updated 6/7/2011 9:41:32 AM ET 2011-06-07T13:41:32

A plan to bring an Albert Einstein exhibition to Shanghai was shelved after the Chinese museum suggested merging it with one on Confucius, a Swiss museum director said Tuesday.

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The odd coupling was the idea of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, part of a recent revival of interest in the Chinese philosopher, whose teachings were at the center of Chinese civilization for nearly two millennia but were widely denigrated in the 20th century.

It would have brought to Shanghai the Swiss government-financed "Albert Einstein (1879-1955)" exhibition, which is on display at the Hong Kong Science Museum until August and consists of more than 200 objects illustrating Einstein's life and times.

Jakob Messerli, director of the Historical Museum Bern, which owns the exhibition, said the Shanghai museum wanted to add a Confucius exhibition that was "at least as large as ours, which was just not as possible in such a short period of time."

"A traveling exhibition is quite a large endeavor which takes a lot of work. You can't just redo that again in order to have a different exhibition at one point," he said.

The Swiss museum was represented in discussions with Shanghai by Switzerland's Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Presence Switzerland, responsible for promoting Switzerland's image abroad.

A director at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum said Tuesday there had been discussions about hosting the exhibition, but "we are no longer talking to each other."

The director, who gave only his surname, Zhang, said: "We did have a tentative idea about merging the Albert Einstein exhibition with a Confucius exhibition. Those are two renowned figures from different fields. And we wanted to do something creative."

Confucius and his teachings were widely criticized by the founding father of Communist China, Mao Zedong, who railed against traditional culture and what he called "feudal thinking."

In the last few years, Confucius has made a comeback in books and films, on TV and in classrooms as China's government pushes his message of harmonious social order and deference to authority.

The sage's teachings emphasized duty to family, respect for learning and obedience of individuals to the state.

The Einstein exhibition has already been shown in Beijing and in Guangdong in southern China. Messerli said discussions concerning future locations were ongoing.

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