Grass Mud Horse: Wikis


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Grass Mud Horse
White caonima toy.JPG
A Grass Mud Horse plush doll
Traditional Chinese 草泥馬
Simplified Chinese 草泥马
Literal meaning grass mud horse

The Grass Mud Horse – Cǎo Ní Mǎ  – is a Chinese Internet meme widely used as symbolic defiance of the widespread Internet censorship in China. It is one of the 10 mythical creatures, and since an article about it was created on Baidu Baike, it has become a cult phenomenon on the internet in China through chat forums. Videos, cartoons and merchandise of this animal, which apparently resembles the alpaca, have appeared, and it has since received worldwide press attention.


Etymology and species

Cao Ni Ma, literally "Grass Mud Horse", was supposedly a species of alpaca. The name is derived from a profanity (Chinese: pinyin: cào ), which translates to "fuck your mother". Note that the comparison with the "animal" name is not an actual homophone, but rather the two terms have the same consonants and vowels with different tones, which are represented by different characters.

According to the original article from Baidu Baike,[1] they originate from an area known as "Ma Le Ge Bi" (Chinese: 马勒戈壁, English: Mahler Gobi) (resembles 妈了个屄, meaning "your mother's fucking cunt"), and some variants of the animal are known as 沃草泥马 (wò cǎo ní mǎ, resembling 我肏你妈, meaning I fuck your mother), which can only eat fertile grass (沃草 in Chinese, resembling 我肏, meaning "I fuck!"(translated to 'fuck me' in English profanity)), while other variants are known as 狂草泥马 (kuáng cǎo ní mǎ, 狂 meaning "crazily", "violently" or "insanely"), which are dubbed as the "kings" of the Cao Ni Ma. The initial image found in the original Baidu Baike article was a zebra. This was later turned into an alpaca in subsequent revisions.


Screen grab from Baidu article

The Grass Mud Horse is said to be the dominant species which lives within the Mahler Gobi Desert, and thus the alternate name for the region is called cǎo ní mǎ Gēbì (草泥马戈壁, "Grass Mud Horse Gobi Desert"). This is close in pronunciation to cào nǐ mā ge bī (肏你妈个屄, "fuck your mother's cunt"). The animal is characterised as "lively, intelligent and tenacious".[2] However, their existence is said to be threatened by the "river crabs" which are invading their habitat.[3]

The river crab (河蟹, héxiè) symbolises official censorship, as its pronunciation resembles the word for "harmony" (和谐, héxié), in reference to the "harmonious society" which the leadership professes to aspire to. The term has thus become a euphemism for censorship.[4] The river crab is often depicted wearing three wristwatches, since 戴表 (dài biǎo, "wearing a watch") is homophonous with 代表 (dài biǎo, "represent"), referring to the Three Represents.


Alpacas sold on e-commerce site Taobao post "harmonisation"

Music videos,[5][6] as well as "documentaries"[7] and cartoons about "Grass Mud Horse" started appearing on Youtube and elsewhere on the internet.[8][9] One music video, whose musical arrangement of a children's choir has been likened to It's a Small World,[10] scored some 1.4 million hits; a cartoon attracted a quarter million more views; a nature documentary on its habits received 180,000 more hits.[4]

Yazhou Zhoukan (亞洲周刊) reported that netizens also created a new Chinese character by fusioning the three Chinese character radicals for grass, mud and horse. Although the word so far has no pronunciation. Official cleanup of the internet which threatens the Caonima have already spurned other "Mud Horse" variants such as 「滾泥马」 and 「幹泥马」 with similar connotations.[11]

The "Grass Mud Horse" became widely known on the English-language web following the 11 March 2009 publication of a New York Times article on the phenomenon,[4] sparking widespread discussion on blogs. "Grass Mud Horse" themed merchandise, such as plush dolls are selling over the internet.[12] One Guangzhou toy manufacturer reportedly produced its first batch of 150 Grass Mud Horse cuddly toys with official birth certificates issued by Mahler Gebi Mystical Creatures Bureau. The animals come in brown and white, named Mahle (马勒) and Gebi (歌碧) respectively, and sell for 40 yuan each. To accompany these, a user's and feeding manual have been created.[13] Whereas they were called 'Caonima' before the crackdown, internet sellers now list them using the correct Chinese term '羊驼' (Alpaca).


