The Most Censored Words On The Chinese Internet

UPDATE: How China Actually Gets the Internet to Censor Itself

Weibo is a Twitter-esque Chinese social media platform which boasts over 300 million regular users after just two years of existence. At the moment there are 378 words and phrases for which Weibo blocks search results. Blocked on Weibo has the continually updated list, with approximate English translation. (See the site for context.) I’ve compiled a sampling:


68 Comments on "The Most Censored Words On The Chinese Internet"

  1. They consider the color Yellow to be subversive? The Yellow Turbans must still be running around casting spells, if only Mao had a better musou attack!

    Chairman Mao, do not pursue Lu Bu!

    • Yellow is a sexual colour in China. What we call Blue Movies, they call Yellow Movies.

      • So it has nothing to do with the Yellow Turbans? That makes me a sad panda.

      • Jin The Ninja | Mar 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm |

        it’s not really a ‘sexual’ colour- green or red are far more ‘sexualised’ in meaning,

        • The sea cucumber thing…that just has me effing baffled. I wonder if it has any  medicinal uses that cause it to become contraband…or if science surrounding it or research about it ended in some horrible embarrassment that China wishes to forget. Its so hard to say.

          If I live to be 1000 I’ll quite grasp what motivates a person as a ‘censor’…they must be culled from the ranks of the worlds most fail-spawned lifeforms to be able to prosper in a job like that.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 23, 2012 at 2:31 am |

            i don’t know what it means, other than it is used in chinese medicine. but for what it’s worth i have eaten sea urchin, which is floral but delicious.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 23, 2012 at 3:53 am |

             here i found out why:

            Sea Cucumbers are not banned in China. The reason 玉足海参
            is blocked is because the first two characters (玉足, literally jade foot)
            are some sort of reference to foot fetishism (SFW Google image search). More on foot fetishism here.

            and even though i can read hanzi, the meanings are just not obvious to me at all, probably because i am not a ‘native’ speaker, but also b/c i’m not from mainland, and diaspora chinese (from hk to singapore to mauritius to indonesia) all have their own cultural nuances- add to the fact i’m immersed in western culture (and have been for most of my life), i am as clueless as any anglo;)

      • MoralDrift | Mar 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

        no one calls them blue movies, only time I ever heard that….was in china

        • Jin The Ninja | Mar 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

          my mainland experiences have been limited (albeit relatively recent) but i’ve also never heard those films called ‘yellow movies’ – i’ve heard people use the hk term category 3 or in taiwan they borrow the japanese term ‘pinku’

          • Yes, it can refer to porn. Apparently it’s what a newbie Internet user (think 12 year old kid) first types into a search engine when he’s on his first hunt for forbidden pix. The quasi-equivalent in English might be “sex” in that blocking sex or yellow wipes out a whole host of legitimate conversations/sites.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

            cool, thank you. do you know why ‘yellow’ refers to porn?

          • Don’t know if this is the real origin or not, but yellow can mean spoiled or rotten, hence referring to “dirty” works (though figuring out which came first, the negative meaning or its usage as such is beyond my abilities). Just did a quick google and a UK paper described the meaning as describing bare flesh, which may or may not be accurate or just a (potentially offensive) guess: 

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm |

            thank you for the link. actually i do in fact recall something vaguely about pornographic volumes having a yellow coloured cover i think it was from early in the qing period, but i distinctly remember when shanghai had the international districts the american, russian and british sailors used the colour to distinguish from novel serializations/manhua. i didn’t even make the connection to ‘yellow films’ at all…but then again i’m not from mainland, so my context is totally different.

    • haha I was thinking the same thing!

  2. Chinese people love ketamine “K powder” its true. I don’t know why they like it so much, it makes me sick.

    • Jin The Ninja | Mar 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm |

      many people. not simply the chinese, use a variety of tranquilizers and perception altering substances to allieviate some of the pain of living in a highly stratified, increasingly militarised, and cutthroat society. look at the americans with prescription drugs.

