Grand People’s Study House
Located in the heart of Pyongyang right on Kim Il Sung Square opposite the Juche Tower, this monumental building was completed in 1982 in a Korean neoclassical style with traditional multi-layer gabled roofs. It is North Korea’s national library. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the inside, the grand lobby, reception, reading and study rooms, and finish off with the balcony which offers a wonderful view of central Pyongyang.
- You can somewhat access North Korea’s domestic intranet here when using the computers provided for searching the library catalogue. It’s also interesting to see what foreign media is available here—we’ve seen The Beatles vinyls and books on Australian geography! There’s also an expert on Juche philosophy here too who can answer your burning questions on materialist dialectics. At times, you can join in on conversational English lessons which are held here.
Best times to visit
The Grand People’s Study House was one of several monumental structures built for Kim Il Sung’s 70th birthday celebrations in 1982. The others are the Juche Tower and the Arch of Triumph. It has since become a national icon.
- The Grand People’s Study House is located on Kim Il Sung Square. It is built on an axis opposite the Tower of the Juche Idea with the Taedong River running in between.
- The official centre of Pyongyang is marked from in front of the building, where you can find an inscription that indicates the starting point of distance measurements.
- The podium where the leader views parades that take place in Kim Il Sung Square is located right next to the Grand People’s Study House.
- The building is built in a broadly socialist modernist, monumental style with thick pillars and imposing walls built of stone. However, its design contains many references to traditional East Asian architecture, with its prominent, curved, multi-layered, gabled tile roofs with eaves, pointed ridge end tiles (finials), and mock stone brackets (두공; 斗拱, traditionally made of wood) underneath the roof edges.
- The Grand People’s Study House has greenish blue roofs because that was during monarchic times the colour of royal building roofs. The North Koreans say that after socialism, the colour was used for the roofs of public buildings because it was the people that replaced the kings.
- The prominence of this building is perhaps an indication of the heavy emphasis on education North Korea’s still somewhat Confucian culture places. The Tower of the Juche Idea opposite the Grand People’s Study House is also fundamentally about learning and education.
- Kim Il Sung’s 70th birthday was met with such fanfare—with the construction of the Grand People’s Study House, Arch of Triumph and the Juche Tower, because the age 70 has special significance in Confucian culture. It is the last of the stages of maturity that Confucius talks about in The Analects:
“At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the will of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart’s desire without overstepping the boundaries of what was right.” (吾十有五而志於學，三十而立，四十而不惑，五十而知天命，六十而耳順，七十而從心所欲，不逾矩。) – Confucius, The Analects, Chapter II 為政篇
- Wikipedia article on the Grand People’s Study House:
Monument, Revolutionary, Education, Architecture