Sensitive Words: Sending Away the Plague God (Updated)

Sensitive Words: Sending Away the Plague God (Updated)

Update: The play on words in the blocked keyword “Liu Yunshan” is now explained.

As of September 18, 2014, the following search terms were blocked on Sina Weibo (not including the “search for user” function).

Sending Away the Plague God

“Send away the plague god” (送瘟神 sòng wēnshén) is a figure of speech usually referring to getting rid of something undesirable. The idiom is blocked not because of its actual meaning, but because netizens use this phrase to refer to Wen Jiabao. The second character, 瘟 wēn, has the same pronunciation as 温 Wēn.

  • 送瘟神: send away the plague god
  • 送温神: send away the god of warmth

Sina blogger 亮剑出山 noticed in 2013 that his/her posts on Sohu Weibo containing “send off the plague god” were being deleted, resulting in a political twist on the Scunthorpe Problem:

Over the past few days, I posted clips from the TV drama Sending Away the Plague God [Chinese] to Sohu Weibo. I posted three weibo, and all three were deleted. Netizens who post Mao Zedong’s poem “Sending Away the Plague God” also have their weibo deleted by Sohu. This baffled me. I racked my brains and finally realized the reason why Sohu deleted all these posts. Among these three characters is one that is homophonous with the name of a certain leader. This truly is a literary inquisition. What’s the Sohu webmaster going to do next, ban the TV drama?



The Prisoners’ Song

Musician Yu Haochen released “The Prisoners’ Song” (囚歌) on September 11. The music video shows photos of rights activists currently imprisoned, such as lawyer Chang Boyong, who was reportedly arrested in May after holding a memorial for reformist leaders Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang earlier in the year.

  • 于浩宸: Yu Haochen

Deng Xiaoping’s Grandson

Deng Zhuodi, a graduate of the Duke University law school, became deputy county chief of Pingguo, Guangxi last year. Searches for his name have been blocked before. See the August 21, 2014 and May 9, 2013 editions of Sensitive Words.

  • 邓孙子: Grandson Deng [Xiaoping]
  • 邓小平之孙: Deng Xiaoping’s grandson


Tricky Daddy Xi Jinping

  • 习派: Xi faction
  • 小习: Little Xi
  • 刁大大: Tricky Daddy–The character for “tricky” (刁 diāo) is similar to “Xi” (习 Xí). State media sometimes call the president Daddy Xi to portray closeness to the people.


Alibaba Connections

  • 刘云删: Liu Yundelete–Coy rendering of the name of Chinese Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, where the “mountain” (山 shān) is replaced with “delete” (删 shān). Liu’s son, Liu Lefei, is the vice chair of CITIC Securities, one of the investment firms to which e-commerce giant Alibaba sold shares in 2012. Alibaba is set to IPO tomorrow.


The Army’s Most Beloved

All Chinese-language words are tested using simplified characters. The same terms in traditional characters occasionally return different results.

CDT Chinese runs a project that crowd-sources filtered keywords on Sina Weibo search. CDT independently tests the keywords before posting them, but some searches later become accessible again. We welcome readers to contribute to this project so that we can include the most up-to-date information.

Have a sensitive word tip? Submit it to CDT through this form:


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