      • Hadrian999 | Mar 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm |

         I prefer Bushmills

      • MoralDrift | Mar 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

        but ketamine…come on its just horrible. Better risking your life or freedom doing MDMA

        • Jin The Ninja | Mar 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

          i’ve never done it, (or mdma for that matter-neither here nor there), but i totally agree that if you are risking life and liberty-best to use something psychogenic, and at least gain from the experience, but again i understand the reason WHY people why choose to numb themselves.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm |

            i’ve been around long enough to have seen a mass of people do it- and it never struck me as particularly fun.

          • yeah it doesn’t look like fun from the outside.
            medical accounts have show that the sense of peace, oneness and tranquility experienced by people who’ve had NDEs (near death experiences) can also be felt by people on ketamine.  

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 20, 2012 at 1:50 am |

            like i said, i’m not a proponent of synthetics, but to each his own, and i support someone’s right to body/consiousness sovereignty.

          • out of curiosity, are you averse out of idealism? or they just don’t agree with you?

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 20, 2012 at 3:37 am |

            i am highly sensitive to synthethic substances (i don’t even use western painkillers because they make me feel ‘drugged out’), and follow quite a strict diet in which i consume very little processed food. so there is that, however, i’m not opposed to other people taking it, i have found that my experiences with entheogens are much better when ‘natural’ and organic. again just a personal preference, and aside from the green herb, would never use them recreationally or out of cultural context.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Mar 19, 2012 at 10:41 pm |

            Ketamine is a ‘dissociative psychedelic’ and is very psychogenic. Its actually quite popular amongst psychonaut and neo-shamanic communities. It’s not one of my favs but it does have decent rep amongst the drug educated. 
             John C. Lily wrote alot about it and there’s been a fair bit of research on it for medical treatment. eg.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 20, 2012 at 12:23 am |

            i’m familiar with it’s use among certain psychonauts, but for me personally, i have difficulty reconciling the ingestion of synthethics for use in conciousness expansion. it’s simply my preference not a value judgement. as for use in ‘neo-shamanism’- i’m surprised at that because the michael harner crowd i’ve been exposed to has been quite anti substance. i won’t pretend that the term, ‘neo-shamanism’ is for me not problematic for a variety of factors. As for use of recreational special K, i lived in HK in the 90s, and have seen many people partake in it, which was purely for the anaesthetic properties of it, rather than the psychotropic. again i have never taken it, so this is based only on personal observation/preference, and is not scientific nor quantifiable.

  3. DeepCough | Mar 19, 2012 at 11:43 am |

    Pfft. This is still isn’t as long as the FCC’s list.

  4. AndrewDobbsTX | Mar 19, 2012 at 11:54 am |

    So many great potential band names here… “Seduction Poisoning,” “Started in June,” “Actual God,” “Conflict Diamonds,” etc. 

  5. Eric_D_Read | Mar 19, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

    That “Evolution” was on there is kind of surprising.

    • I’m assuming it’s a mistake. China isn’t anti-science the way Turkey, and sadly, the U.S. are. They probably meant to block “revolution” and messed up.

  6. imhalfchinese | Mar 19, 2012 at 4:48 pm |

    whats wrong with a three colored cat?

    • It’s a reference to Deng’s Xiaoping’s 1961 proverb in favor of market reforms: “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice it’s good”

      • Ianmacfarlane | Mar 20, 2012 at 9:04 am |

        So “three-colored cat” is a reference to a third economic system different in some degree from communism or capitalism?  Shitou diao jing. (If I have remembered one of those puzzle phrases correctly, wherein a phrase has a hidden meaning.)

        • Jin The Ninja | Mar 20, 2012 at 11:44 am |

           it’s called ‘market socialism’ and it’s neo-liberal through and through, so it’s not really a ‘third way’ just capitalism.

          • Hadrian999 | Mar 20, 2012 at 11:51 am |

             the Chinese seem very results oriented and less tied to ideology

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm |

             they’re for whatever makes them money.

