Beyond Words - Language Blog

Mythical Baidu Deity | The Grass Mud Horse

In the desert of Mahler Gobi there lives a herd of Grass Mud Horse. Their diet consists of grass, and they’re able to adapt to harsh conditions as there is little water available in Mahler Gobi. The peaceful life of the grass mud horse is threatened by the encroaching migration of river crabs. A battle ensues and the crabs are defeated.

This seemingly innocuous story, and more specifically the grass mud horse itself, has become a global phenomenon. It’s thriving popularity is the latest expression of the Chinese Government’s online censorship policy . The catch is that the names of the animals and their indigenous region are homonyms for vulgar Chinese phrases that otherwise would have ensured any affiliated website the same fate as the 3,000 websites and 270 blogs shut down by censors in China as of last month.


In a recently published Language Log post about the grass mud horse, Mark Liberman, of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, sheds light upon this fabled creature’s linguistic roots and social implications. The article, and it’s many comments, will quickly bring one up to speed on this revolutionary beast’s struggle.

Photos Courtesy: chinakorea55 & Language Log