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.


Mythical animals “Grass Mud Horse” and “Small Elegant Butterfly” were invented in a fight against the government decision to have all PC’s installed with the anti-pornography filtering software Greendam Youth Escort.


Grass-Mud Horse is a merged together with a giant robotic character. It is portrayed as a powerful and sexual furry animal that runs around, tramples and destroys its environment.

LiyuChun  or “brother Chun” (Li Yuchun, 李宇春; brother Chun 春哥, pinyin: chun ge) is sitting on Grass-Mud Horse.  Grass Mud Horse is depicted as a holy animal and LiyuChun as a God.  Liyuchun is a TV celebrity who became famous through the reality TV show Supergirl (超級女聲, chaoji nvsheng) and then became an Internet celebrity on the fansite . On this site people at once adore and satirize her androgynous or “real man” appearance.  In the text we can read that she is hiding a masculine anatomy and genitals underneath the warrior-dress.

The character in green outfit is called Lady Greendam(, Lvbai Niang). Like Grass Mud Horse, she was invented by people to criticize the government proposal to install the filtering software Greendam Youth Escort on all PC computers. In this cartoon, she parades her green uniform and warns people not to watch Hentai erotica.  Meanwhile she herself gets sucked into the screen. She has written a slogan on her blackboard that says: “Harmonize Your family.” (河蟹全家, hexie ni quanjias)