20 April 2012
The Grass-Mud Horse
Over a year later, my entry post The Pyramids are Revolting proves prescient. In that post, i wrote about how the efforts of the Chinese government to tightly monitor and prevent talk of the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere were doomed from the start. I wrote about how language cannot be cut off, that people will create new ways of talking about the taboos. An article in The Atlantic Wire gives a very short list of the slang phrases used by the Chinese to talk about what they aren't supposed to talk about. One example has to do with Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei. He was under arrest until a few months back, and even now is closely monitored and cut off from doing what he is best at, stirring up controversy with his art. Supporters have begun talking about him using the phrase 'Love the future.' His surname 'Ai' sounds like the word for 'love'; his given name 'Weiwei' can be converted to the word 'future' with the simple addition of two strokes to the second character. This whole phenomenon is referred to as the Grass-Mud Horse lexicon. The China Digital Times has even put together an actual lexicon of the phrases used. As they describe it, the Grass-Mud Horse was a creature that appeared in a 2009 viral video. The phrase 'grass-mud horse, which sounds nearly the same in Chinese as “f*** your mother” (cáo nǐ mā), was originally created as a way to get around, and also poke fun at, government censorship of vulgar content.' Things really took off after a video of the grass-mud horse defeating the river crab, a homonym for 'harmony' which is a governmental propaganda buzzword. Language, like life, is a hardy beast and will always find a way. Chinese citizens have proven that time and again, but it's always fun to see exactly the creative ways they find to undermine and mock those in charge.