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Mocking the censors

Image003 Many Chinese youth are apathetic when it comes to politics.

After all, what change could possibly be in the offing? Morever, with China’s sustained economic boom, the youth of today have never known a year which wasn’t better than the last one. For the vast majority, life has gotten better and better as long as they’ve been alive.

But there are currents and counter-currents, and exceptions to every generalization. Another current among young people is irreverence, especially to efforts by the state to control how they may express themselves.

Chinese leaders uphold the narrative that they are building a “harmonious” society and insist that they are for “healthy” development of the internet. So anyone who posts something that gets deleted from the internet is said to have been “harmonized.”

Controls on expression inevitably lead some people to try to get around them, bypassing and mocking censorship. One example is the phenomenon of Chinese talking about the “grass mud horse,” a harmless mythical creature which sounds nearly identical to the tonal sounds for about the most vile expletive in the Chinese language to use against someone’s mother. Click here and here and here for more.

Another example is the T-shirt in the photo. If you decipher the Roman numerals, you can make out that they read “8964.” Anyone clever enough realizes that it refers to June 4, 1989, the day pro-democracy demonstrations were smashed by the People’s Liberation Army in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The topic, of course, is verboten in China. Chinese leaders do not want a public debate about how patriotic soldiers fired into a crowd of their own people. Nor do they want Chinese seeing videos on YouTube that they don't approve of, one reason why YouTube appears to have been blocked this week.

So the Sohu.com blog where the T-shirt was mentioned quickly drew the attention of censors. If you click on the link now, you come to a page saying it has been deleted because it was deemed unhealthy.

But you can bet that Chinese creativity will come up with plenty of other ways to keep the censors busy.


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@ the tank man
Like I said "stick to Chinese." You really are begining to ramble . Back to your porno tutorials wee one.

the tank man

STAN = Scrappy Twittering Annoying Nerd. This definition explains the whole personality wrapped up in your shady empty shell. Besides, give your finger a break, STAN, you are a type machine !


@the tank man
I will not call you a liar since this would just disolve into the type of name calling little punks like you seem to enjoy in a perverted way. However,since by your own admission you have never left China,it does partially explain your stilted,one sided view of the world.Do not limit yourself by your foolish ways. You have a lot of growing up to do. BTW I guess the porno tutorials explain your depraved way of attempting to express ideas in english. Stick to Chinese shorty!

the tank man

haha. i've never been out of this country and i don't intend to. English is a language i grasped during my porno hours


@ the tank man
How quaint...You just smoked yourself out. Another Overseas Chinese who does not have the courage of his convictions. I can see the original branch of your family as they fled China (Famine, Purge etc)hoping that there son would amount to something but instead all they got for their sacrifice and courage was a baby cyber thug.Life is just not fair ...right short guy?

the tank man

Sonny, I'm sorry I should have told you earilier that I have been donating my tadpoles since puberty. I'm actually the one who teamed up with your mommy to bring you out into this universe. Believe it or not,I'm your biological father! You have a red birthmark on the right hemi-butt near the perineum, do you ?


@ the tank man
The best job I can see for you is an artificial insemination donor. You have set a new standard for clowns. Keep up the good work little Bon Bon Queen.

the tank man

Pish !


@ the tank man
Did you ever hear the expression "If the shoe fits..wear it" ? Words like Neanderthal and drone fit you quite well. In the interest of friendship I'll expand my vocabulary just for you. So my little prehistoric cave dweller...did mother spank you again last night? I'll bet the humiliation is too much to bear at times. Try getting a job and an apartment of your own. The real world is the place for you.

Sam from Berkeley

grass mud horse is just a funny joke, no need to relate it to politics. Other examples of these include 兰州烧饼,don't know if you can't get it.

the tank man

Excuse me for my frankness,but did anybody ever tell you that your comeback is getting stale? Limited gene pool,Neanderthal,knee jerk reaction..Ugh, come on,just for the sake of United States,get sth refresh, please!
We know it's not your fault to spew the same words again and again,and for so many years you've been sucking SO hard the American breasts to get necessary nutrition for this sideshow,still we've seen it's getting very difficult for you and it appears the nutrition doesn't fit well into your body so that you sound like someone going through a serious backlash of brain atrophy. Plese do yourself a favour to get some patches to upgrade your insulting vocabulary system, and most importantly stop sucking the breasts.It might be taited,not necessary with melamine though.


