Once upon a time, a king broke his leg in an accident. He walks in a funny way, and people laugh at him because of his way of walking. They often secretly mocked his strange way of walking. To avoid being ridiculed, the king issued a law prohibiting the use of words such as “leg” or “limp.” At first, people were puzzled by this strange law, but soon they found new words to make fun of the king. When the king banned some words, people substituted them with homophonic words. The king became increasingly angry, believing everyone was talking about him behind his back. So he banned more and more words until people could barely speak. The kingdom fell into a deep silence, but even in the silence, the king felt teased because silence became the words he banned.
Context: The informant read this story online when people were discussing the banned words on the website in a forum. The website bans bad words and substitutes them with the “*” sign, but people find homophonic characters to get around the censorship. Because some of the homophonic words are used daily, they influence people’s daily life, and many of the homophonic words become bad words. Thus, some people questioned the act of using homophonic characters to express bad meanings, and someone wrote this story to reflect the negative aspects of online censorship and how it affects people’s daily life.
Analysis: This story reflects the value of free speech and the negative consequences of censorship on the Chinese internet. The king’s ban on words led people to seek alternative ways to express themselves. This story is a modern fable as many societies struggle with issues of censorship and control over speech and expression. The use of homophonic characters in online communication to bypass censorship is a common phenomenon on the Chinese internet, as Chinese is a language that has a lot of homophonic characters and words. This story reflects the issue of censorship and serves as a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of censorship.