The Great Hall of the People is a state building located at the western edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It is used for legislative and ceremonial activities by the People's Republic of China (PRC) government and the ruling Communist Party of China. The Great Hall functions as the meeting place for the full sessions of the Chinese parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), which occurs every year during March along with the national session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political advisory body. It is also the meeting place of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which, since 1982, has occurred once every five years.
The Great Hall is also used for many special events, including national level meetings of various social and political organisations, large anniversary celebrations, as well as the memorial services for former leaders. The Great Hall of the People is also a popular attraction in the city frequented by tourists visiting the capital.
The Great Hall of the People was designed by Zhang Bo. It was opened in September 1959, and was one of the "Ten Great Constructions" completed for the 10th Anniversary of the PRC. The structure was built in 10 months by construction workers and volunteers.
The building covers 171,801 square metres (1,849,239 sq ft) of floor space, it is 356 metres in length and 206.5 metres in width. The centre peaks at 46.5 metres. At the eaves of the main gate hangs the national emblem of the PRC.
The Great Hall of the People consists of three sections.
- The central section principally includes the Great Auditorium, the Main Auditorium, the Congress Hall (Standing Committee of SCPCC meets in conference), the Central Hall, the Golden Hall and other main halls.
- The northern section consists of the State Banquet Hall, the Salute State Guest Hall, the North Hall, the East Hall, the West Hall and other large halls.
- The southern part is the office building of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of China.
Each province, special administrative region, autonomous region of China has its own hall in the Great Hall, such as Beijing Hall, Hong Kong Hall and Taiwan Hall. Each hall has the unique characteristics of the province and is furnished according to the local style.
The Great Auditorium, with volume of 90,000 cubic metres, seats 3,693 in the lower auditorium, 3,515 in the balcony, 2,518 in the gallery and 300 to 500 on the dais. Government leaders make their speeches; and the representatives do much of their business. It can simultaneously seat 10,000 representatives. The ceiling is decorated with a galaxy of lights, with a large red star is at the centre of the ceiling, and a pattern of a water waves nearby represents the people. Its facilities equipped with audio-visual and other systems adaptable to a variety of meeting types and sizes. A simultaneous interpretation system is also provided with a language booth.
The State Banquet Hall with an area of 7,000 square meters can entertain 7,000 guests, and up to 5,000 people can dine at one time (as was done on the occasion of Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972). Smaller gatherings can be held in the Main Auditorium, with larger groups having the use of one or more of the conference halls, such as Golden Hall and North Hall, and the smallest assemblies accommodated in one or more of the over 30 conference halls that are named after provinces and regions in China.
The Great Hall of the People is the political hub of Beijing and home of the National People's Congress. Every year, in March, the Great Hall of the People plays host to the liang hui (literally means "two meetings") event, where both the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People's Congress (NPC) meet in sessions lasting for two to three weeks at the Great Auditorium. The Communist Party of China (CPC) also holds its National Congress every five years in the Great Hall of the People.
The Great Hall has been used for meetings with foreign dignitaries on state or working visits, as well as large anniversary celebrations attended by top leaders.
The Great Hall has been used for the state funerals and memorial services for several top leaders. Former President Liu Shaoqi was purged during the Cultural Revolution and died in the ensuing struggles. He was posthumously rehabilitated after 1978. In 1982 Liu was granted a state funeral held at the Great Hall. The Great Hall also held the funerals of General Secretary Hu Yaobang in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square protests, as well as the memorial service for paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1997.
Mao Zedong's funeral ceremony was not held at the Great Hall; it was held at Tiananmen Square.
The building and its main "Great Auditorium" is open to the public as a tourist attraction when it is not in use. In recent years, some non-political conventions and concerts have also been held in the Great Hall. In January 2009, American Country Music trio Lucy Angel gained the distinction of being the first American/Western group ever to be invited to perform at the Great Hall of the People, doing so before an audience of dignitaries and government officials.