A photoshopped image depicting "grass mud horse"; formed in smoke emanating from the Beijing Television Cultural Center. The text in the image reads "grass mud horse?"

The Beijing Television Cultural Center fire earned a number of photoshopped parodies, including one with an alpaca's outline in the smoke.

On 20 March 2009, the New York Times reported that a Chinese contributor to Global Voices posted a message from an Internet administrator to managers of online bulletin boards warning that "any content related with Grass-Mud Horse should not be promoted and hyped" because "the issue has been elevated to a political level ... The overseas media has exaggerated the incident as a confrontation between netizens and the government."[14][15]

'Green Dam Girl' with Caonima in tow

In a press conference on 25 March, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that China's access to Youtube had been officially blocked since two days earlier. According to Reporters Without Borders, the block was an attempt to stem videos showing Chinese repression of the Tibetan population in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising of 10 March 1959, and to block access to the popular Grass Mud Horse video posted in early March.[16]

The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television issued a directive on 30 March 2009 to highlight 31 categories of content prohibited online, including violence, pornography, content which may "incite ethnic discrimination or undermine social stability". Many netizens believe the instruction follows the official embarrassment over the rise of the "Grass Mud Horse" phenomenon. Industry observers believe that the move was designed to stop the spread of parodies or other comments on politically sensitive issues in the runup to the anniversary of the 4 June Tiananmen Square protests.[17]

Caonima reappeared as a subject of online cartoon satire following the announcement of the Green Dam Youth Escort pornography blocking software project.[18]

See also


  1. ^ 草泥马 - Baidu Baike (Past Screenshot)
  2. ^ Wen Yunchao, The 'grass-mud horses' battling internet censors, France24, 13 March 2009
  3. ^ Chinese bloggers protest blocking of YouTube,, 25 March 2009
  4. ^ a b c Wines, Michael (11 March 2009). "A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censors". New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  5. ^ 童声合唱《草泥马之歌》 "The Grass Mud Horse song, by a children's choir - Youtube
  6. ^ 草泥马之歌动漫版,自备墨镜!!!!!! - Youtube
  7. ^ 2009科普之--草泥马(原创整理)
  8. ^ 动物世界特别篇 马勒戈壁上的草泥马! - Youtube
  9. ^ 什么是草泥马 - Youtube
  10. ^ F*ck Your Mother Ship, F*ck Censorship, Huffington Post, 17 March 2009
  11. ^ Li Yongfeng, 泥马中國網民造字草泥馬現象發酵 政府僵化被批評是上愚下智, Yazhou Zhoukan, Vol. 23, Issue 13, pg 8 5 April 2009
  12. ^ Plush Your Mother: Grass Mud Horse Dolls In China
  13. ^ 80后开发广州版“草泥马”, Nandu Daily, 5 March 2009. (Chinese)“出生证”上盖着鲜红的大印,上写“马勒戈壁神兽管理局计划生育专用章”
  14. ^ WINES, MICHAEL (20 March 2009). "China: Censors Bar Mythical Creature". Retrieved 17 April 2009. 
  15. ^ Lam, Oiwan (March 18th, 2009). "China: Goodbye Grass Mud Horse". Global Voices. Retrieved 17 April 2009. 
  16. ^ Government blocks access to YouTube, Reporters Without Borders, 25 March 2009
  17. ^ Vivian Wu (3 April 2009). "Censors strike at internet content after parody hit". South China Morning Post. 
  18. ^ Koman, Richard (18 June 2009). "China's not backing down but Green Dam Girl fights back". 

External links



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