Rude? Creative? Necessary? Here are some ways wrongdoers have been deterred in China

A handwritten notice on a double-decker bus in Wuhan, Hubei province, has provoked some to wonder whether warning signs in China are too “rude.”

The notice, written at the entrance to the upper deck, reads: “The old, the young, the ill, and the disabled are strictly forbidden to go upstairs, or must take responsibility for the consequences.”

Local paper the Chutian Metropolis Daily set out to investigate, after complaints about the brusque wording circulated on social media. According to the the newspaper, the sign was present on several buses, and written by the drivers themselves, who didn’t intend to be rude but rather wanted to send a strongly-worded warning for people to take care of themselves (and not blame the driver if they fall).

But the Wuhan incident is small potatoes compared to some signs, whose creatively mean, sometimes-hilarious, occasionally bizarre verbiage have sporadically featured in Chinese media.

Take this road sign, where speeding takes on mythological significance:

The Lord of Death loves speeding drivers

Buildings sites must always pay attention to safety, so here’s one that chose to remind staff of all the possible consequences of a workplace accident (perhaps a similar warning should be written for lax bosses):

An accident means:  Your wife will get remarried, your child will get another surname, and your assets will belong to others! Accidents are merciless, vigilance will be constant!

Smoking has now been banned in many public places, but sometimes a simple “No Smoking” won’t do the trick:


Smoking is equal to setting a fire; arson is a crime

Fire-prevention is especially important around the Qingming Festival (“Tomb-Sweeping Day”), when people burn offerings to their ancestors. One county in Hubei has come up with a very topical punishment for Qingming fire-starters:


Dear friends: Keep an eye on the fire when you sweep tombs and worship your ancestors. If any of your mistakes is found to cause a fire, apart from the criminal responsibility, your ancestral grave will be demolished. Please monitor each other’s behavior and stay safe. Thanks for your cooperation!


Not all signs are about forbidding things. Most regional governments care a great deal about attracting investment, with carefully worded signs like:


Investors are God. People who attracted investors are stars. Those who offend investors are sinners.

High schools like to motivate students to study hard for their college entrance exams. Many turn to cheery signs to do so—some take it too far:

If you don’t study, how can you take care of your harem of women?

Seen any extreme signs? Feel free to share with us.


Cover image from The sign says: “You will be taken into prison if smoke rises from your field.”



author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

Related Articles