The modern Chinese government is not exactly known for its tolerance. They seek to keep a pretty solid grip on what their citizens are allowed to see, hear, and do and that has led to a number of unusual things being banned over the years.
10. Big Bang Theory
Upon hearing that The Big Bang Theory was banned by the Chinese government, some people would likely think that sounds a bit like paradise. But to be fair, the show was extremely popular and a lot of people actually did enjoy it, so most of us probably couldn’t piece together exactly why the Chinese government would ban The Big Bang Theory in the first place.
The show was actually extremely popular in China as well and on their biggest streaming service Sohu the show managed to rake in over 1.3 billion views. It was at that point the Chinese State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television pulled it off the air. No official reason was ever given but it’s been speculated that it was in part to cut down on Western influence in Chinese media. The other popular theory for why the show was banned was because the Chinese government didn’t want losers to become trendy. If you recall, The Big Bang Theory was about a group of nerds who, while technically very successful in both their professional and personal lives, could still arguably be considered losers.
When you hear the word jasmine you probably think of something like jasmine rice or jasmine tea, both of which have a clear and distinct history throughout Asia, including in China. Although jasmine rice is more specifically Thai, it’s certainly a part of Chinese cuisine. Jasmine tea is tea that has been scented with jasmine blossoms from the jasmine flower. It’s probably one of the most famous kinds of tea and all of China. That said, in the year 2011, China banned jasmine all together.
Neither the flowers of the jasmine plant or the plant itself could be sold, purchased, or even talked about in China thanks to calls that had been put out on the internet for something called a Jasmine Revolution. This was essentially the pro-democracy protests that have been going on in China for some time now, and jasmine became symbolic of that movement. So the government went out of their way to squash it before it even got started. As a result, hundreds of people considered political dissidents were arrested on jasmine charges.
China’s growth has been unlike anything else in the world. Their economy exploded with a speed and intensity that other major world powers have not experienced before. Cities expanded rapidly all around the country from relatively small towns to massive and congested urban centres with unusually developed downtown areas featuring some of the tallest buildings in the world. In fact, China built more skyscrapers since 1970 than the United States has in the last century.
The result of all these giant buildings has been that many of China’s cities grew in a sort of unplanned and unrestrained way. China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban and Rural Development banned the construction of any additional skyscrapers as of April 2020. No building over 500 meters tall is allowed to be built and any building over 250 meters in height will have to meet some very strict criteria and receive governmental permission. Buildings that are meant to be over 100 meters tall have to also meet a fairly stringent approval process as well.
Part of this ban also prevents anyone from building copycat structures as a number of Chinese architects had taken it upon themselves to reproduce famous buildings in China. This includes the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, London Bridge, and the US Capitol building among many others.
7. Erotic Banana Eating
Everyone has probably experienced an uncomfortable moment watching someone else eat a banana. It’s the food that lends itself most to dirty euphemisms, and pop culture is just lousy with jokes about people eating them in suggestive ways. China does not support this particular brand of fruit-based eroticisim.
In the year 2016, live streaming services in China banned anyone from streaming themselves eating a banana in a way that was seductive. If you consider what that means, the implication was that someone at any given live streaming service had to be online all the time to monitor every live stream 24 hours a day, seven days a week just to make sure no one was doing that. They apparently banned anyone from wearing stockings and suspenders as well.
Eating a banana in a seductive way apparently harms social morality according to China’s Ministry of Culture so it had to be dealt with accordingly.
6. Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber has taken his lumps over the years from critics around the world. He’s made some foolish decisions that have gotten him in the spotlight for less than admirable reasons and there’s probably no new jokes that could really be told about him that you haven’t heard before.
It was that bad behavior for which Bieber was known for a few years, things like drug use, speeding, urinating in buckets and smuggling monkeys throughout Europe that likely rubbed Chinese authorities the wrong way. In the year 2017, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture officially banned Justin Bieber from performing in the country because they felt it was not suitable to bring in badly-behaved entertainers into the Chinese Marketplace.
The explanation was actually more of an explanation than most bans in China get, and even though they didn’t expand on what they meant by bad behaviour it’s pretty easy to guess what they meant. Not to mention that he had been in China in the past and engaged in some behaviour that went over poorly including having his bodyguards carry him up the Great Wall.
