"No weirdness, no vulgarity, no low taste," the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said in a notice to the producers of "Happy Boys Voice," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The talent show, to be broadcast beginning May 1, is a sequel to the hugely popular TV contest "Super Girls" in 2005, which drew more than 400 million viewers. The woman who won that contest became a popular singer in China.
But Xinhua said the competition drew official and public criticism for promoting vulgarity.
"Happy Boys Voice" should include only "healthy and ethically inspiring" songs, and avoid scenes of screaming fans or losing contestants in tears, the regulator was quoted as saying.
The show should "maintain a happy atmosphere," SARFT said in the notice to the show's producer, a television station in the central province of Hunan.
It said scenes of wailing and screaming were "low taste."
And in a move that would shock Simon Cowell, the acid-tongued judge of "American Idol," the broadcast watchdog said judges were prohibited "from mocking or humiliating contestants."
Contestants must be at least 18, and Xinhua said "their hairstyles, clothes, fashion accessories, language and manners should be in line with the mainstream values."
Hunan TV President Ouyang Changlin was quoted by Xinhua as saying the station would abide by the rules.
China has had several reality TV shows since 2000, including endurance and cosmetic surgery programs.