Green Dam Girl

I love Green Dam Girl (this link is in Chinese), the satirical cartoon personification of the Green Dam Youth Escort software. Here’s a bit of cultural analysis. I do not know the original artists for any of the images here... which I imagine is for the good of any who are in the People’s Republic.

About Green Dam Girl

Here are the characters for Green Dam Girl (if you have a Chinese font!).


They're pronounced lu4 ba4 niang2 (4 is a falling tone; 2 is a rising tone). You can search for images with the Chinese engine Baidu. (You have copy the characters and paste them in yourself.) When I originally tried this I had to stick to the first two characters, meaning “Green Dam”, because the full phrase was censored, but in November 2011 both searches work.

You should come up with hundreds of drawings with different takes on the character, from poorly-scanned sketches to polished illustrations (and cosplayers, and Sims 3 characters, and computer renderings). Some are gentle, some are vicious, some are plainly beyond the boundary of what is allowed in China. And most are influenced by Japanese comic style, which to me suggests that they are the work of the young (though I have also found Green Dam Girl cartoons made by Japanese in Japan).

Some of the attributes to look for are the key around the neck, the army cap, the communist party neckerchief, the crab badge (from a Chinese pun on the official euphemism for censorship, “harmonization”), the unhappy captured alpaca (standing in for a “Grass Mud Horse” and representing everything that gets censored), the rabbit or rabbits or rabbit ears (from an image prominent in the Green Dam software, as I found from the user manual), the ship-in-a-shield (logo of the software), the armband (which varies, but most often says “information discipline” as in the cartoon on the right), and the paint bucket marked with the verb “to seal”. She sometimes wears hair ribbons, often blue or purple, which stand for the butterflies featured in Green Dam marketing images. And she occasionally wears three watches.

I love Green Dam Girl! The West doesn’t have this kind of pop satire, I guess because we don’t need it. We have to make do with lolcats, and it’s not the same.

The OS-tans

Green Dam Girl’s first connection is with the OS-tan characters, which originated in Japan and spread. The OS-tans are personifications of operating systems as cartoon girls in popular Japanese style. Think anime characters. To the right is one rendition of Vista-tan, from the collection of “NewYinzer”.

The OS-tans are a form of popular art. They’re drawn by random interested people, and differently every time. See OS-Tan Collections for more examples than a reasonable person could expect. See moe anthropomorphism for background (it’s a pop culture topic, so Wikipedia covers it like paint).

Anyway, the obvious next move in the game is to create characters for other programs, for computer languages, and so on. On the Haskell mailing list there’s mention of creating Haskell-tan. No doubt there will eventually be globalization-tan and Peoria-tan. If you a part of this cultural movement, then of course the Green Dam software needs its own character. It’s inconceivable for there to be none.

In other words, Green Dam Girl from China is a girl due to the weirdness of Japanese popular culture.

Need for Satire

People who live under a repressive regime need their satire. Complaining is basic, and a good way is to spread jokes. See Stifled Laughter: How the Communist Party Killed Chinese Humor for one tradition and how the communists have slowly suppressed it. In twenty minutes of research I was able to trace Chinese traditions of satire back to the early Qing dynasty, and I’m sure a scholar could dig up much deeper roots. Green Dam Girl makes fun of the Green Dam censorware. If she doesn’t seem funny to you, well, I’m sure that Hu Jintao agrees. I think she’s pointed.

Connection with Old-School Religion

Personification itself is of course ancient. I want to emphasize the connection with old-school polytheistic religions. When your religion has a mass of characters, you recognize them by their attributes. Ganesh has his elephant head and broken tusk and many more. Each attribute ties back into the mythology: There’s a story (actually a bunch of alternate stories) where Ganesh gets the elephant head, and another where the tusk gets broken, and so on. The attributes are both recognition cues and are meaningful in themselves.

Green Dam Girl has her cap, her key, her crab, her rabbits and her armband, all of which tie into the mythology just like Ganesh’s attributes. Her attributes make her recognizable in all kinds of depictions ranging from cutesy

cutesy Green Dam Girl

to disturbing.

scary Green Dam Girl

The Shinto religion is still active in Japan. Maybe there’s an indirect connection with the OS-tans.


Here is my favorite image of Green Dam Girl. I downloaded a copy for myself as soon as I found it, and now as far as I can tell it has vanished from the Internet otherwise. I hope somebody will find its origin and tell me.

my favorite Green Dam Girl

Original version, July and November 2009.
Combined here November 2011. One broken link fixed November 2021.