          • Hadrian999 | Mar 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm |

             the structure of the government allows quicker total changes they moved from a pro-population growth to a restriction on growth position in a relatively small amount of time, In the U.S. we are much more concerned with ideological positioning than with results and it is what will be our downfall.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm |

            double post.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm |

            greater social control means the technocrats in charge of the party can pretty much follow the numbers instead of hearts/minds. i would say china is positioning itself for a fall equal to that of the US, i don’t see the benefit in either method.

          • Hadrian999 | Mar 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm |

             they are doing a tricky balancing act but if they can keep things improving for people they will stay in power, the stumbling block i see for them is the male/female imbalance upsetting social order

          • Ianmacfarlane | Mar 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

            The Chinese are facing a similar problem to what has derailed the American economy.  Income inequality, which has been rising in the USA since 1981 and was a major factor in causing the Great Recession, has also been rising in China, where the split is between the rural and urban population.  The recent income gains have gone disproportionately to the urban population while the consequent price rises have affected everybody.  I expect to see serious friction within a decade. 

          • Hadrian999 | Mar 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm |

             yes, the farm boys all want to move to the city which simultaneously overwhelms services in the city and cuts production in the breadbasket. I’ve read reports that the Chinese government is outlawing lifestyle type advertisements in order to diminish perception of the growing gulf between the poor and the growing upper class. the man/woman ratio problem is a big one also, men that can’t find wives can’t settle into “normal” life, with the importance of family in Chinese culture it could be a huge source of friction.

          • Liam_McGonagle | Mar 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm |

            Yes–and their chosen variety of state capitalism is heavily dependent on exports overseas.  Double bad news for them.
            You’d think that, theoretically, they’d have more room to maneuver, growing from a smaller baseline, higher inequality and more centralized networks of corporate/state elites.

            But any significant wealth redistribution in the near term must entail some horrific instability and inevitably ratchet up the expectations game to an alarming level.

            Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the U.S. or Europe will be able to bubble up in the required timeframe to take the heat off Beijing. 

      • imhalfchinese | Mar 20, 2012 at 9:53 am |


  7. Just tried to look up who the ‘Chen Sawa people’ are, and noticed that it must be censored here as well b/c absolutely nothing came up for them. Wonder who they are?

    • Not sure why Google translated it as that (sorry, I’ve been meaning to clean up the translations for a couple days now), but its the name of a person 陳澤民, properly transliterated as Chen Zemin. Zemin is of course the same first (given) name as the former president of China, Jiang Zemin. All instances of Zemin are blocked on Weibo and many other social networks. Coincidentally, Chen Zemin is himself notable: he is the father of Edison Chen, who was involved in a major nude photo scandal a couple years back.

  8. Why is Sea Cucumber/Holothuria on there?

  9. Disinfo_censors_dissent | Mar 19, 2012 at 8:52 pm |

    I’d really like to see a list of the most censored comments on Disinfo.

    Here are my nominations:

    – Bashing capitalism is not consistent with accepting advertising from Domino’s Pizza or Allstate Insurance, nor with taking payola from Graham Hancock.

    – Marxism has been falsified.

    • Jin The Ninja | Mar 19, 2012 at 8:56 pm |

      lol. you’re such a jokester.

    • Seeing an actual list of the most censored comments (I assume this means they were submitted multiple times) is not consistent with making “nominations” for “most censored” without having seen any such a list.  But don’t let logic or facts interfere with your conservative persecution fantasies.

    • Hadrian999 | Mar 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm |

       so hows capitalism working for you, Billionaire yet?

  10. Wow talk about oppression

  11. Worldwalker | Mar 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

    Candle wax? I can see how the government of China might find some of them a threat, like “dictatorship” … but seriously, CANDLE WAX? Sea cucumbers? Yellow? Is that an abomination unto Nuggan or something?

  12. yellow?

  13. yellow?

Comments are closed.