Body shock

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 January, 2003, 12:00am

YOU HAVE to queue up twice to completely experience the Mysteries Of The Human Body exhibition. There's a queue at the entrance and another inside the venue.

The queue inside allows you to see a specimen of a human brain. A sign reads: 'Weigh the brain yourself'. Unlike conventional specimens, the brain was not preserved in formaldehyde or encased in glass; you can hold it in your hands.

I was tempted and joined the queue for the chance to view a real brain.

The brain was warm and moist due to visitors handling it, according to a guard at the site. One woman put a napkin over the brian before taking hold of it.

I wondered if the donor ever imagined how his brain would be toyed with by thousands of visitors.

Co-organised by the Japan Anatomy Laboratory, the show already attracted 2.5 million visitors in Japan last year. Similar exhibitions were said to have been 'very successful' in Germany, the United Kingdom and Korea.

This 'hands-on' approach is all made possible by what is known as plastomic technology, a method that extracts water and injects plastic resins.

If handling the brain upsets you, it's time to go, because the body specimens on display are not like the illustrations seen in biology textbooks.

Suspended by hair-thin wire, one item reveals peeled-off muscles radiated from a specimen that exposes the inner parts of the human body. Another is a skinless corpse vertically cut into halves so visitors can feel their way down from the brain to the intestines. Now I know why people say beauty is only skin-deep.

According to the organisers, all the specimens were donated by individuals specifically for medical, educational and research purposes. However, it has been reported recently that none of the donors had agreed to have their body plastinated.

Wanda Hau Yuet-king, who accompanied her eight-year old daughter to the exhibiton, said the specimens provide a way to better undertstand the human body. 'It is a good way for children to learn about the inner structure.'

However, Pierre Yves Rolin, who only found that they were real bodies upon entering the show, said the presentation of specimens goes beyond the needs of education.

'It's too extravagant,' he said. '[The way it's presented is] more for show than medical purposes,' he said. 'I would rather donate my body for organ transplantation. I have just seen many ladies touching the privates of a male specimen. I don't want my body to end up like that.'

Some students pondered the ribcage of the specimen, perhaps to confirm what they had learnt in text books. But at the same time, when T-shirts are sold with specimens graphically printed on them, you wonder whether the exhibition is designed to shock and the commercial side outweighs the educational message.

Mysteries Of The Human Body will run until February 23 at the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre, China Resources Building, Wan Chai. Admission: $40 for students