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Grass-mud horse

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草泥马 (cǎonímǎ): grass-mud horse

Originally conceived as a zebra, the grass-mud horse is now an alpaca.

The grass-mud horse, which sounds nearly the same in Mandarin as “f**k your mother” (肏你妈 cào nǐ mā), was created to skirt government censorship of vulgar content. The idea caught fire after netizens made a video depicting the grass-mud horse defeating the river crab (河蟹 héxiè), a homonym for the propaganda catchword “harmony” (和谐 héxié). Netizens continually expanded the lore of the grass-mud horse by composing catchy songs, photo albums of its natural habitat, and fake nature documentaries.

The Communist Party is often described as “the mother” of the people, so “f**k your mother” also suggests “f**k the Party.” The grass-mud horse is one of many mythical creatures invented by netizens in response to increasingly strict censorship measures.

A “grass-mud horse” is now someone who is web-savvy and critical of government attempts at censorship. As one Chinese blogger explains, “‘Grass-Mud Horse’ represents information and opinions that cannot be accepted by the mainstream discourse, and ‘The Song of the Grass Mud Horse’ has become a metaphor of the power struggle over Internet expression.”

A grass-mud horse in place of “Tank Man,” who stood before the tanks as they rolled into Tiananmen Square in June 1989.
Paying respects to a snow grass-mud horse.
New character combining components of “grass,” “mud,” and “horse.”
Grass-mud horse army.

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