Chinese censors ban time travel TV shows

The Chinese General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television has prohibited new science fiction TV dramas, following a vogue for shows where modern Chinese people travel to ancient China and discover that it's not a bad place to be (this having some counter-revolutionary subtext). They've also prohibited production of "the Four Great Classical Novels", ("the four novels commonly counted by scholars to be the greatest and most influential of classical Chinese fiction"), on the grounds that the widespread adaptations of them take too many liberties with the original texts.
From the end of last year, the time-travel themed drama is becoming more and more popular. Most of these time-travel dramas are based on real historical stories but with many newly added, and usually exaggerated elements to make it funny and more attractive. Nothing is off limits in this television genre. While some find it hilarious, others think the exaggeration and even ridiculous elements added into the story is a real source of annoyance and is a disrespectful for history.

The authority's decision was made on the Television Director Committee Meeting on April 1st. - but obviously it's not a prank to fans of the drama genre. The authority has a good reason to go against the genre. "The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore."

"No more time-travel drama", authority says it disrespects history

广电总局叫停四大名著翻拍 批穿越剧不尊重历史

(via Making Light)


  1. On the one hand, I’m against this kind of ridiculous censorship. On the other hand, I kinda wish my government would have protected me from some of the really dumb time travel schlock I’ve encountered over the years.

  2. Hoping that this won’t extend to Neil Gaiman’s *film* adaptation of Journey to the West for Zhang Jizhong. Has huge potential for China in so many areas.

  3. Wow television in Communist China is 10 years behind Xena: Warrior Princess. Hope you enjoy all the cooking shows coming up next.

  4. Isn’t Journey to the West a comedy? It certainly has comedic elements, so frivolous treatment is entirely appropriate, I’d’ve thought.

    1. Well, worse comes to the worse, Neil and the team will just have to shoot it ala Kubrick and turn an area of South London into the hilly mountains of China. Or get James Cameron to CGised the entire thing and have it shot in a warehouse anywhere at all. Or a broom cupboard even. Pretty sure a broom cupboard is Government tinker-proof.

  5. It’s a very interesting story, Future Boy, but
    there’s one little thing that doesn’t make sense. If the me in the future is now in the past, how could you possibly know about it… ?

  6. Since I have friends in mainland China I am concerned by somewhat recent trends. With the state buying up so many properties and corporations with inflated Yuans as of late as well as quiet squeezes of civil liberties we see that the Communist Party of China is still in the drivers seat. This is still the communist party of Maoist genocide level purges that five years ago appeared to be disappearing just like Marx promised. For the most part these friends and others I met in university really believed that civil liberties were not compatible with making a living or becoming wealthy.If the dream of becoming wealthy breaks will we see unrest like the middle east or what I believe, an already orderly society like China will move back toward state control and complete lifestyle control.
    Worse for Americans, what happens when a huge nation fills with people with dreams of wealth that end up out on the street because what the US actually did to them with our financial pyramid scam.
    What happens when the repo man has a casus belli, in our current system war is highly unlikely but who predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union?

    1. “This is still the communist party of Maoist genocide level purges that five years ago appeared to be disappearing just like Marx promised.”
      Maoist? Disappearing? Marx? What are you talking about?
      I’ve done quite a bit of reading on this stuff and I have no clue what you are talking about. Sounds like the 1960s through the mid 70s maybe? What does the Cultural Revolution have to do with this tho? I guess the Democracy Wall and 天安门 fit in there somewhere, but this has been moving in waves for about 30 years now. This is not a sea change, this is high tide.

      “What happens when the repo man has a casus belli, in our current system war is highly unlikely but who predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union?”
      Repo man? Casus belli? Soviet Union?
      Again. What are you talking about? Sounds like you are reading contemporary international relationships too much like a Cold War fiction book, Bro Montana.

  7. Of course we wouldn’t trust the govt to do it, but a lot of US fans of sci-fi and fantasy would approve some authoritative body prohibiting Hollywood from adapting or taking “too many” liberties with original texts. This probably would have prevented Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Watchmen :( , but also would have saved us from Seth Rogen as the Green Hornet, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, Adam Sandler as Mr. Deeds, Russel Brand as Arthur, the Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Clash of the Titans. Maybe the Chinese are on to something. Or we could just vote with our feet and not pay to see them.

  8. This either means China doesn’t want its people to escape their oppressive regime by traveling to the past, or they’ve invented an actual time machine and this is for national security.

  9. …but who predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union?

    The answer is Ronald Reagan.

    1. Ronald Reagan was a lucky idiot who couldn’t predict his way out of a wet paper bag.

      But to answer your observation: if two idiots decide to play “chicken,” and one goes off the cliff first, does that mean that the other one was smart?

  10. China already heavily censors or otherwise limits what can be shown (in terms of ideology etc., not primarily sex and violence, though that is limited too) so while to us this seems bizarre – especially since many very popular western shows and movies from the US use this time-travel theme – it’s not at all out of line from what the Chinese government has done in the past.

    They’re clearly struggling with the changing world, and with “keeping people in check” so to speak, since the explosion of media access (especially the internet, but western movies and TV too). I’m no expert but I feel that they’ve been undergoing a rather draconian clamping-down in the past few years, and that it won’t end well for the Chinese government if they continue.

    I seriously doubt most Chinese people who watched these shows got any of the messages the government is saying they contain. I have no doubt the shows were quite overt about their message in many cases, but that doesn’t mean anyone took it seriously or got revolutionary ideas from it.

    Anyway, this would prevent shows like Doctor Who and Quantum Leap, two of my all-time favorites. It’s no wonder the Chinese equivalents were so popular – it’s a great concept for TV. And, perhaps ironically, these kinds of shows are often better at illustrating the intricacies of history than purely accurate depictions are!

  11. I too was concerned about the latter part:

    They’ve also prohibited production of “the Four Great Classical Novels”

    but according to the provided link, the current prohibition is on new production of TV shows of those epics. This seems to be about a separate concern: the TV versions, new ones being produced like clockwork every year, are created in haste and therefore are of poor quality in many ways. I do not believe this affects movies, at least not at this time.

  12. In related news, China’s Ministry of Fish and Wildlife Management announced today that the infestation of the dreaded “plot bunnies” has risen to dangerous levels, and officially declared open season on the creatures.


    …your Chinese spec script of any reference to time travel.

  14. It is important and beneficial that central planning be engaged in any alterations to history. Healthy timeline maintenance is the cheerful duty of all citizens.

    Further information is not available here.

  15. Counter-revolutionary subtext may be an excuse, but I suspect this is entirely the fault of Percival Dunwood.

  16. i’m assuming this includes all cinema that involves time travel, but how does travelling to an imaginary past, like in “Army of Darkness” fit in… but then again, what revolutionary doesn’t want a boomstick and a chainsaw prosthetic?

  17. Why does the Chinese government feel theratened by shows depicting time trvel? Is it that their grip on their centralized authority is but a tenuous one? It is one thing to separate church from state, but another altogether to separate the state from its people. They are making a serious mistake that will ultimately spell their doom and bring about a true democratic structure of government.

  18. I feel bad for the mainland Chinese who has to find all ways to tunnel through all the restrictions.

  19. Thomas Friedman will still think China has a better system than the US, and we could learn a lot from them.

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