The ironically named Great Hall of the People lies on the western side of the square, and it’s the site of the China National People’s Congress meetings and other political and diplomatic activities. Its monolithic size and menacing presence befit the imperious political cadre, which lines the streets with black limos when the NPC takes session here. Less a breathtaking construction and more a pompous display of power and wealth, it is fitting that the Great Hall of the People is the monument gracing the back of the ¥100 bank note, the largest currency note in China. Political history buffs will find interest in the Great Hall as host to Margaret Thatcher’s infamous 1982 stair-tripping incident, Mikhail Gorbachev’s protest-laden 1989 visit, and Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 banquet.
Greeted by 12 marble posts through which you can make your ingress, the inside of the hall is composed of 29 uninspired conference rooms named for provincial regions and a host of bedecked halls and auditoriums. Further down, the Central Hall gloats as an ostentatious symbol of government wealth, laid out with a plush marble floor and embellished with crystal lamps that glint among the ceiling’s embroidery. Don’t miss the Great Auditorium, which has been witness to a history of party speeches and government bustle, and can simultaneously seat a stunning 10,000 representatives. Grab a peak at the auditorium’s ceiling, which is lavishly decorated with a galaxy of lights and a centralized great red star encircled by an ocean of rippling patterns (said to represent the people).