China Digital Times has launched a participatory Web 2.0 initiative we are calling “Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon,” (“GMH Lexicon”) an online glossary of translations of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. The Lexicon has been posted on China Digital Space, our new, collaborative wiki site.
This project is part of our effort to contribute to a deeper understanding of the Internet’s cultural, social, and political impact by moving beyond anecdotal evidence and systematically documenting and interpreting political discourse created by Chinese netizens. By creating this lexicon, we hope to map out the dynamics of “domination and resistance” in Chinese communication and information networks. The aim is to vividly illustrate the increasingly dynamic and sometimes surprising presence of an alternative political discourse: images, frames, metaphors and narratives that have been generated from Internet memes. This “resistance discourse” steadily undermines the values and ideology that reproduce compliance with the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian regime, and, as such, force an opening for free expression and civil society in China.
Ultimately, we hope this project will contribute to the ongoing debate: Is the Internet acting as a “safety valve” to prolong the life of the Chinese authoritarian regime; or are new forms of networked communication enhancing opportunities for social change and helping to move China toward the “threshold” for political transformation?
Origins of the Grass-Mud Horse
In early 2009, a creature named the “Grass-Mud Horse” appeared in an online video which became an immediate viral hit. The term 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. After netizens created an online video depicting the grass-mud horse at war with and eventually defeating
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