Reclaimed Insult of the Week: Donkey People

Reclaimed Insult of the Week: Donkey People

The  comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and 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.

lǘ mín 驴民

Meme showing a “donkey person” successfully toppling a “bus” (Source: Unknown user/Weibo)

An insulting term reclaimed by netizens to deride authorities for holding the common people in low esteem. Very similar to “fart people” (pì mín 屁民), with the additional implication that the donkey-like masses are stubborn, stupid, and tend to overestimate their capabilities.

This term originated after the 2016-2017 Shandong “dishonored mother murder case” (辱母杀人案件). In April 2016, Yu Huan (于欢), a 23-year-old resident of Liaocheng, Shandong, was arrested for attacking a group of loan sharks with a knife, killing one. The standoff came after Yu’s mother Su Yinxia (苏银霞) failed to keep up with usurious interest payments on a loan of over 1 million yuan, having already paid off the principle. The loan sharks reportedly restrained and abused the two in the reception lobby of Su’s workplace, with the group’s leader Du Zhihao (杜志浩) exposing his genitals and suggesting the mother resort to prostitution if unable to pay. A passerby reportedly witnessed the detention through the window and notified public security officials, who came to the scene but quickly departed. After they left, Yu grabbed a kitchen knife and injured four of the captors, including Du Zhihao. Du drove himself to the hospital, but died before receiving treatment.

On February 17, 2017, the Liaocheng Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Yu Huan to life imprisonment for “intentional injury.” On March 24, the influential Southern Weekly newspaper attracted public attention to the case with an article titled “Stabbing to Death The Mother Disgracers.” The article examined Yu’s actions in context of self-defense and filial piety, and also called into question police negligence. With public opinion tilted firmly in favor of the imprisoned Yu, China’s top state prosecutor on March 26 decided to review Yu’s controversial life sentence.

Amid a heated online debate about the case, the official Weibo of the Jinan Public Security Bureau, in Shandong’s capital capital city 100 km east of Liaocheng, posted the parable of the donkey versus the bus:

Of the world’s many wonders, one is the donkey resenting the bus
Donkey: I will not accept you, let’s fight!
Bus: I will fight you a thousand times, and each time you’ll end up an injured donkey!

大巴:容你战我千百回,受伤的驴总是你啊! [Chinese]

(Source: Weibo/@济南公安)

The post led to wide condemnation, with many interpreting it as a castigation of the successful lobbying of public opinion that appeared to bring about a legal review of Yu’s case. In this interpretation, the “donkey” represents the common people, and the “bus” the substantially more powerful security state and police. The Jinan PSB deleted the weibo and issued a disclaimer: “This Weibo does not represent any official point of view, and was the result of staff acting without instructions. On-duty staff maintaining the account are not police officers.”

Some sample responses included the newly coined “donkey people” in context of other antagonistic official remarks that have been reclaimed by the masses:

JiushiFenlan (@就是芬兰): Aha, so you originally thought of us as the diao people, but now realize we are the donkey people.


BingxueFeiHan (@冰雪非寒): Originally I mistook us all for netizens, and after realized we’re really fart people. Now I discover that actually we’re not fart people, we’re donkey people. Heartfelt thanks to the Jinan Public Security Bureau for telling us the truth.


Netizens also created graphic memes explicitly showing who the “donkey” represents in the above parable, depicting masses of donkeys banding in solidarity around a bus, or even toppling one over. ​

See also fart people.

Can’t get enough of subversive Chinese netspeak? Check out our latest ebook, “Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang.” Includes dozens of new terms and classic catchphrases, presented in a new, image-rich format. Available for pay-what-you-want (including nothing). All proceeds support CDT.


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