Most law-abiding citizens know the difference between right and wrong, and many rules and regulations are common sense. But sometimes you come across laws that are entirely the opposite, such as the ban on whaling in (landlocked) Oklahoma, and the prohibition on ploughing Alabama’s cotton fields with elephants. This got us thinking: surely China has its fair share of wacky rules and regulations. Here are some of the best we found:
1) Thou shalt not stop at pedestrian crossings
This explains a lot. Until we discovered this particular law, we were stumped (and more than a little irritated) by the fact that cars just don’t seem to stop at pedestrian crossings. Well, it turns out that Article 40 of Beijing’s traffic laws stipulates that drivers of power-driven vehicles are forbidden to stop at pedestrian crossings, and risk a fine of RMB 5 or a warning if they do. Great.
2) Thou shalt not store explosives in thy basement
Chinese law forbids householders from storing more than a tonne of explosives (i.e. fireworks) in their basement or cellar. This makes plenty of sense, until you realise that for such a law to even exist, a large enough number of people must have actually been storing more than a tonne of explosives in their basements… That’s a lot of fireworks. Luckily this guy keeps his homemade artillery aboveground.
3) Thou shalt not eat another man’s wife… intentionally
An obscure law states that a man ought not to eat another man’s wife intentionally as part of a meal. So… does that mean he can eat her if she’s not part of a meal? And what if he chows down unintentionally – does that make it legal?
4) Thou shalt not date thy colleague
One internet company in Guangzhou province has a strict and bafflingly specific policy on dating, which was leaked online recently. Men who have been employed by the company for less than a year are forbidden from dating a colleague. The same goes for women who have been employed for less than three months, and if they find a boyfriend who doesn’t work at the company, he must be vetted by the management to make sure he is “suitable”. Male workers under the age of 25 aren’t allowed to date a colleague at all, but if an employee’s salary is higher than 15,000 RMB per month, they are exempt from all rules. Who comes up with this stuff?
5) Thou shalt keep thy vices local
County-level officials seem to play fast and loose when it comes to dreaming up laws. One county in Hubei province designed a rule whereby workers at all state-owned companies could only buy local cigarettes, and had to meet an overall quota of 23,000 packets a year. Another Hubei county tried the same trick with baijiu. For the quota to be met, each employee would have to buy at least three bottles a day. Luckily, central government found out and scrapped the laws.
6) Thou shalt not give away the secret of silk-making
Ancient imperial law stipulates that anyone caught sharing the secrets of sericulture (otherwise known as silk-making) was to be tortured to death. Since the art of silk-making has indeed made it out of China, we’re presuming that some punitive torture took place on whoever let it slip.
7) Thou shalt not name thy children strangely
A man in Zhengzhou was forbidden from naming his newborn son “@” because of the rule stating that all given names must be translatable into Mandarin. Surely he could have suggested that they translate it to 在…
8) Thou shalt not bind thy daughter’s feet
This is another law that is heartening, but also makes you kind of sad that it was ever necessary. Up until the founding of the People’s Republic, it was customary for little girls to have their feet bound in order to secure a husband. Years of pain and deformity followed, so this law is definitely a good one.
9) Thou shalt salute passing cars
Children at Luolang Elementary School in Guizhou Province are required by local law to stop and raise their hands to all cars which pass them on the street. It may sound weird, but the rule has actually reduced the number of car accidents involving children to zero.
10) Thou shalt announce the approach of a Russian
Ok, so this one dates back to 1907, but it’s still a classic. Back in the day, there was a little-known Chinese republic near Vladivostok. It was called Iman, and had some cracking laws, such as death for anyone who failed to announce the approach of a Russian. Stealing fur was punishable by live burial. Ouch.
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