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…is now banned in order to protect the sanctity of the Chinese language.

In early 2009, a creature called the grass-mud horse appeared in an online music video which became an immediate viral hit. “Grass-mud horse” (cǎonímǎ 草泥马), which sounds nearly the same in Mandarin as “fuck your mother” (cào nǐ mā 肏你妈), was originally coined to get around, and also poke fun at, government censorship of vulgar content. The idea caught fire instantly, completely transforming its symbolic meaning. Within weeks, the grass-mud horse became the de facto mascot of Chinese netizens fighting for free expression, inspiring poetry, photos, videos, artwork, clothing, andmore. As one Chinese blogger explained, “The 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.”

Pun-filled subversion in China