The relationship between the Chinese government and the Buddhist religion is a long and complicated one. The extended struggle between China and Tibet is just one part of some long and tragic turmoil that has cost a number of lives and led to much suffering. Despite it all, China still seeks to exert control over Tibetan Buddhist monks by actually regulating not only how they practice their religion but also how they plan to practice it in a metaphysical way. Towards that end, the state administration of religious affairs has attempted to regulate the act of reincarnation.
Although this may sound silly on paper and like an exercise in fantasy or futility, it’s actually a method of controlling an entire religion. The Dalai Lama has been in exile since 1959. According Chinese State Authority, if he dies he is not allowed to reincarnate. So while their religion may say a new Dalai Lama has been born, the government can also then say they have an approved Dalai Lama that’s been born and will now be effectively under State Control.
4. Winnie the Pooh
Some people are able to take a joke and laugh at themselves a little bit and some people aren’t. Chinese president Xi Jingping, or at least someone acting on his behalf, is definitely not able to take a joke. You can tell because the government banned Winnie the Pooh in the year 2018.
This particular ban dated back 5 years previous to a moment when the President had come to the United States and was captured on film taking a walk with Barack Obama. Unbeknownst to either president, the two of them had skillfully re-enacted a Winnie the Pooh scene featuring Pooh Bear walking with his tall lanky friend Tigger. In this scenario, Obama was the svelte Tigger while Xi was the shorter and chubbier Pooh Bear.
Fast forward a year and president Xi met with prime minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and the two of them took a photo together that looked for all the world like Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore hanging out.
Lightning had struck twice and the president and Pooh Bear had officially become a meme. Censors across China began deleting picture comparisons from the internet and then John Oliver made some jokes about it on his HBO show Last Week Tonight.
Picture comparisons continue to crop up until finally the release of the Winnie the Pooh movie in the year 2018 forced the government to ban the cartoon bear entirely.
3. Bras During Exams
Once you get to college they’re going to be some people who try to cheat their way through exams. This is a universal thing it seems and not strictly limited to North America by any means. We know this because China, and in specific universities in China, have banned women from wearing bras during testing.
Millions of students take part in something called gaokao tests which are used to gain entrance to universities. They are very competitive and if you do well you’ll get access to the best schools in the country. That has unfortunately created an entire industry of deception and cheating.
The methods by which students were cheating had become so elaborate that officials ended up banning women from wearing bras so that they couldn’t hide any kind of wireless communication devices inside of them that would allow people to give them answers to test questions. Additionally, the ban was essentially covering anything that had metal in it. So bras that had metal clips or underwires were out. If you had metal fillings in your mouth or any kind of surgical implant you better bring a doctor’s note or you were not going to be able to take the test. Every student was thoroughly scanned for any metal on their person and if they set the metal detector off, they weren’t going in.
Lest you think that this was an overreaction on the part of the schools, it’s worth noting that the year before the ban was put in place over 60,000 electronic devices were received from students including earphones, pens, watches, glasses, and leather belts that all had transmitters and receivers in them. And those are just the ones they caught before they had the tools and place to search for them.
2. Online Dating for Soldiers
Word is there about 70 million more men than women in China so meeting someone of the opposite sex is probably no easy task given that the off kilter ratios. Unfortunately, the Chinese government isn’t making it any easier for soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army. In the year 2010, the government put in a ban on online dating for soldiers. In fact, soldiers weren’t allowed to have blogs, look for jobs on the Internet, or make friends in any kind of virtual environment. All of this was put into place to protect the personal information of soldiers so that no one could gain any sensitive information about the military by putting soldiers in any kind of a compromising position.
On the bright side for the soldiers, the solution to the problem of getting a date was then put in the hands of army officials who were tasked with creating matchmaking services so that soldiers could meet eligible partners. And some people think romance is dead.
1. Time Travel
The world is full of dangerous technology, the kind of stuff that could cause some serious damage in the wrong hands. The Chinese government is of the opinion that time travel is one such technology and, as such, it is not to be tolerated.
Now, to be fair, China didn’t ban actual time travel. But they did ban time travel in TV and movies. According to the official reasoning, shows about time travel lack positive thoughts and meaning.They went on to say that such shows ‘ casually make up myths, have monstrous and weird plots, use absurd tactics, and even promote feudalism, superstition, fatalism, and reincarnation.’ Who knew Back to the Future was so dangerous?