The Soviet style (and designed) Great Hall of the People lies to the west of Tiananmen Square. Given the sheer size the square the buildings in and around it look much smaller than they actually are. Make no mistake, this building is huge, covering an area of 150,000sqm. Believe it or not, the twelve light-gray marble colonnades on the front of the building are each two metres in diameter and twenty-five metres high.
Without doubt the best known room within the building, we have all seen it on TV, is the Great Auditorium.
It measures 76 metres by 60 metres and 33 meters high and has seating for 10,000 people, every one of whom gets an unobstructed view of the podium. While its size, the podium, the flags etc are all impressive the most impressive part of the Great Auditorium for me is above your head, so don’t forget to look and admire the ceiling, the major part of which is decorated with the Auditorium’s trademark illuminated red star surrounded by a galaxy of lights.
Annually, in March, the Auditorium hosts the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress (the Chinese Parliament). The meetings, known colloquially as the “two meetings” last for two to three weeks. Every five years the Communist Party of China holds its National Congress here as well.
Lest my reader wonder at modest sitting time for the Chinese Parliament, one has to remember that the National People’s Congress is basically a rubber stamp for decisions made at the nearby Zhongnanhai – the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China and the State Council (Central government) of the People’s Republic of China.
The Great Hall of the People’s second largest room is the State Banquet Hall (picture 4) on the second floor. With an area of 7,000 square meters it can accommodate 5,000 people in a single sitting, as it did on Richard Nixon’s visit in 1972. How do they keep the soup warm?
The other especially interesting area in the building is that containing the offices of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the reception halls, each one of the latter named after a Chinese Province – including the Taiwan Hall (picture 5). Do take time to have a look into some of these reception halls as they are all different and contain many beautiful artworks and some great furnishings, all of a Chinese flavour naturally. Have a look at the website mentioned below which has pictures of all the rooms.
The Great Hall of the People is one of the “Ten Great Buildings” completed in 1959 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of People Republic of China. Others include the National Museum, Beijing Railway Station and the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution.
The building was named ‘The Great Hall of the People’ by Mao Zedong in recognition of the communist principle that ‘the people’ are masters of the country and to acknowledge the enthusiasm displayed by the 14,000 volunteer workers who built it in only ten months (Nov 1958 to Sept 1959), working around the clock.
I find it rather ironic that when the great affairs of state are discussed and decisions made (or as intimated above, rubber stamped) ‘the people’ are not permitted to enter the Great Hall of the People. Paradoxically as Paul Mason of the BBC very correctly stated in an article in 2012, “the Great Hall of the People minus the people is, for now, essential to the theatre of Chinese rule”.
While ostensibly the political hub of Beijing, in more recent years musicals and concerts have also been held in the Great Hall of the People. Had you found yourself in Beijing and at a loss for something to do on Christmas Day 2014, you could have popped along to the Great Hall of the People and enjoyed Richard Clayderman in concert?
For some reason I was under the impression that cameras were not permitted inside the building and so did not bring mine. I was wrong and photography is permitted anywhere inside – or at least everywhere you are permitted to go inside. Pictures 3 to 5 attached are courtesy of the Chinese Government and from its website – http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/GreatHall/node_3072.htm.
Absolutely worth a couple of hours of your time. Queues are generally not an issue here unless you get caught behind a group of what seemed like 500 middle aged Chinese cyclists (mostly in lycra and a sight in itself!) who made it to the turnstile just before I managed to procure a ticket!
30RMB The ticket office/ entry is on the south side of the building. As might be expected security is tight though very efficient via a bank of airport security machines located just inside the main building.
9:00 to 14:00 in January, February, March, December; 8:15 to 15:00 in April, May, June; 7:30 to 16:00 in July, August; 8:30 to 15:00 in September, October, November.
While this all looks very specific hours do vary and the Great Hall of the People is closed when in use for political events.
This is the last blog entry in a group (loop) of entries on Beijing. I trust you have enjoyed reading this group of reviews and invite you to partake of another of the loops on my “Travel Loop” page, by clicking HERE.