World Won’t End on Friday, Chinese State Media Assure Nation

By Patrick Goodenough | December 19, 2012 | 4:31 AM EST

A Mayan statue in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. (AP Photo/Israel Leal, File)

( – Chinese authorities are trying to allay doomsday rumors that appear to be circulating quite widely in that county, and which police say were behind a frenzied knife attack on elementary school students last Friday.

Amid reports of panic buying and the arrest of members of an apocalypse-embracing cult, state-run media are quoting experts and others across a range of fields dismissing fears that the world will end on Friday, in line with some interpretations of a supposed ancient Mayan prophecy.

Scientists from NASA and elsewhere have for months been debunking various theories, ranging from a looming planetary collision to “planetary alignment” causing a “total blackout” of Earth, but the message seems to be slow to take hold in parts of China.

On Tuesday, police in central China’s Hunan province said that a man who attacked an elementary school last week confessed that he believed “he was doomed and hoped to do things to make the world remember him before he died,” the state-run China Daily reported.

Min Yongjun, 36, stabbed 23 students before being subdued by teachers and police. Police said none of those hurt were in critical condition.

Min had reportedly been influenced by a 61 year-old local woman who is on the run. Police seized dozens of “doomsday” brochures from her house.

More than 100 members of a cult known variously as “Eastern Lightning” and “Church of Almighty God” have been arrested for allegedly spreading rumors of an impending apocalypse.

Security officials in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, where some of the arrests took place, said the group’s adherents were telling people that December 21 would usher in three days of complete darkness, and that joining the cult alone could offer salvation.

There would also be power failures over those three days, went the rumor – apparently the reason why in some counties stores’ supplies of candles and matches have been sold out.

Media have also reported on other actions taken by fearful Chinese, including property owners trying to sell for way below market value and a run on marriage license registrations for Friday.

Citing reports from across the nation, the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times reported that the manager of a network technology has given his employees Thursday and Friday off to mark the “end of the world.”

A man in far-west Xinjiang has spent the past two years and his life savings building an “ark” before an apocalyptic flood hits, while elsewhere an inventor has built a large yellow spherical vessel that he says is designed to withstand earthquakes, flooding, fire and radiation, and carries a year’s supply of food.

China Daily quoted a Buddhist monk, a science fiction author and an “astrologer and occultist prophet” among others, all rejecting rumors, many of them spread online, that the world is about to end.

“There is no such concept as Doomsday in Buddhism. This is a word from Western culture,” said the monk, known as Master Yancan.

“Personally, I don't see any sign of doomsday approaching; it’s just a joke the Mayans left us,” he said. “People have never thought the Mayans were humorous. However, they were good at black humor and that humor has frightened a lot of people. I suggest we nominate Dec 21 as World Humor Day to commemorate the humor of the Mayans.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow