Chinese Memes and Censorship

 Youtube Direktchina

Die New York Times hat einen äußerst spannenden Artikel über Memes in China und den dortigen Internet-Slang, der sich zum Code zum Umgehen der Zensur entwickelt hat. Der Text steigt ein mit Pi San und einer Animation, die er kurz nach der Verhaftung Ai WeiWeis im Frühjahr produziert hatte.

Pi San finished the animation before dawn on April 4, less than 24 hours after Ai was detained. “I hesitated for a second before posting it online,” he told me. “But then I thought, If I don’t put it up, that would be like self-castration.” With a few clicks, he sent “Crack Sunflower Seeds” into cyberspace, posting it onto China’s top video Web sites. In just a few hours, a million or more netizens watched the animation online. Then the video began disappearing from Chinese Web sites one by one, just like the announcers in his animation. Pi San lashed out directly at the censors in a Weibo post: “You’re like the eunuch who gets worried before the emperor does!” There was no response. Even in his anger, Pi San was left wondering if the black hand would come for him.

No government in the world pours more resources into patrolling the Web than China’s, tracking down unwanted content and supposed miscreants among the online population of 500 million with an army of more than 50,000 censors and vast networks of advanced filtering software. Yet despite these restrictions — or precisely because of them — the Internet is flourishing as the wittiest space in China. “Censorship warps us in many ways, but it is also the mother of creativity,” says Hu Yong, an Internet expert and associate professor at Peking University. “It forces people to invent indirect ways to get their meaning across, and humor works as a natural form of encryption.”

To slip past censors, Chinese bloggers have become masters of comic subterfuge, cloaking their messages in protective layers of irony and satire. This is not a new concept, but it has erupted so powerfully that it now defines the ethos of the Internet in China. Coded language has become part of mainstream culture, with the most contagious memes tapping into widely shared feelings about issues that cannot be openly discussed, from corruption and economic inequality to censorship itself.

NYTimes:Where an Internet Joke Is Not Just a Joke (falls die NYT-Paywall zuschlägt: NYTClean), nicht verpassen: Vier Animationen von Pi San (zwei davon hatte ich schonmal hier vor Ewigkeiten). Und unbedingt ansehen: das Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, „an online glossary of translations of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions.“

Von dort:

猴蛇 (hóu shé): monkey-snake

The monkey-snake sounds the same in Chinese as 喉舌 which means “mouthpiece.” The monkey-snake is a mythical internet creature that represents the official mouthpiece of the Chinese government. The following is a fictional account of the monkey snake:


Monkey-snake: mammal, developed brain, human-like face. Has the head of a monkey and the body of a snake. Rectal area also resembles a face. Skilled at imitating human language, but usually lies. First appeared approximately 100 years ago in Russia. While once common in much of Eastern Europe, Northeast Asia, Africa etc., it is now only found in Northeast Asia and South America. While there are many varieties of the species, the kind found in China and North Korea is considered to be the most authentic. Because the species is somewhat rare, a Chinese scholar Ling Cangzhou proposed that April 1st (April Fools Day) of every year be designated “Monkey-Snake Day” to promote the recognition and protection of the species.