River Crabbed: Toad Story
One of Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber ducks sat in Hong Kong’s harbor last year, inspiring knock-offs in China. Taking inspiration from the big bird, a 72-foot inflatable yellow toad arrived in Beijing’s Yuyuantan Park over the weekend. The toad’s creator, Guo Yongyao, meant to invoke the traditional symbolism of the “wealth-drawing golden toad” (招财金蟾). But the toad invokes something else for Chinese netizens: former president Jiang Zemin.
As soon as the connection was made, Xinhua and Sina deleted their stories about the giant toad. Related keywords do not seem to have been blocked on Weibo search, but a number of posts about the toad have been filtered, as FreeWeibo has documented.
Jiang Zemin is often called “The Toad” for his resemblance to the broad-faced amphibian. But even posts that make no reference to Jiang are being blocked.
A selection of deleted posts, archived by FreeWeibo and translated by CDT:
葱咯咯咯: On NetEase this morning I read that there’s a big inflatable toad in Beijing park. Everyone who commented on the news seemed to all know what’s up, but they wouldn’t say. Until I found this picture on [Baidu] Tieba…
常杀人的微博：I heard that in Beijing a big yellow duck was eaten by a big yellow toad!! Now the big yellow toad is flexing his muscles where the big yellow duck once sat! I heard there’s a grass-mud horse in Changsha’s pedestrian zone!! I heard the weekend will soon be over! I have to go to work today!! Life is so busy!!!
胡媛: Aerial view of the big toad. I just want to say that this city’s taste is incorrigible…
The inspiration for the toad attracted censors last year as well, when netizens edited the giant rubber duck into the famous “tank man” photo.