No weddings, no funerals: China decrees new rules when singing national anthem

Chinese children sing the national anthem near the Monument to the People's Heroes in Beijing on Sept. 30.

Story highlights

  • Anthem not allowed to be played or sung in settings with "an inappropriate atmosphere"
  • People must sing "March of the Volunteers" in its entirety
  • There is no official word, yet, on how violators would be punished

Beijing (CNN)China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.

A series of rules proposed by the government will set strict limits on when, where and how "March of the Volunteers" -- the anthem of the People's Republic since 1949 -- can be performed, state-run Xinhua news agency reported Friday.
The anthem is not allowed to be played or sung at private weddings and funerals, dancing parties, commercial events, or any other setting with "an inappropriate atmosphere."
    When singing the anthem, people should dress appropriately, stand still and be full of energy, according to the government.
    Follow the rhythm
    The rules then get technical: People must sing the powerful marching song in its entirety, enunciate every word and follow the rhythm. No one is permitted to start or stop singing midway -- and altering the melody, lyrics or musical arrangement is forbidden.
    No whispering, applauding or talking on the phone, either, while the anthem is played.
    There is no official word, yet, on how violators would be punished.
    While some of those rules sound reasonable, others may be overly harsh, especially to Americans who are used to hearing adaptations of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as varied as Jimi Hendrix's instrumental rock version at the Woodstock music festival, to Whitney Houston's soulful rendition before the Super Bowl.
    Creative alternatives
    Despite the government effort, Chinese people still seem to appreciate creative interpretations of their normally standardized national anthem.
    At an airport ceremony welcoming the visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping this past summer, a Venezuelan military band -- led by trumpeters going either artistic or astray -- played a refreshingly different "March of the Volunteers" with a new tune, an extra section and a bit of jazz flair. While the leaders appeared unfazed on the tarmac, video of the Venezuelan performance quickly went viral across Chinese cyberspace.
      Upon learning the new anthem decree, most Chinese Internet users seem to be taking it in stride.
      One widely re-posted comment deadpans: "At least banning the national anthem at funerals makes sense, as the first verse 'Arise! All those who refuse to be slaves!' would be so inappropriate. Singing that line to an open casket would just be creepy!"