Here are all the words Chinese state media has banned

The Grass Mud Horse (see 38 vulgar phrases below).

Xinhua News Agency was established by the Chinese Communist Party in 1931 in a little house in Ruijin, Jiangxi Province. Until 1938, it was called the Red China News Agency 红色中华通讯社, but it has always had the same goal: to collect information for the Party and act as its voice. Despite its propagandist mission, Xinhua has produced some excellent journalists, such as Yang Jisheng 杨继绳, author of Tombstone, an excruciatingly detailed record of the Great Famine of 1958-1962.

Xinhua operates in a similar way to Western newswires such as Reuters: Thousands of journalists and editors across China and in 170 foreign bureaus churn out news articles, video, opinion pieces, and breaking news briefs, which are fed out to newspapers and websites across the country. But there are some key differences: Chinese newspapers and websites cannot only use Xinhua content for free; sometimes instructions from the authorities compel them to run Xinhua copy. So when Xinhua updates its style guide, it affects the way the news is written in numerous newspapers and websites across China.

In July, a WeChat post (in Chinese) appeared on the Media Tea Party [传媒茶话会 cháhuàhuì]  social media account titled:

Media people must read: Banned and sensitive words in Xinhua News Agency reports [latest edition]

The content of the post is Xinhua’s new, updated version of its style guide for editors and journalists. Xinhua has not published the style guide itself, but enough Chinese staffers at state media have circulated the post for us to be reasonably confident it comes from an official source.

The rules range from guidance on the proper way to talk about politically sensitive subjects — “Never indicate that Hong Kong and Macau are countries in any texts, maps, or diagrams” — to prohibitions on slang and vulgar language — “never publish the phrase green tea bitch.”

The rules include relics from media more than 10 years old, such as references to the singer Li Yuchun 李宇春, whose peak of popularity was around 2006. A political relic of the Hu Jintao era is dismissed: The style guide tells editors not to use the phrase Eight Honors and Eight Disgraces [践行八荣八耻], a slogan from the Hu Jintao era.

The updated rules include a rather comprehensive glossary of vulgar language and rude online slang, some of recent popularity, some dating back to a “hoax dictionary of legendary beasts” originally published in 2009.

Below is a full translation of Xinhua’s revised style guide (the original Chinese text is here).

Politics and society


Religion and ethnicity

Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, territory, and sovereignty

International relations