Chinese school requires teen students to keep a distance of 50cm from the opposite sex

January 25, 2011Jing GaoOne Comment, , , , , , ,

Yandao Street Middle School in Chengdu, Sichuan Province has introduced new school codes of conduct in which the proper distance between two students of opposite sexes is set at 80 cm to 1 meter, or 31 inches to 40 inches. It constitutes intimacy, a transgression that subjects offenders to reprimand and even punishment, if the distance is shorter than 50 cm (20 inches). Other manners the codes require include appropriate clothing and not to fill more than 2/3 of a guest’s tea cup.

The ridiculous codes are partly in response to China’s Ministry of Education’s latest campaign for civilized manners. According to the ministry’s website, schoolchildren should take classes in etiquettes, and teaching courtesy should combine “the traditional virtues of the Chinese nation” and “the salutary achievements of civilizations in other parts of the world”.

The new classes range from basic table manners to the art of holding conversations and delivering speeches.

But obviously, the middle school has used the campaign as an opportunity to crack down on puppy love.

Chinese primary and middle school (combining both junior high and high school) students have become very bold in romantic relationship with their peers compared with previous generations. Some instances of the post-1990 generation’s public display of affection (PDA) have taken many older people aback.

Two weeks ago, a picture of two teenage lovers kissing at the bus stop was uploaded to the Internet. The post author said he saw the two lovebirds cuddling together and kissing on his way to a hospital near the bus stop in Nanjing, Jiangsu. Fifty minutes later when he went back to the bus stop, the two kids were still there. Fed up with the unsightly scene, he took a picture. “I am not a prig. I am just a young man who also likes to follow trends. But I really can’t put up with it when I saw it. Perhaps it is not a novelty. But does it mean our society is more open and our education has made more progress, or…”he said.

On December 18, 2010, an outraged bus driver in Suzhou, Jiangsu, drove two junior high school students off the bus after they had been mauling each other and making unpleasant noises along the way. The bus driver later resigned under pressure, but passengers then on the bus and most netizens expressed support for him and condemnation against such PDA.


Teenage couple kissing at a bus stop in Nanjing


Teenage couple kissing at a bus stop in Nanjing


Two junior high students wearing school uniforms kiss in a city square in Haikou, Hainan.

Teen lovers on a bus

Love lives for teenage children were regarded as absolutely taboo 20 years ago. Teenager lovers, once exposed, could be humiliated and punished at school and beaten up at home. Even holding hands in public was considered risqué.

Today’s parents are more tolerant, as Chinese society is more pluralistic, and memories of their pent-up passion have enabled them to adopt a laissez-faire policy. Some more enlightened Chinese parents even believe teenage love could help them accumulate experience in dealing with the opposite sex, which would benefit future married lives.

However, the sea changes the Chinese society has undergone in the past two decades have rendered the post-1990 generation enigmatic to, and out of touch with, people born as late as in the 1980s, let alone their parents and grandparents.

In contrast to the previous generations of teens whose only staple were domestically made revolutionary and historical dramas, Chinese teenagers nowadays feast on Hollywood movies, Japanese manga, romance dramas and Internet culture as a regular diet while China does not have any rating system in place. Having not yet developed the mental capacity to comprehend the symbolic significance of the gestures or assess the situation, they simply think it is cool to act like an adult by French-kissing and be audacious and eye-catching.

Everyone knows puppy love is but a rite of passage and never worth all the fuss and feathers, but the fact that Chinese teenagers have been going too fast and too far sends jitters to those older, whose school years were filled with an atmosphere of camaraderie and at the most romantic undercurrents.

Chinese educators in particular cannot afford to let puppy love unchecked. School is the “hotbed” of such emotions. Doing nothing about it would be seen as tantamount to encouraging it. To avoid censure from PTA’s conservative wing, they would rather overdo than underdo. Their explanation to the open-minded parents is simple: your kids can date their lovers after class; just don’t do it at school where they are supposed to acquire knowledge.

Schools also have a vested interest in quenching the love flame: their reputation and admissions are purely based on which universities, if any, their graduating seniors enter through the National College Entrance Examination. Dating is thought to be a time-consuming distraction from classes, homework, and the exam preparation.

“Parents have reason to worry about the side effects of puppy love, but the problems can never be resolved by laws and regulations,” Wang Aili, a sociologist with the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted by Xinhua as saying in 2009.

“Society should provide more physiological, psychological and ethical education for the children,” she said.

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1 comment to “Chinese school requires teen students to keep a distance of 50cm from the opposite sex”

  1. Ali Amr | February 19, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Great explanation. I really like to read it Martha

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