3.13.2009

A 'Grass Mud Horse' from a 'Small Mountain Village'? 来自‘山寨’的‘草泥马’?


In a tonal language, inflection means everything. Students of Chinese as a foreign language are taught to pity the fool who mangles her four tones. (And how easily "frustrated"/郁闷 slides into "with the door"/与门!)

So after years of puzzled looks from native Chinese speakers whenever I spoke a third-tone word with an accidental second-tone flair, I was fully convinced of the immutability of Chinese tones and the words they distinguish. That is, until the raging internet phenomenon that has become the "Grass Mud Horse" -- far better known as 草泥马.

As others have described tactfully, "grass mud horse" sounds an awful lot like one of the most vulgar things you can say to someone in Chinese. It sounds so similar, in fact, that almost as soon as it had appeared, there was no explanation required as to the emotion for which it was a proxy. After the fire near the new CCTV headquarters, images of the grass mud horse started popping up all over the internet, telling CCTV just how the netizens felt about the way it was (not) reported.

So it's a semi-homonym...maybe even a euphemism. But no one would call the grass mud horse polite conversation. Especially not someone like Li Changchun. (See some of his recent thoughts here.)

During Li's tenure as China's senior propaganda official, the nationwide "anti-smut" campaign has gained steam. No less than the likes of Google, Sina, and Sohu risk their very existence in China if they do not rid themselves of anything that could be considered vulgar. And now, as actress and CCTV host Ni Ping has added 山寨文化 (small mountain village culture) to the list of objectionable content, netizens are asking: just what is safe from reprobation?

Without a doubt, Chinese netizens are largely sequestered from the internet content that many around the world find void of any redeeming value--images of violence against women, and various forms of hate speech among it--and therefore offer an attractive model for activists elsewhere who seek to "clean up" the internet.

So where do you come down in the grass mud horse debate? Is it a harmless parody, or an offensive slur? Do the filters keep out more bad than good? Who should draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable, and what should be the basis for the decision?

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the vivid and witty commentary.
    Filtering by itself is not wrong, giving the power to filter to less/none-democratic authorities creates a real possibility for serious abuse.
    I support the struggle and activism. This would create more balance.

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  2. Mark03:36

    I think there is a real love for words and jokes/puns with words in China so the grass mud horse does not surprise me at all. I think it is an appropriate and amusing way to push back against censorship.

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  3. Anonymous13:04

    Both amusing & serious. The Chinese people love play on words, but, in this case, it is a way to criticize state-controlled CCTV in a dictatorial government system. Kan(Play on Word)

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  4. In the beginning, when I got a link about a song of grass-mud-horse, I did not like the idea that kids sing a song full of dirty words. But now it seems this "animal" is getting very popular. Chinese people favor this figure because they dislike the censorship, which also has a name called river-crab(河蟹or 和谐)。The advantage of Chinese language to fight against filter is that different tones mean different characters and even same tone corresponds to quite a few characters. So a lot of new words appear on the web to get through the filters. I feel it is amusing to some funny words like grass-mud-horse.

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  5. I have no problem with the filter itself. We need some sort of "regulator" over online contents just like we need a government in our society. Here comes an old question though: how much power do we want this regulator to have? And more importantly, how do we regulate and supervise this regulator to make sure that its power is not abused and it's not violating our fundamental rights of freedom? One answer might be fair, prudent and well-written laws and an independent juridical system to enforce them. Unfortunately, Chinese netizens have no luck and no hope yet to go to law for the protection of their right to freedom of speech. When the regulator becomes a dictator, brave and brilliant warriors like "grass mud horse" and "river-crab" are created to fight against censorship. They may be able to find a position as human rights pioneers in China's history book some day. Now, with the inspiration from these cute and vulgar horses from the "small mountain village", let's reflect on the abused censorship in China and create more companions for these lovely mountain guys!

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  6. Anonymous13:32

    I'm struck by what a tremendous job it must be to police a space that connects the world through the free flow of information. Censorship on some level exists in any society - even the U.S. First Amendment doesn't give Americans the right to information that's classified. However, the concept of free speech is about ideas not words. As a believer in free expression, I'm entertained by the notion that the censors with a list of unacceptable words can can be out-witted by the ideas of the people.

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  7. Just some videos about the figure:

    草泥马的爱情 选项

    bridged发表于Tue Mar 17 16:44:05 2009 http://yilubbs.com

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvT_w4ru_fo
    草泥马的爱情
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5iQH_oNC_U
    草泥马的爱情


    kye923
    12 February 2009
    纯属恶搞


    由中国网友 "雪球宝宝" 演唱.. 声音超嗲, 超卡哇伊!!!
    ( 希望她本人不会见怪! )


    本人对视频制作还不怎么会, 请多见谅!


    原来试听地址:
    http://a8.ent.tom.com/player/splay.php?songid=628505


    "草泥马的爱情" 下载地址:
    http://www.namipan.com/d/84d5c81e530fa9ed1cd1607fb151150a1304074d507e...


    草泥马并不是真实动物, 视频中的动物其实是羊驼.
    欲知详细的资料, 请看这:
    http://www.hudong.com/wiki/%E8%8D%89%E6%B3%A5%E9%A9%AC


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iOI15UKnp4
    百度 魔兽世界吧 《陕西农民发现真实网络神兽》“鲁豫有约”特别节目


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Jdo-C_E8_0
    《陕西农民发现真实网络神兽》鲁豫有约特别节目


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbtP1AuJSBg
    《鲁豫有约》特别节目 - 鞍山陕西农民发现真实网络神兽草泥马


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5OXilkDjv4
    超雷人《动物世界》草泥马


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeqaGC3V5nw
    动物世界特别篇 马勒戈壁上的草泥马完整版


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZRdAAeYiVk
    马勒戈壁上的草泥马 - 来自 RPTV 电视台亚灭蝶的报道


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C77zOcEzKYQ
    动物世界特别篇 马勒戈壁上的草泥马!


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp5eVClV334
    草泥马之歌动漫版


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=or9ulLXogAk
    草泥马可爱儿童版


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTrrN4BNs6k
    卧槽泥马之歌


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfcICSSObPQ
    传说中的神兽草泥马军团


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI92QlCYHbM
    动画版草泥马大豆之歌MV


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkddCIY-vOc
    草泥马之舞


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01RPek5uAJ4
    童声合唱《草泥马之歌》


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=or9ulLXogAk
    草泥马可爱儿童版


    yokieteddy
    12 February 2009
    歌曲来自于网络,觉得满好玩的就自己配上可爱的动画。首次做短片 ,希望大家
    喜欢!


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FsAUJcW7zk
    草泥马之诗 PART2 BY KINO


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJJ5qgdYrNw
    草泥马进行曲 IRON BLUE INTENTION

    ReplyDelete