The sudden popularity of the phrase Cao Ni Ma (草泥马) or Grass-mud Horse in the Chinese cyberspace perplexed many non-Chinese speakers. If you can understand it, you will gain such penetrating insights into the cyber culture in China.
Here is the interpretation of this phrase. The Chinese characters for the three words “grass-mud horse” is used to describe an imagined breed of horse, and Chinese netizens conveniently map it to lamas.
What makes this non-existent creature — grass-mud horse — so hilarious is these words are homophones of the household Chinese F word, the so-called national curse word of China. The disguised F word are cleverly woven into ordinary-looking video clips and stories. These seemingly innocent programs about the “grass-mud horse”, with the repetition of the cloaked F word for effect, became an act of netizen disobedience and a droll case of the cyber culture.