River crab (Internet slang)

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River crab society, three wearing watches (河蟹社会,三个戴表)
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River crab (Chinese: ; pinyin: xiè) and Harmonious/Harmonize/Harmonization (Chinese: ; pinyin: xié) are Internet slang terms created by Chinese netizens in reference to Internet censorship or the other censorship of China. In Chinese Mandarin, the word "River crab" (河蟹), which originally means Chinese mitten crab, sounds similar to "Harmonious/Harmonize/Harmonization" (Chinese: 和谐) in the word "Harmonious society" (和谐社会), Chinese leader Hu Jintao's signature ideology.[1]


Since the Chinese Communist Party announced the goal of constructing a "Harmonious Society" in 2004, usually cited by the government of China as the reason for censorship, Chinese netizens began to use the word "Harmonious/Harmonize/Harmonization" (和谐) as a euphemism for censorship when the word for censorship itself was censored. And when the word "Harmonious" began to be censored, Chinese netizens began to use the word for "River crab".

Sometimes Aquatic product (Chinese: ) is used in place of "River crab". They are also used as verbs, for example, instead of saying something has been censored, one might say "it has been harmonized" (Chinese: 被和谐了) or "it has been river-crabbed" (Chinese: 被河蟹了). In some BBSs, "Harmonious" is a censored word, so netizens use "River crab" instead.

In Taiwan, more and more people know about the meaning of "River crab" as Internet slang. Some people dislike the government of Mainland China, and may refer to it as Drinking blood (Chinese: ; pinyin: hēxiě or hēxuè[2]), a near homophone of "Harmonious".[3]

Simplified ChineseTraditional ChinesePinyinEnglish TranslationPassive voice[Note 1]Note
Originhéxié shèhuìHarmonious societyN/A
Internet slanghéxiéHarmonious/Harmonize/Harmonization被和谐 (be harmonized)Used as a euphemism alluding to the censorship of China
Internet slanghéxièRiver crab被河蟹 (be river-crabbed)Homophone of "和谐" (héxié, Harmonious)
Internet slanghēxiě or hēxuè[2]Drinking bloodN/AHomophone of "和谐" (héxié, Harmonious); Used in Taiwan but rarely in Mainland China
Internet slangshuǐchǎnAquatic product被水产 (be aquatic-produced)Allusion and a replacement of "河蟹" (River crab)
External images
River crab society, three wearing watches (河蟹社会,三个戴表)

A well-known picture usually named River crab society, three wearing watches (河蟹社会,三个戴表) illustrates the slang "River crab". In the picture, the three wristwatches refer to the Three Represents, where the Mandarin expressions used for "represent" (Chinese: 代表; pinyin: dàibiǎo) and "Wearing watch(es)" (simplified Chinese: 戴表; traditional Chinese: 戴錶; pinyin: dài biǎo) are homophones. The satirized homophone of the three watches might be created by Chinese writer Wang Xiaofeng (王小峰), whose online nickname is "Wearing three watches" (戴三个表). An offensive term "Foolish prostitute" (Chinese: 呆婊; pinyin: dāi biǎo) is also used by anti-Communist Chinese people.

Simplified ChineseTraditional ChinesePinyinEnglish TranslationNote
Originsān gè dàibiǎoThree Represents
Internet slangdài biǎoWearing watch(es)Homophone of "代表" (dàibiǎo, Represents)
Internet slangdāi biǎoFoolish prostituteHomophone of "代表" (dàibiǎo, Represents); Very offensive

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mandarin Chinese-speakers add a "被" (bèi) before a verb to construct a passive voice. See: Voice (grammar)#Passive in topic-prominent languages.