Address:     Myoma Kyaung Street
Year built:   1987-1991
Architect:    Unknown

When China’s then-President Li Xiannian visited Burma in 1985, he offered the country this theatre building. Plans were drawn up and construction began in 1987 with the help of Chinese engineers. Construction work stopped during the 1988 uprising, but resumed the year after. The building was finished in December 1990 and opened the following month. Although construction was agreed before the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) took power in 1988, the theatre became a mainstay of the authoritarian regime and its emphasis on “safeguarding” Myanmar culture and heritage to mould a sense of national identity. Thus the theatre was principally used for traditional cultural shows such as dance and musical performances. With a capacity for about 1,300 spectators, the National Theatre is one of the best-equipped theatres in the region and features comparatively modern stage technology.

Viewed from the entrance the building has an imposing volume

China remained one of Burma’s few allies post-1988. When visiting the construction site in 1989, SLORC First Secretary Khin Nyunt remarked that his government “sympathise[s] with the People’s Republic of China as disturbances similar to those that took place in Myanmar during 1988 broke out there”. He thanked China for sending engineers while Myanmar suffered from the consequences of the “disturbance”. Chinese Secretary-General of the State Council Luo Gan attended the opening ceremony in January 1991. The Chinese government also provided manpower and equipment for maintenance of the theatre during the following years and granted 1.5 million US dollars to renovate the building in 2004, just 13 years after its completion. Another Chinese gift nearby is the Tatmadaw Hall, an exhibition centre on U Wizara Road.