Since the Earth is round, characters who dig a hole right through Earth end up in another country. Traditionally, they end up in China. note During a significant part of history, China was the hardest place to reach for Western cultures, making it an easy choice for an exotic endpoint.
Expect it to be rock all the way rather than lava, and for the feat to be accomplished in a comically short time, perhaps accompanied by a pneumatic drill sound effect.
UK writers are more likely to end up in Australia and vice versa. Other destinations are possible, as long as the target is far enough way. The tunnel is usually dead straight and under the Rule Of Cool goes anywhere the plot desires. Wherever they end up, it will usually be conspicuously foreign with as many stereotyped visual cues on display as possible.
(Curious about where a tunnel would lead in real life? Please see our Useful Note.)
open/close all folders
Excel Saga: Lord Il Palazzo sent Excel and Hyatt through the Earth from Japan to America, during which they actually did pass through the center of the Earth.
In Legion Of Super-Heroes, Mon-El, recently freed from the Phantom Zone, goes through the earth to get from East Coast North America to Japan. Supergirl questions this and Mon-el explained that this was the first time in 1,000 years he had a physical form, and actually wanted to feel the rock he was plowing through.
One episode of Mortadelo y Filemón contains a Running Gag where the two titular characters repeatedly drop onto a traffic light from great height, driving it deeper and deeper into the ground with each landing. The final iteration shows the traffic light's base sticking out of the ground in China.
There was an Eggo commercial in which a boy found out it was currently breakfast time in China, and promptly dug through the earth to steal a Chinese kid's waffle.
There is a commercial from the 1990s about either a vacuum cleaner or a carpet shampooer that made use of this trope. To demonstrate how deep the machine was able to clean, they showed a cross-section shot of the earth as the machine cleaned deeper and deeper. It ended with a shot of a Chinese family as they watched in wonder as their carpet seemingly cleaned itself from underneath (complete with the caption "Somewhere in China").
Parodied in Pearls Before Swine where Pig dug a hole to "Kukistan". Unfortunately the natives wanted to eat Pig for dinner. In the first strip characters comment to each other that Kukistan doesn't exist, but the editors felt that digging to China would offend their Asian readers, so the strip was digitally altered. Fortunately, they note, this will surely make the originals valuable rarities for anyone who might happen to buy them.
In one storyline from Pogo, Howland Owl tries to start a business selling "a device for going to China." Said device is, of course, a shovel.
The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen: Our heroes are thrown into a whirlpool in Mount Etna and fall through the center of the Earth, emerging upside-down in the south seas. Of course, only a complete skeptic would disbelieve such a thing.
The movie Magic In The Water has a frustrated teenager do this, until a Chinese boy pops out and joins him and his younger sister on their sea-monster related adventure.
The China Syndrome... is about corruption in the management of a nuclear power station. However the title refers to a notion mentioned in the film that a nuclear incident in California could send molten reactor core products through the barriers below them and flow downwards through the floor of the containment building perhaps all the way to China. If one looks at China and California on a map, or if you just know how gravity works, one gets an idea of the level of scientific veracity in the notion. Not that it's meant to be taken literally.
Honorable mention to Star Wars: Episode One. A hollow planet full of water? Sure, that works. The geologist player in Darths & Droids has a few theories on how it might work.
Crow: Well, look at that! 'Breach hull, all die'! Even had it underlined!
Battle Beneath the Earth, the Chinese tunnel to America to plant nuclear bombs. It's not intentionally funny.
In the Buster Keaton short film Hard Luck, Buster goes off of a diving board at the end of the film and misses the pool, leaving a hole with no discernible bottom. An indeterminate amount of time later, he emerges in Chinese garb with a Chinese wife and their two small children.
The 1980 comedy Super Fuzz about a Miami police officer who gets superpowers ends with his making a Diving Save on his partner (Ernest Borgnine) who's falling from a balloon twenty feet up — the two end up plunging into the Earth. As his Love Interest is mourning their demise, she suddenly receives a phone call from China, whereupon our two heroes are seen making the call surrounded by a horde of curious Chinese villagers.
The 1988 New Zealand film The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey is about a team of copper miners in medieval England who dig through the earth and travel through a tunnel, surfacing in modern Auckland, New Zealand.
Thursday Next: It's also the primary form of speedy transportation in the books, the two Gravitubes which go through the Earth to link London with Sydney and Tokyo with Washington DC. Smaller "Overmantle" trains run beneath the crust to more destinations. Note that this world does not have passenger airliners and indeed Thursday considers them impossible when the idea is raised.
In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, when Alice falls down the rabbit hole, she speculates that it will go all the way to the antipodes: Australia, perhaps, or possibly New Zealand.
The Animated Adaptation by Disney even has this; in which she thinks that she'd come out the other side where people walk upside down.
In Good Omens the Them come to believe that the Ancient Masters of Tibet have a set of tunnels all over the world. It's also suggested that, because the Earth is hollow, it would make more sense to just dig to the centre and then dig up to wherever they wanted. They then try to replicate this, and find that it takes much longer to reach the centre of the Earth than they thought.
