Sacred Animals on China's Internet

Images and Excerpt From my forthcoming book People’s Pornography: Sex and Surveillance on the Chinese Internet.(Forthcoming with Intellect Books, 2011)

The Grass-Mud Horse is supposedly a species of the alpaca. The name is derived from cào nǐ mā(肏你妈), whose near-equivalent word translates as “fuck your mother”. The greatest enemy of the grass-mud horse is the “river crab” (河蟹, héxiè) whose name resembles 和谐 héxié meaning “harmony”, referring to government censors who wish to create a “harmonious society.”(和諧社會, hexie shehui) (Lam 2009) .The grass-mud horse spurred people’s imagination as evidenced in the thousands of image-collages and mockumentaries that have appeared online. The fad spread like a benign virus and was later popularized as a stuffed animal, an activist icon-turned commodity. The popular theme song of the grass-mud horse was banned by The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television in March 2009 together with the official blocking of the entire meme itself.

The mythic figure survived and was later creatively conjoined with “Greendam Girl” (綠壩娘, lvba niang) a the satirical cartoon character who protects state interests.  She preaches a compulsive rhetoric of “harmonizing the family” ,acting like a bossy government official who enjoys saddling people with moral directives. The surreal and humorous qualities of these figures tapped into a populist stream, or indeed pop culture itself, and helped to spur a viral movement of protest.


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Happy Year of the Rabbit—Legend of the Jade Rabbit

Three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged for something to eat from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit.

The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit, empty-handed, offered his own flesh instead, jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself.

The sages were so touched by the rabbit’s sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace where he became the “Jade Rabbit.”