Swiss say no to adding Confucius to Einstein

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 June, 2011, 12:00am


The Shanghai authorities' insistence on merging an exhibition on Confucius with a Swiss exhibition on Albert Einstein has forced the organiser to look for another mainland venue.

'The Einstein exhibition will not go to Shanghai as planned,' a person close to the situation said.

The main reason, he said, was that the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum insisted that the exhibition from the Historical Museum of Bern, be mixed with one on Confucius, curated by the Shanghai museum - a move that baffled the Swiss.

The Shanghai museum has not specified why it wanted to fuse the ancient philosopher and the modern scientist.

As no other suitable venue in Shanghai could be located, it is unclear where the exhibition will go after it finishes at the Hong Kong Science Museum at the end of August.

It is understood that the Swiss museum is talking to other mainland cities so it can continue its tour, which is a celebration of 60 years of diplomatic relations between China and Switzerland, financed by the Swiss government.

Ironically, the exhibition, entitled Albert Einstein (1879-1955), has displayed the countries' different approach to cultural education since it started in Beijing in May last year.

Ten days before it opened in Beijing, the China Science and Technology Museum requested that all historical references concerning the first world war be removed; a request that confounded the Bern museum.

The Swiss firmly opposed the request and insisted the exhibition be shown as it was - given the relevance of the first world war to Einstein's life - or it would cancel the whole thing.

The Beijing museum eventually relented and the exhibition, in its entirety, received around 200,000 visitors in four months.

'I think as a science museum, they didn't see why we should talk about world history in an exhibition on Albert Einstein,' the person close to the situation said.

'And they were afraid their visitors would not understand that you can have a message of peace and tolerance in an exhibition which talks and shows negative events, like the national socialists in Germany and the persecution of Jews leading up to the concentration camps.'

In Hong Kong a section of the exhibition dealing with the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps carries a disclaimer warning visitors it is 'not suitable for children'.

Shanghai is where Einstein is said to have officially learned that he won the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics.

The Shanghai museum did not reply to requests for details.