But Adam, with his reality-warping powers, believes in these tunnels through the Earth, and therefore they suddenly exist, complete with (very confused) Tibetans.
And even more confused gardeners.
In Beyond the Barrier by Damon Knight, the protagonist (Professor Gordon Naismith) has to build a machine, which when switched on renders itself (and him, inside it) intangible to its surroundings, so he falls through the Earth and out of the other side (there may have been non-gravitic acceleration involved). Luckily he's picked up by someone before he can start falling back.
While there are no stories about Paul Bunyan himself digging all the way to China, a number of Bunyan yarns make mention of "The Year the Rain Came Up from China."
The Weekly World News once ran an article about China digging a hole to America to invade it. Similarly, The Sun recently ran a report saying that a group of Chinese miners dug their way to Nevada by accident and apologized, and the government kept the incident under wraps.
From Great Expectations: "Without remarking that man-traps were not among the amenities of life, I said I supposed he was very skilful? 'Deep,' said Wemmick, 'as Australia.' Pointing with his pen at the office floor, to express that Australia was understood, for the purposes of the figure, to be symmetrically on the opposite spot of the globe."
What-a-Mess, in one story, tries to dig a hole to Australia, because it's a very hot summer day and since the Cat-Next-Door has just told him that it's winter in Australia, he thinks a trip to Australia is just what he needs to cool down. Of course, What-a-Mess is a dog, and not a particularly bright one at that.
Live Action TV
In Monty Python's Flying Circus, Ron Obvious tries to be the first man to dig a tunnel from Godalming to Java. He doesn't progress very far.
Well, what do you expect? He wasn't given a spade!
In the Sesame Street special Big Bird in China, Oscar and Telly try to reach China by digging, and succeed. Big Bird, however, takes the plane.
Pushing Daisies: As a child, Olive tried to dig through the earth to get to Arabia when her parents told her she couldn't have an Arabian stallion. Instead, she dug up a fossilized Triceratops, and a Saudi oil sheik traded her a horse for the skeleton.
An opening sketch for All That featured several cast members digging a hole to China (in their living room no less). The rest of the cast is stunned when a Chinese boy climbs out, who claims to have seen the other end of the hole in China and climbed through to investigate. When Kevin the Manager protests the boy's presence, he is pushed down the hole himself while busy examining it ("Hey look! Chinese stuff!")
On The Amanda Show, Penelope digs a hole to China as a trap for the security guard so she can get close to Amanda. It works...sort of: the security guard (and later Penelope herself) fall through the hole and end up in the house of a very confused Chinese family. But for some reason, they end the fall by crashing through the ceiling rather than the floor.
When the game "Push Over" was first played on The Price Is Right, Bob Barker told the contestant that the number blocks that they had to push into a box would go to China.
On one episode of How I Met Your Mother Robin commented that, if a member of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team walked into the bar, "my panties would drop so fast there would be a hole in the floor halfway to China."
Stephanie from Full House tells Michelle to do this as a joke when she asks her how to get to Japan. Michelle, being young and naive, actually tries to do it.
In Torchwood: Miracle Day, The Blessing runs through the centre of the Earth connecting Shanghai, China and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
At one point, Michael Scott references this trope in The Office US, appropriately enough, in the episode "China".
"No Myth" by Michael Penn contains these lyrics:
We said goodbye before hello My secrets she will never know And if I dig a hole to China I'll catch the first junk to SoHo...
Sometime from now you'll bow to pressure Some things in life you cannot measure by degrees I'm between the poles and the equator Don't send no private investigator to find me please 'Less he speaks Chinese...
I'm diggin' all the way to China With a silver spoon While the hangman fumbles with the noose, boys The hangman fumbles with the noose She gotta get behind the mule In the mornin' and plow ** Bonus points for doing it with a spoon, easily multiplying his work time by tenfold. Tom Waits is that badass.
Knorkator - Weg Nach Unten deals with someone trying to get away from it all by digging a hole and staying there. He ends up in Australia and mentions he has dug to far.
Alluded to in They Might Be Giants' "Ana Ng". The lyrics describe making a hole perpendicular to the singer's town in a globe that will lead to a foreign nation where Ana Ng lives, the idea being that the singer's true love lives on the exact opposite side of the world.
Paranoia: In sample adventure "Into the Great Outdoors", if the PC's got too close to an interesting looking mound on the edge of the map, they faced a Hopeless Boss Fight against a Chinese communist Zerg Rush.
In the Mystara setting, an Alphatian government expedition managed, by immense effort and expenditure of advanced Magitek engineering, to dig its way straight down to an exotic locale. Justified because it's the Hollow World, a relatively short distance below the surface, and Alphatian elemental-themed magic allowed them to bypass lava and other subterranean obstructions.
Happens in an 8-bit Dizzy game — while the location isn't explicitly stated, you fall through a hole and end up in an upside-down screen featuring a stereotypical Australian.
During one part in Elite Beat Agents, a broke Oil Baron trying to regain his fortune digs through the earth... and sells his hole to make into a transplanetary railway.
In Guild Wars Factions, you meet a Dredge who tells you that the Dredge came to Cantha from Tyria "by digging a tunnel to the other side of the world." For added fun, Tyria is a Medieval European Fantasy setting and Cantha the Far East equivalent.
