By Horace Lu
Two 12-year-old girls in Zhangzhou, Fujian province have committed suicide, one of whom allegedly died for time-travel, local media reports. Xiaohua, one of the two girls, apparently was motivated to take her own life after being distraught over losing a remote control for the rolling door of her house, and planned her suicide on March 1st.
Her best friend Xiaomei decided to die together with her, leaving a suicide note which reads:
My good sister has lost the key and was afraid of being scolded. She wants to die, and I decided to die together with her. Please don’t worry too much. We weren’t born at the same time on the same day, but we want to [die] at the same time on the same day. In my life, I have two secret wishes. One is to time-travel back to Qing Dynasty and shoot a film with the emperor, and the other is to travel to outer space.
The two girls committed suicide by jumping into a nearby pool and died before their families found them.
Xiaomei’s desire to time travel has sparked a great deal of controversy, with many blaming “time-travel dramas” for her death.
“Time-travel dramas” are a relatively new soap opera genre, in which women living in the present travel back in time to fall in love in the Qing Dynasty after having an accident, such as a car crash, a being struck by lightning or falling off a building.
A recent survey of students at a Fujian middle school found that nearly 90% of the students believe time-travel is possible.
“Isn’t what’s shown on TV all true?” one pupil even asked.
Ban on time-travel shows on TV justified after all?
Experts say children may mix fantasy and reality and can be easily misled by time-travel plays, with warnings declaring that time-travel dramas teach children that “escape is the best solution when dealing with a problem”, and that “death is easy and rebirth is even easier.”
Another wrinkle to the story is the fact that time-travel dramas were already banned from prime-time TV last year, a move that was widely panned at the time as being an absurd overreaction to harmless fluff on TV.
Li Jingsheng (李京盛), an official of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television condemned the genre as being “too disrespectful towards history and too casual in presentation.”
However, the genre is still popular, with schoolkids using Weibo to discuss time-travel techniques and encourage each other by saying “we must try hard to time travel, and we will make it some day.”
People are calling for a rating-system to identify programs that are inappropriate for children.
Time-travel not to blame
Amid criticism on time-travel plays, many are also reflecting on China’s educational system.
An article on the website of the People’s daily says teaching respect for life has been absent in the Chinese education system for too long.
Meanwhile, other outlets have been focusing on the fact that the tragedy stems from the loss of a simple household item. “If there were more communication between Xiaohua and her parents, and her parents didn’t mere blame her for her mistakes, how could Xiaohua prefer suicide to admitting a mistake?!”