@ the tank man
The only bot I see regarding this subject is you.You swim in a limited gene pool so I guess you have an excuse for your knee jerk reaction to an open exchange of viewpoints. Go clean your room befor mommy gives you a well deserved spanking.

the tank man

Well,It's been a couple of years since the day i was trying to find out some porno sites for free download but somehow ended up into this page.It was actually very interesting in the first place because barely did i ever see bunches of arrogant native english speakers(ocassionally non-native) flock across the world around here and racily discuss real-time tidings going on in China, most of which were/are futile unpublicized bit of scandals.I was haunted and somehow exited.I thought i was heading into a world of freedom of expression and most importantly facts.However , the more i read in this blog, the more i feel like i am with a jittery expat reporter who's somewhat grumbling about the the toxic air in beijing and the coveting boom in China, as a result of which 80% of his works i've read are focusing on the downside with a America-made microscope.Bad-mouthing might be a crappy term for concluding Tim's job,(I'm sorry!)but i couldn't find a better one ,sorry again for my poor English.

@Stan. Hey , dude. If Tim is a second-class report in reporting china, you are the typical classic drone going after him,gaspingly! If every government has a brainwashing policy to tame his people to do things the way he wants them to do, My dear friend, Mr Stan, you are ONCE AGAIN the classic specimen of brainwashing policy, Stan! You are no doubt WELL-TAMED !


What I want to know is where I can get one of those t-shirts.


@the tank man. hhahahaha! seriously dude, get yourself a soapbox, but one high enough that it will reach the noose you tied for yourself around the tree of your own smugness! this is not at all a bad mouthing of china/chinese, in fact, it's just a clear demonstration of someone being well creative. it's understandable that the censors didn't like this t-shirt, I won't wear it in china (yes, I live here and I love it), but if I had one I'd wear it abroad, just for shits and giggles!

get a life man - stop trying to sound all clever and educated on a blog.


@ You did not misunderstand the tank man. He is just a small thug who feels empowered by the anonymity of a blog.His mother probably yelled at him for having "skid marks" on his underwear and he needed to vent his anger by threatening Tim. Just your basic cyber clown....nice response btw.


@the tank man, I didn't see anything in the article where the LZ stated the democracy he grew up with was any better or worse than China's 1 party rule and I definitely didn't read anything "bad-mouthing" China. I read about a grass mud horse and the deletion of online content or blocking of websites. Pretty much everything written was/is a fact.

Fact 1) Chinese economy has gotten better consecutively for several years and the middle/upper class folks have benefited enormously.

Fact 2) Chinese people, tired of getting "harmonized," starting using other methods to show their displeasure (grass mud horse, river crabs, & the t-shirts, to name a few).

Fact 3) The events at Tiananmen in the late 80's happened.

Fact 4) People will continue to find ways to get around censorship, it's human nature to have opinions and to express those opinions.

@the tank man, so, I'm sorry if I've misunderstood you, but I don't see any point in your attack on the writer of this story.

Account Deleted

Only idiots will believe Chai Ling's faked story, "row of row of my classmates were mowed down in TAM". Shame!


Really LC how long have you been offline :). This phrase has being floating around (as I notice) for at least 2 month. Which essentially means a century and a half in net time. But really, we could censor ourselves. See, the problem is, people could have written a brilliant set of swear words and that just does not hurt anybody, except showing their own frustrations. This blog post essentially has no censorship, and whenever people start trading insults, it becomes inapproperiate for Tim's daughters (as he mentioned once).

As of the controversial topics, such as summer 1989 TianAnMen square incident, that just shows the whole trust crisis between the grass root people, and the central government body. Xinhua news may tell the truth on one topic, the problem is I don't read it. Because it has too much non-sense. To clear off these topics, it really requires independent body to give a fairly objective investigation. But could there be at this point in time?


Today's kids are getting more frustrated to educate their parents. Imagine the outrage when they found out all their collections of boobs were gone before going to beds.

the tank man

Tim , what is democracy ? Are you having a so called GENUINE democracy back in the United States, the kind the former democrate Babara Jordan has claimed: Equality for ALL, and privilege for NONE, or is it just an endless duel between a donkey and an elephant taking turns to decide about what to eat and whom to cheat.As for me, that sort of democracy is no better than a single-party communist regime, and the only difference is you have the chance to survive a bloodbath if you're shrewd enough to sway into the other side.And next time when you bad-mouth about china with high airs in some murky corner like here, don't forget where you at and what you are doing .


Haha,“grass mud horse". At first sight, I didn't have the faintest clue what it means. After thinking it in Chinese, I laughed my heart out. Can't help but wonder who first came up with this funny phrase.I'm a Chinese netizen, but this is the first time I've heard of this phrase. Really really interesting!

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"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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