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Chinese Ancient Assembly Hall


Assembly hall is a kind of public buildings in Chinese cities, consisting of council house, playhouse and banqueting hall. It has the functions of handling official business as well as living.

There are two sorts of assembly halls -- halls of countrymen and halls of trade. The former provides places of meeting, communicating and dwelling for countrymen, while the latter is places for handling business. Assembly halls are often found in the capital, provincial capitals and cities with developed business and handicraft industries. During the last years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), there are more than a hundred assembly halls outside Xuanwu Gate,Beijing. The style of this architecture is mature in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties. 

 Halls of countrymen

The structure of Chinese assembly hall is similar to large houses. Actually, some of them are rebuilt on the bases of large houses. To maintain the relationship of countrymen, people build ancestral temples enshrining wise men of the neighborhood in the main hall or a separate room. The main hall is used for meetings and parties, while other rooms are countrymen's temporary dwellings. Some big assembly halls setup schools for countrymen's children. During the Qing Dynasty some assembly halls at the provincial level inBeijingwere so big that they even had theatres. For instance, Jiangxi Assembly Hall, Fengtian Assembly Hall, Sichuan Assembly Hall, existing Huguang Assemly Hall, and so on.

 Halls of trade

Though its style is different from that of countrymen, the main structure is similar to residences. The founder or the mythical characters are often enshrined in the hall. The stage for acting and rewarding god is built separately or behind the upper part of the front door. The auditorium is set in the main hall, the wing room or the yard, some of which have the awning. Dainty decoration, with elaborate sculpture and golden ornaments, shows the prosperity of trade.

Assembly Hall is also a manifestation of Chinese architecture. Having absorbed elements of western architecture, nowadays the assembly halls are gradually rebuilt to modern buildings like hotels, restaurants, and so on.

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