While not on Earth, this is pretty much the entire reason Mario gets a drill as an item in Super Mario Galaxy 2, to go straight down through the top of planets and out the other side.
In Questionable Content, Faye once threatened to drink Steve so far under the table he'd wind up in an AA meeting in China. And again, where Faye alludes to Marten digging himself so deep that people in China would get to observe his foot-in-mouth stammering.
Homestar Runner: The Strong Bad Email "alternate universe" had Strong Bad entering a "Dig to China With Your Ears" contest against an alternate version of himself. They don't actually make it to China, as the alternate "Tiny-Handed Strong Bad" puts the contest on hold when he unearths a giant mug of root beer. No, seriously.
Rupert Bear: Rupert's Chinese friend Pong Ping had a lift that took the occupants straight down to China. It turned over halfway so they wouldn't arrive standing on their heads.
Arthur: Arthur's friends' summer project was to dig all the way to the center of the Earth. They never succeeded because summer ended.
In the animated adaptation of Baby Blues, Wanda is talking to Melinda while Rodney and Megan are digging. When she asks what they're doing, they say, what else, "We're digging to China!" Except they hit a gas pipe and when they went inside, Melinda threw a cigarette into the hole. Hilarity Ensues.
The The New Scooby Doo Movies episode that crossed over with the animated version of The Addams Family saw Pugsley digging to China through his sandbox. When Morticia chides him for being ridiculous, Pugsley tells the Chinese boy just under the surface that he'll have to go back home.
An episode of 2 Stupid Dogs had the little dog constantly falling down a hole and ending up alternately in America and China. Predictably, there was a cat just outside each hole.
This might be a Genius Bonus joke for D&D nerds, since in the then-current edition, Asian dragons were much deadlier opponents than Western ones.
Looney Tunes, though the hole is generally created by the character falling, the character getting smashed into the ground so hard he ends up on the other side.
On one occasion Wile E. Coyote's rocket does a u-turn on a cliff face, smashes into the ground, tunneling through the Earth to China, where he meets a Chinese Road Runner (identical to the American one, but wearing a stereotypical Chinese hat).
Sylvester the Cat was knocked clear through to China after getting sat on by a giant during a "Jack and the Beanstalk" parody, and met up with a Chinese Tweety.
Lampshaded in one where Bugs tricks Yosemite Sam into digging through a narrow portion off an outcrop of rock. Naturally, he starts falling, at which point he remarks "Well, I'll be...I musta dug straight through to Chy-nee..."
This was the climax of the classic Donald Duck/Chip and Dale short "Donald Applecore," offscreen. But you can tell it's China at the other end because of the offensive fake accent. Watch.
This happened on Darkwing Duck once to give him an opportunity to do some chop sockey.
Showed up as a gag in the Ed Edd N Eddy episode "For Your Ed Only". Johnny falls out of Ed's bubble-gum balloon, and hits the ground so hard he ends up going through the Earth and ending up in China. This is immediately lampshaded: "Look, Plank, China! Just like in the cartoons!"
Referenced in when Homer accidentally drops a jug full of pennies into the ground:
Homer: Hello? China? ... Little help?
In another episode, Bart's digging a deep hole in the back yard for no apparent reason is actually being monitored by Chinese spy satellites. This turns out to be a Shaggy Dog Story being told by Homer about how "eventually, I became King of the Morlocks."
Official: Hmm, what are those inscrutable Americans up to? Soldier: I will find out. I am strong! I am the Great Humungous! Official: Yes, yes, we all know you're the Great Humungous. Soldier: Well, I'm just saying- Official: Oh you're always "just saying"!
In The Movie, when the Simpsons house collapses, Chief Wiggum says its China's problem now.
In one episode of I Am Weasel, Baboon managed to dig all the way to the other side of the world by overuse of a ridiculous "musical instrument" obviously inspired by theremins, but much worse sounding. Apparently the wavelengths of said thing triggered St. Andreas' Fault, causing him to fall all the way to China.
The Diggers in Recess never get anywhere, but the sign next to their hole says "China or Bust!" They got to China once, the one time they didn't try. They were promptly attacked by Chinese kindergarteners.
Sparkle Friends, a cartoon from New Zealand, had them dig to Japan, funnily enough. You'd think they would choose somewhere that wasn't in the same hemisphere... (Does this even count as "western" animation?)
And in another episode of Phineas and Ferb, Agent P uses a secret entrance that, instead of taking him to his lair, takes him all the way through the earth to Shanghai where he receives his instructions from Major Monogram.
Not digging, but the same basic idea: One episode of the Beetle BaileyAnimated Adaptation featured a submarine diving (strictly vertically) deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper... until encountering a Chinese submarine coming from the opposite direction.
There is a well known Russian joke about a teacher who asks a student "Where will we get if we start digging a tunnel from here through the center of the Earth". The boy's answer? "Into a madhouse".
Kids occasionally get covered in mud and wreck garden lawns in an spirited effort to get to the traditional destination. It's extra amusing when the kids live in Australia or New Zealand. Unless they are reasonably observant Chinese kids.