French museum suspends Genghis Khan exhibit after China pressured it to rewrite Mongolian culture history
Pressure from Beijing’s censorship prompted a French museum to postpone a planned Genghis Khan exhibit that involved loans from China. The Chinese Communist Party has reportedly insisted that the show omit any use of the words “Genghis Khan,” “empire” or “Mongol,” as well as control over exhibit texts, maps and brochures.
“We made the decision to stop this production in the name of the human, scientific and ethical values that we defend”, declared Bertrand Guillet, director of the Nantes history museum, the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, in a declaration.
The “censorship of the original project”, he asserted, was characterized by a “biased rewriting of Mongolian culture in favor of a new national narrative”, such as the attempt to change the title of the exhibition from “Sun of the sky and the steppes: Genghis Khan and the birth of the Mongol Empire“ to “the culture of the Chinese steppes of the world”.
The show, which was organized in partnership with the Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot, China, had already been postponed since it opened in October. Now, instead of debuting in February, it is on hold until at least 2024 as curators scramble to replace Chinese artifact loans with works from European and American collections.
In the 13th century, Khan united the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia and conquered much of Eurasia through deadly invasions, founding what became, after his death, the largest contiguous empire in the ‘story.
Today, China has a strained relationship with its ethnic Mongolian population, which largely lives in Inner Mongolia Province. School reforms adopted in August replaced ethnic Mongolian with Mandarin as the official language of school education in three subjects. This decision sparked many protests in the province.
To follow Artnet news on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news, eye-opening interviews and cutting-edge reviews that keep the conversation going.