An exhibition dedicated to the 13th-century Mongol emperor Genghis Khan has opened at a museum in Nantes, France, three years after a censorship row derailed the show.
In late 2020, the Château des ducs de Bretagne history museum postponed the exhibition on the divisive Mongolian figure, claiming that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) attempted to censor its narrative.
“The new exhibition has been reorganised with the support of the Mongolian government this time; the objects exhibited mostly come from Mongolian collections (national and private),” a spokesperson for the museum says. Key objects on show in the exhibition, Genghis Khan: How Mongols Changed the World (until 5 May 2024), include a worship symbol in the form of the Sun (13th-14th century), loaned from the National Museum of Mongolia, and a garment fragment with gold threads from the Genghis Khan National Museum in Ulaanbaatar.
The show was initially due to open in February 2021. But following a series of proposed interventions by Beijing authorities, the museum decided to postpone the show. The interference was the result of "a hardening of the Chinese government's stance [in the summer of 2020] against the nation's Mongol minority”, the museum's director and exhibition co-curator, Bertrand Guillet, said in a statement at the time.
The museum said that attempts at censorship first began as an injunction from CCP authorities to remove the words "Genghis Khan", "empire" and "Mongol" from the entire show; the museum spokesperson says that those terms are now included in the exhibition.
Later, Chinese authorities allegedly demanded "control of the exhibition's production", which included providing a new exhibition synopsis written by the National Administration of Cultural Heritage in Beijing. The Chinese Embassy in London was contacted for comment.
A press statement outlines the diplomatic efforts behind the current show, saying: “This exhibition was made with the support of the Mongolian government, through its loan of priceless items from its national collections, and notably from the new Chinggis Khaan [Genghis Khan] National Museum. This show has been organised through the combined forces of Presidents of the two Republics—Mongolia and France—and has been awarded the distinction of being an ‘exhibition of national interest’ by the French ministry of culture.”