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Beijing blocks bronze display

An exhibition from the Indian Museum currently touring China will be sent back home after the Chinese government’s cancellation of all “large-scale exhibitions, meetings and entertainment activities” due to the SARS outbreak.

The exhibition, titled ‘Soul of India: Bronze Sculpture’, was sent to China by the museum on December 27, and has already toured Xian, Beijing and Tianjin. It is now in Guangzhou, where China’s first SARS case was detected.

The display of 80 bronze statues, collected between the Seventh and 20th Centuries, was to be on show at the Liu Haisn art gallery in Shanghai from June 3 to July 23. But on Monday, Indian Museum director Shyamal Kanti Chakravarty received word from the vice-president of the China International Exhibition Agency, Wan Jiyuan, that the tour had been cut short.

According to Jiyuan’s fax, the government order states that to “effectively control” the “epidemic situation…, all large-scale exhibitions, meetings and entertainment activities in… Beijing and Shanghai must be cancelled”.

The artefacts are to return to Calcutta, though the formal verdict from the Union department of culture is awaited. A senior official who had visited Tianjin in connection with the tour has been back since April 16 and is reportedly “okay”.

On Tuesday, Chakravarty held an emergency meeting with senior officials of the Chowringhee Road museum to discuss the SARS issue. “We have decided to provide medicated masks to employees who deal directly with visitors,” he added.

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