In 2009, a strange creature emerged on the Internet from China. It was the grass-mud horse, a dopey alpaca frolicking in the Mahler Desert. It starred in a popular music video, staring buck-toothed into the camera while a chorus of children sang about the grass-mud horse’s defeat of the river crabs. It seemed innocent enough.
But the grass-mud horse was actually a subterfuge of Chinese Internet censorship.
For the past four years, China Digital Times has built a wiki dedicated to “grass-mud horse language,” inspired by an imaginary creature whose name invokes a curse word. Our Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon continues to evolve as Chinese netizens create new terms and give new meaning to older ones. This emerging “resistance discourse” steadily undermines the values and ideology that reproduce compliance with the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian regime, and force an opening for free expression and civil society in China.
This eBook distills the most time-tested and ubiquitous terms in our lexicon. Organized by broad categories, Decoding the Chinese Internet will guide readers through the colorful, raucous world of China’s online resistance discourse. Students of Mandarin will gain insight into word play and learn terms that are key to understand Chinese Internet language. But no knowledge of Chinese is needed to appreciate the creative leaps netizens make in order to keep talking.
This book is a revised and updated version of Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon: Classic Netizen Language published in August 2013. Perry Link and CDT Chief Editor Xiao Qiang introduce the subversive power of grass-mud horse language in a new introduction.