SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

'Evil' primary school textbook sparks outrage in China: 'Blatant provocation'

A primary school textbook has caused controversy across China after the cartoons inside were deemed to be "too ugly" while some claimed it had been the result of "Western infiltration".

The Ministry of Education on Monday vowed to "thoroughly investigate" how the cartoons came to be published in the state-made maths textbook used across the nation, Chinese-state publication The Paper reported.

The department-run publisher earlier revealed it has commenced the production of new drawings for the textbook, published in 2013, after concerns over the facial features, including drooping, wide-set eyes, ugly noses and big foreheads, went viral on Twitter-like site Weibo.

Two images from the controversial Chinese school textbook.
The Chinese primary school textbook images have caused a stir for being "too ugly". Source: Weibo

Hashtags related to the textbooks have been viewed more than four billion times on the site, with some accusing the illustrations of having more sinister features.

Illustrations accused of having sexual connotations

There were accusations some images had sexual connotations. Several boys drawn were said to have bulging crotches while one girl's underwear is on show, and in another image a balding male appears to grope a female.

Users also pointed out two characters were dressed in clothing resembling the US flag, while the Chinese flag appears backwards in one image, prompting wild speculation from nationalistic users the illustrators had been infiltrated by Western "forces".

"The upside-down flag is a blatant provocation and a blatant crime," one Weibo user wrote.

Some believed the illustrations had sexual connotations. Source: Weibo
Some believed the illustrations had sexual connotations. Source: Weibo

Some users suggested the images had been published with "evil" intentions and called for those responsible to be held accountable.

Many suggested it was inadequate for the Ministry of Education to perform an internal investigation, calling on the Ministry of Public Security to intervene.

There were comparisons to older textbooks used across China which many said conformed to the aesthetic of Chinese people.

The outcry has triggered investigations into all school textbooks across the country to make sure teaching materials "adhere to correct political directions and values, promote outstanding Chinese culture and conform to the aesthetic tastes of the public".

Wuheqilin, the graphic design artist who infamously depicted an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child, sympathised with artists, suggesting payment for such work had reduced, meaning lower quality work.

China has previously banned foreign textbooks in schools which is seen as a move to tighten its control over students.

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.