Summary from NY Times blog:
In a bizarre move, China’s television censors have issued new guidelines that all but ban TV dramas featuring time travel.
In a statement dated March 31, the State Administration for Radio, Film & Television said that TV dramas that involve characters traveling back in time “lack positive thoughts and meaning.” The guidelines discouraging this type of show said that some “casually make up myths, have monstrous and weird plots, use absurd tactics, and even promote feudalism, superstition, fatalism and reincarnation.”
The guidelines, which fell short of an outright ban of such dramas, seem to have come in response to a series of popular programs about protagonists drifting back to ancient times. For instance, in “Palace,” one of China’s hottest TV series, a woman falls in love with a Qing dynasty painting, travels back in time and then falls in love with several princes.
This video goes into more detail. It’s from NTD’s Chinese-language “Forbidden News” show.
Why would the Communist Party ban time travel on TV?
Yes, it seems bizarre. And several other media have covered the story tongue-in-cheek. But it’s also a reflection of something else. As the NY Times article about points out, it may be partly related to CCTV’s competition with Hunan Television. But the reasons likely run deeper.
The original notice from the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, says it wants TV production teams to “correct” their creative thoughts and “promote the good parts of China’s traditional culture”—after advising against promoting “feudal superstitions.”
What are the “good parts of China’s traditional culture”? It describes that in the second-to-last paragraph: It urges all TV stations to portray the journey of communist revolution, the history of development and reform, and “realistically represent the wonderful renaissance for all ethnicities under the leadership of the Party.”
If the 20th century communist revolution is to be promoted as “traditional culture,” it’s easier for Chinese people to forget the Confucian, Taoist, and other ideas that permeated and sustained Chinese society for the several thousand years. So despite the CCP’s restoration of old temples, cultural sites, etc. in recent years, it appears they really prefer to go back to the days of making people forget their past.