How Chinese Bloggers Evade Censorship

by Stephan Zabel

There is a mythical creature who only exists because its name sounds awfully vulgar—at least in Chinese. Since 2009, the “grass-mud horse” has become the mascot for Chinese “netizens” using special lingo to evade and make fun of government censorship. The creature’s name sounds an awful lot like a rude, four-letter instruction and your mother.

The China Digital Times has been collecting words in this sneaky lexicon and recently issued a collection of “classics,” a rundown of 71 “politically charged terms which represent netizen resistance discourse.” As University of Pennsylvania Professor Victor Mair writes on Language Log, the compilation provides a “really fine introduction to the labyrinthine world of China’s blogs and microblogs, one which would be impenetrable to outsiders without such specialized manuals to guide them on their way.”

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