Beijing: 110th Celebration of Paul Robeson’s Birthday in Photographs (2008)



Original Chinese Language Article By:

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

April 9th, 2008, was the 110th anniversary of Paul Robeson’s birth. In order to commemorate and cherish this old friend who had stood firmly on the side of China, (using his own singing and acting in support of the Chinese people’s struggle against imperialist aggression), Chinese and foreign friends celebrated the 110th anniversary of Paul Robertson’s birthday, gathering in Soong Ching Ling’s (宋庆龄) former residence.


Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was a famous Black-American singer, leader of the US Civil Rights Movement, international peace warrior, and friend of the Chinese people. During the War of Resistance against Japan, he was invited by Soong Ching Ling to serve as a honorary member of the ‘Defend China Alliance’, whilst actively participating in charity work, raising funds for the ‘Protection Union’, sparing no effort to support the Chinese people’s war. In the US he sang ‘March of the Volunteers’ in both English and Chinese, and when ‘New’ China was established (in 1949), he took to the streets with his friends singing ‘Stand Up’ in celebration. Then in 1958, when the Chinese people celebrated his 60th birthday, he wrote a letter stating ‘Thank you to all the Chinese people for their contribution to Socialism, security of peace’, hoping that he would be able to visit China. For various reasons, up until his death in January 1976, he was not able to realise this intention. However, during May 1980, his son, (Paul Robeson Jr and his wife), visited China, and was greeted in Soong Ching Ling’s former Beijing residence. The Chinese people will not forget Paul Robeson, or the songs he sung, and will continue to educate Chinese people about his life story. On the celebration of his 100th birthday, a commemorative concert was held in Zhongshan Park Music Hall.

Portrait of Song Ching Ling

This commemorative event was organized by the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation Research Centre, and sponsored by China International Friendship Association, Beijing Foreign Studies University, China Daily and Foreign Language Education and Research Press. Special thanks are due to He Dazhang (何大章) – Deputy Director of the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation Research Centre, Chen Xiuxia (陈秀霞) – Vice President of the China International Friendship Association, Gao Zhendong (高振东) Secretary-General, Professor Chen Lin (陈琳) – of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, Su Fei (苏菲) – Soong Ching Ling’s lifetime friend (possibly ‘Sophie’), Nakamura Kyoko (中村京子), Li Mei (李湄), Han Chun (寒春), Yi Sha Bai (伊莎白) – international friend (possibly ‘Isabel’), Ke Makai (伊莎白), as well as many other Chinese and international friends.Paul Robeson’s son, (Paul Robeson Jr), although he was unable to personally attend, sent a congratulatory letter from New York as a memorial, stating:

‘For your April 9th Paul Robeson 110th anniversary celebration. My father is one of the greatest performing artists of the 20th century. He was not only a symbol of Black-Americans involved in the international peace movement, but was also a strong fighter in the struggle for Black freedom in the United States. As a reliable and intimate friend in the great anti-imperialist struggle of the Chinese people, he bravely resisted fascism and colonialism, and it is very appropriate for the Chinese people to commemorate the 110th anniversary of my father’s birthday.’


After this letter was read to the audience, the documentary entitled ‘Paul Robeson – Tribute to an Artist’ was shown, after which many people in the audience (named above) gave their personal recollections of Paul Robeson, his character, artistic mastery and inspiring political activity. Wang Xuexin (王学新) gave an interesting presentation involving Paul Robeson’s interaction with, and influence upon Chinese artists.


He Dazhang (who together with American guests was in-charge of the ‘memorial’ for this event) stated: ‘Although Paul Robeson and Soong Ching Ling never met in person, their activities on the international stage were very similar, as both worked tirelessly for world peace, and both shared a strong responsibility to strive to bring the peoples of the US and China closer together in friendship and understanding. This aspiration expresses the highest attributes of human thinking. Today, the international communities gathers in Beijing to commemorate the great personality of Paul Robeson, but for Chinese people, we want to state to the world that we as a nation, will never forget Paul Robeson, or the fact that he supported our struggle against fascism. We owe it to his memory to never let fascism arise in the world again, and continuously work for peace and harmony throughout society and the international community. This is something we must all fight for in the world!’


Also participating at this event was the male voice choir of the China Association for Science and Technology, the famous saxophonist Fan Shengqi (范圣琦), singer Li Guangxi (李光曦), Central Music Academy Bassist – Wu Tianqiu (吴天球), as well as nationally acclaimed Chinese actor – Du Shengxian (杜声显) – who took part in the singing. Many gave renditions of Paul Robeson’s songs, whilst others performed saxophone solos (and similar artistic expressions). Finally, the tribute ended with everyone holding hands and singing together Paul Robeson’s classic (Socialist) track ‘Joe Jill’.


中国网 时间: 2008-04-09 发表评论>>


保罗•罗伯逊(Paul Robeson,1898—1976)是著名美国黑人歌唱家、民权运动领袖、国际和平运动战士,中国人民的朋友。抗日战争时期,他应宋庆龄之邀,担任“保卫中国同盟”名誉会员,积极参加“保盟”的募捐义演,不遗余力地支持中国人民的抗战。他在美国用中英文演唱《义勇军进行曲》,还用中文灌制了以《起来》为名的唱片,使得这首象征中国民族精神的歌曲开始具有世界影响。新中国成立时,他同朋友一起走上街头用中文唱《起来》以示庆贺。1958年,中国人民为他庆祝60岁生日,他给中国人民写信“感谢全体中国人民对社会主义的贡献和对和平的保卫”,并希望访问中国。由于种种原因,直到1976年1月去世,罗伯逊也没有实现他的愿望。1980年5月,他的儿子小保罗•罗伯逊夫妇访华,宋庆龄在北京故居予以亲切接见。中国人民不会忘记保罗•罗伯逊,他的歌曲被传唱,他的故事在流传,在他诞辰100周年之际,中山公园音乐堂还举行了纪念音乐会。




大家首先观看了纪录片《保罗·罗伯逊——献给一位艺术家(Paul Robeson:Tribute to an Artist)》,再次感受到罗伯逊的艺术魅力和斗争精神。中国宋庆龄基金会研究中心常务副主任何大章、中国国际友人研究会陈秀霞副会长、北京外国语大学教授陈琳先后致辞,宋庆龄的好友苏菲、国际友人伊莎白等人也分别讲话,从不同的角度缅怀了保罗·罗伯逊。王学新导演还讲述了保罗·罗伯逊与中国艺术家交往的故事。






Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s