The Word of the Week comes from China Digital Space’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.
The town of Jingde in Jianggxi Province is known as the “porcelain capital of China.” Online, the name of the town has also become a code word to refer to all of China.
When netizens write about China, the word “China” is often picked up by sophisticated internet filters that look for sensitive words and screen for political content. Because porcelain is often referred to as “china,” the name of this township is used to get around Internet censorship.
For example, this innocuous sounding exchange has two entirely different meanings.
What kind of a place is Jingde?
It’s a small town that produces cupware and diningware daily.
To those in the know, this can be read as:
What kind of a place is China?
It’s a small town that produces tragedy and misfortune daily.
Cupware (杯具 bēijù) sounds the same as tragedy (悲剧 bēijù); diningware (餐具 cānjù) sounds nearly the same as misfortune (惨剧 cǎnjù).
Another codeword for “China” is Celestial Empire.