trees and a gray sky. It often echoes bullock carts carrying bodies of starving people towards Kham Thien Street here. Also, I was sleepless because of the monsoon entering each door, because of the sound of fighting and swearing at each other from a family of poor, undernourished civil servants, echoing through the gaps in the open attic. I understand more life stories here. There are knocks on the door, night calls are unanswered at night.”

After the song was written, Van Cao met and sang it to Mr. Vu Quy, a friend and member of the Viet Minh. Mr. Quy was very pleased. He assigned Van Cao to write the song himself on the printed stone. Because the scribe couldn’t write musical notes, Van Cao had to go directly to a secret printing facility in Bat Trang village to write and print the song “Tiến quân ca” by hand. For the first time, “Tiến quân ca” was printed on the Art page of Doc Lap newspaper in November 1944 with a stone print written by Van Cao himself. Writer Nguyen Dinh Thi, when listening to Van Cao singing this song, was touched and proposed that each of them write another song about the Viet Minh Front. After that, writer Nguyen Dinh Thi wrote the song Diệt phát xít (Destroying the fascists) and Van Cao added the song Chiến sĩ Việt Nam (Vietnamese soldiers), both of which were widely popularized by the public.

  • On August 13, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh officially approved “Tiến quân ca” as the national anthem of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 
  • On August 17, 1945, during a meeting of the people of Hanoi in front of the Opera House, the song “Tiến quân ca” was played. 
  • Also at the Opera House Square, on August 19, 1945, there was the choir of the Young Pioneers singing the song “Tiến quân ca” to salute the national flag during a large meeting.
  • On September 2, 1945, “Tiến quân ca” was officially performed on the day of the Declaration of Independence at Ba Dinh Square by the Liberation Army Band led by Dinh Ngoc Lien.

Vietnam Flag

4. Những dịp hát quốc ca Việt Nam (Singing Occasions for the Vietnamese Anthem)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLY5TsY0dTY

The Vietnamese national anthem, produced by Minh Quan

The national anthem of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam includes the music and lyrics of the song “Tiến quân ca” is often used in flag-raising ceremonies at state offices, schools, political ceremonies of the country, mass organizations, national festivals, or state and national sports events. Quốc thiều is the music of the song “Tiến quân ca/Quốc ca” (Vietnamese anthem song), and is used in flag raising ceremonies, welcome ceremonies for heads of state, state-level ceremonies, and more.


5. Conclusion

No matter what version, Tiến quân ca as the Vietnam national anthem still has a heroic and tragic melody that no one can deny. Learning Vietnamese through songs and movies will not only give you a chance to learn the language but also about our country with a rich history. 

If you want to try other Vietnamese cultural lessons, visit VietnamesePod101 for more audio files, flashcards, free lessons, and vocabulary lists to master your Vietnamese today. To improve pronunciation, go to our VietnamesePod101 Youtube Channel for video lessons and free gifts every week. 

Want to tell us about your national anthem? Leave a comment below.

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