Updated at 12:42 p.m. ET: BEIJING – Released this past summer, Korean pop star Psy's "Gangnam Style" quickly became a global phenomenon. Within months, the infectious song has been watched over 530 million times and recently earned the distinction of being the most “liked” video in YouTube history according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
It seems that everyone has tried to get in on the Gangnam rage, including Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt, our very own TODAY team, and just this week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
Ai Weiwei, China’s dissident artist who was detained last year for nearly three months, on Wednesday became the latest to jump on the Gangnam bandwagon, uploading his own version of “Gangnam Style” on YouTube. The video, which shows Ai dancing in handcuffs, is entitled "Grass Mud Horse Style."
"Grass Mud Horse," a homonym of a Chinese phrase that suggests a very lewd act with one’s mother, is popular among anti-censorship activists in China.
PSY, the South Korean pop singer whose "Gangnam Style" viral video sensation made him an international star, returns to his home country, where crowds are going wild. NBC's Ian Williams reports.
Ai told journalists that the idea to cover the dance craze came from one of the many donors who helped him out last year when Ai was ordered to pay back taxes that the government claimed that he owed. Donations to help pay Ai’s government fine flooded in online and supporters even visited his studio home in Beijing to toss money over the wall to him.
YouTube is banned in China and the video has not appeared on Chinese video sites.
The artist's tongue-in-cheek and at times hilarious -- at one point Ai can be seen swinging a pair of handcuffs around his head -- anti-censorship send-up may have been received with silence by Chinese state press, but it has been picked up by the New York Times, the Washington Post and NPR.
Grass Mud Horse
The Grass Mud Horse, which has its origins in a 2009 collection of hoax entries in a popular Chinese web-based encyclopedia called Baidu Baike, became a popular and irreverent way to poke fun at the heavy-handed censorship of China’s ruling Communist Party.
The fabled Grass Mud Horse soon found itself the inspiration of a slew of cute online animations, stories and web board chatter. Stuffed animal versions of the alpaca-like animal were soon available online for sale and can still be seen periodically in shops and cafes across China.
Government censors though were left in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether to let this pun-based challenge to their power go unchecked or to be seen censoring a fuzzy cartoon character.
In addition to Grass Mud Horse, the term “River Crab” also became a popular way for internet users in China to challenge censors as it is a homonym for “harmonious.” The principle of a “Harmonious Society” has been a signature principle of current Chinese President, Hu Jintao’s ideology.
In China, then, when content runs afoul of censors, users often say it has been “harmonized.” The term river crab became another way to jokingly get around online censorship in China.