Reform-Oriented National Print Media Join Netizens’ Battle Against Censorship (Updated with Photos)

While the army of the “Grass-Mud Horse” continues to grow, reform-oriented Southern Group publications such as Southern Metropolis News and Southern Metropolis Weekly have also joined in by reporting on netizens’ coded resistance to the recent Internet crackdown, being carried out under the guise of an “anti-vulgar campaign.”

The following articles are two of the latest examples. The first one is from the Southern Metropolis Daily, translated by CDT’s Shilin Jia:

The Post-80s Generation Introduces a Guangzhou Version of “Grass-Mud Horse” And Lets Netizens Write the Handbook.

The white “grass-mud horse’s” name is “Ge-bi;” the brown one is named “Ma-le.”

Parodied as one of “China’s ten most divine beasts,” “grass-mud horse” has recently become a popular phrase on the Internet. On March 2nd, five young people from the post-80s generation in Guangzhou introduced their two newly-developed “grass-mud horse” dolls, named “Ge-bi” and “Ma-le” respectively, and their finished products have been brought to and sold in some Guangzhou office buildings.

The Guangzhou version of the “grass-mud horse” has a “birth certificate.”

Yesterday, our reporter observed in some office buildings in Guangzhou that “Ge-bi” and “Ma-le” had become popular overnight. The “grass-mud horse” dolls come in brown and white.


These two simple and adorable “grass-mud horses” also have their “birth certificates,” stamped with seals in cardinal red reading “Ma-le Gobi Administration Office of Divine Animals’ Special Seal for the Exclusive Use of Birth Control.” As introduced, these Guangzhou versions of “grass-mud horses” are priced at 39.9 RMB per item.

Packaging the “grass-mud horse” in online cartoons and fiction.

One of the developers, “Mai Tang” is an employee in an Internet company. “Mai Tang” told the reporter that after the so-called “ten most divine beasts” became popular on the Internet in February, he and some of his friends, Mai Dou, Mai Guai, and Mai Cong formed a “Mai-X” group and started to think about developing the doll.


“Ge-bi” and “Ma-le” are both made native to Guangzhou. Their birthplace is a toy factory in Fanyu. However, they are not the first generation of “grass-mud horse” toys in the country. “Mai Tang” said that, on March 2nd, the first production of 150 “Ge-bi” and “Ma-le” dolls came fresh-from-the-oven, but by that time, there had already appeared other versions of the “grass-mud horse” like “Mengmeng” and “Leilei” on the internet, which is a pity for the “Mai-X.”.

The “Mai-X”s have a lot of out-of-the-box ideas. “We do not just want to sell ‘grass-mud horses’; through them, we also want to get more friends who love to play to participate,” “Mai Tang” said. They are packaging “Ge-bi” and “Ma-le” in the form of online cartoons and online fiction. They will also start to make a “Grass-Mud Horse Feeding Handbook” and “Grass-Mud Horse Usage Manual” on their official website. As for the content of the “Feeding Manual,” they will let more netizens input information such as, “In order to feed grass-mud horses well, feed them grass-mud milk and no Sanlu milk.”

The reporter entered “Ge-bi” and “Ma-le’s” official websites yesterday and found that although the site had not been opened for more than two days, its click rate has already surpassed 5000 visits.

The astonishing online “ten most divine beasts” 

Recently, there appeared a bunch of posts online about “China’s ten most divine beasts,” listing Baidu Baike entries of ten new species of animals that have never been heard of in reality. The contents of these entries are basically vulgar or parodies, including caonima (grass-mud horse), wenshenjing, qianliexie, dafeiji, jibamao, yindaoyan, juhuacan, yemedie, fakeyou, and chunge.


The reporter’s observation

Online parodies from “T-shirt” to “toy”

The online culture of parody [“egao” in Chinese, originating from the Japanese word “Kuso”] has been very popular in recent years. The methods of parodying are also becoming more diverse. In the past, people generally thought parodies were likely to be “T-shirt” art. But the ‘grass-mud horse” toys’ appearance has really raised some eyebrows: So we can also play like this!res01_attpic_brief1

The reporter also noticed that the distribution method these young people use is not traditional window sales but rather through online viral marketing, which attracts a group of players.

“Mai Tang” told the reporter that around 70 to 80 percent of buyers order the toys online and are mostly post-80s or post-90s generation kids who love cartoon and manga. Online interaction is their most important form of communication. For this purpose, “Mai Tang” especially attached codes on each birth certificate. Why? It is not just to prevent copies but has another purpose. “Some netizens probably do not just want to buy a pair of grass-mud horses. But if they go to online forums and ask who bought a grass-mud horse with the same code as theirs [the partner to their half of their pair], people with the same interests will then group together, and this will make forums more fun.”

The second example is from a Southern Metropolis Weekly cover story entitled “Who Rules Netizens.” Here is one section of the article, called: The Seven Possible Fates Of An Internet Post, translated by Roland Soong on his ESWN blog:

Let us imagine that there is an Internet post that we shall nickname Postie. How does Postie a become headline story? From the moment of birth, Postie seeks to become a star. The road is not easy because Postie has to step through a minefield before the “hidden rules” of the editors even apply.

There are some clearly visible mines, such as banned terms related to politics or pornography. That is relatively easy for Postie. Many other competitors aim for sensationalism and disruption, but they get quickly purged at this first step.

The next step involves detecting the hidden mines which are not easy to spot. If Postie steps on one, it will die without even knowing why. For example, a netizen in Hebei posted repeatedly on the singer Renee Liu but his posts were always rejected. By checking and testing the contents carefully, he discovered that there was a song title which contains the sensitive keyword “静坐” (for sitting still and meditating) in the middle. Meanwhile a military enthusiast netizen wrote “armor piercing within twenty meters 可在20米内射穿板甲” but it was deleted. It took someone else to point out that the sentence contains the term “内射” (which is used in the adult video industry to refer to ejaculation inside the body) in the middle.

After passing through the first two stages, Postie now faces the initial scrutiny of the webmaster (=the administrator in charge of the section).

Read also:

* Michael Wines: A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censors on the New York Times;

* Ng Tze-wei: ‘Innocent’ Ditty Pokes Fun at Net Crackdown; Childish ‘Grass-Mud Horse’ Song Lampoons Official Censors on the South China Morning Post.

* Dirty words in the mainstream media on Danwei blog.

Update: More subtle form of endorsement of “Grass Mud Horse” movement on the comic section of the People’s Daily website.

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