1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Genghis Khan exhibit postponed over China row

Darko Janjevic
October 13, 2020

China tried to censor the words "Genghis Khan" from an upcoming exhibition dedicated to Genghis Khan in France, according to a museum in Nantes. They accuse Chinese officials of trying to rewrite Mongol culture.

Genghis Khan statue near Ulan Baator
Image: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

A museum in Nantes says Chinese officials tried to change and rewrite elements of their upcoming exhibition on legendary Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan. The Chinese authorities allegedly wanted to blacklist words including "Genghis Khan" "Empire" and "Mongol" and then tried to take control of texts, maps, brochures and other material which was to be used for the event in France.

"We are now forced to postpone this exhibition to October 2024 due to the hardening of the Chinese government's position against the Mongolian minority," the head of the history museum, Bertrand Guillet, said in a statement.

Some 6.5 million Mongols live in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, which borders the nation of Mongolia. The province has seen protests and school boycotts in late August and early September after the Chinese officials announced that, starting from this school year, schools would be teaching history, politics, and literature in Mandarin rather than the local language.

Read more: Poet Yang Lian says there are 'cracks and holes in China's censorship'

A research fellow at France's Foundation for Strategic Research, Antoine Bondaz, described the Chinese demands as "crazy."

The French gallery was preparing the exhibition in cooperation with China's Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot. However, the Chinese Bureau of Cultural Heritage then tried to push changes on the French side, which also included writing a new synopsis. The revised synopsis showed censorship and "elements of biased rewriting aimed at completely erasing Mongolian history and culture in favor of a new national narrative," said the French museum chief.

"We decided to stop this production in the name of the human, scientific and ethical values that we defend," he added.

The show was originally set to open next week, according to the French news agency AFP. However, it was pushed back to the first half of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the says the exhibition would still go ahead, it would be delayed until 2024 to allow for the museum to fill it with objects from European and American collections.