Toad worship (Chinese internet subculture)

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A toad-worship picture that has Moha meaning. The glasses and two points represent the face of Jiang Zemin. The latin letters below stand for "naïve", which is Jiang's quote in one of the most famous Moha videos.

Moha (Chinese: 膜蛤; pinyin: Mó Há, pronounced [muǒ.xǎ]), literally "admiring toad" or "toad worship",[1] is an internet meme spoofing Jiang Zemin, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and paramount leader. It originated among the netizens in mainland China and has become a subculture on the Chinese internet. According to another explanation, it comes from China's social media Baidu Tieba. In the culture, Jiang is nicknamed , or "toad", because of his supposed resemblance to a toad.[2] Netizens who móhá (worship the toad) call themselves "toad fans", "toad lovers" or "toad worshippers" (simplified Chinese: 蛤丝; traditional Chinese: 蛤絲), or "mogicians" (膜法师; 膜法師) which is a wordplay on mófǎshī (魔法师; 魔法師, magician) in Mandarin.[note 1]

Another nickname for Jiang is "elder" or "senior" (长者; 長者; Zhǎngzhě), because he once called himself an "elder" or "senior" when he was berating Hong Kong journalist Sharon Cheung who questioned him.[3][4][5] A video clip recording this event spread on the internet and led to the rise of the culture, which later greatly rose in popularity around 2014, when Hong Kong was experiencing a period of political instability. Initially, netizens extracted Jiang's quotes from the video and imitated his wording and tone, for parody and insult. However, as the culture developed, some imitations have taken to carrying affection toward him. The quotes for imitation have also evolved to include what he said during his leadership, and in his personal life.


In October 2000, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa, went to Beijing to report to Jiang Zemin. On October 27, 2000, when Jiang Zemin and Tung Chee-hwa met with reporters before the formal talks, Hong Kong journalist Sharon Cheung questioned whether Jiang Zemin had appointed the Hong Kong Chief Executive in the election, which made Jiang Zemin angry.[6]


The materials of moha usually come from three famous videos about Jiang called "Three Pieces About Toad" (Chinese: 蛤三篇).

  1. In the first video, Jiang lashed out at Hong Kong journalist Sharon Cheung in Zhongnanhai when he met with Chee-hwa Tung, Chief Executive of Hong Kong at that time. Ms. Cheung asked if Jiang supported Tung's campaign for Chief Executive, which Jiang affirmed. Cheung then asked if it meant the Chinese government had already decided internally to re-appoint Tung. This made Jiang very upset, and criticized her for twisting his words to "make big news." Jiang then continued to criticize the Hong Kong media on the whole, claiming that they need to learn to ask more meaningful questions, even stating that "Mike Wallace of the U.S.A. is at a much higher level than you are."
  2. The second is the famous interview by American journalist Mike Wallace that Jiang referred to in the previous video. In this interview, Wallace and Jiang talked about many touchy subjects, such as democracy and dictatorship in China, freedom of the press, Falun Gong, and the Tiananmen square incident.
  3. The third video is recorded when Jiang came back to China United Engineering Corporation (Jiang worked there for some years), and Jiang recalled his experience in the video. He also talks about Deng Xiaoping's decision to appoint him as leader of China, and what he considered his achievements during his years of leadership.

Toad worshippers extract some sentences from these videos for spoofing like "too young, too simple, sometimes naive" (originally in English).[7][8]

Notable statements[edit]

Some most famous statements from Jiang are listed below. Note that phrases in italics were originally said in English.

Interview with the Hong Kong press[edit]

  • "I did not say I would handpick him [Tung Chee-hwa]. You asked me if I support Mr. Tung; I said I support him."
  • "Re-election will still have to follow the [Hong Kong] Basic Law, have to... Of course, our decision is very important too!"
  • "I feel that you journalist people still have to learn one thing! You're very familiar with those Western values, but after all, you're still too young!"
  • "(Mike) Wallace from America, is way better than you guys. I have talked and laughed with him."
  • "There is one good thing about you. Whenever things happen somewhere in the world, you'll run over there faster than the Western reporters. But all the questions you ask...too simple! Sometimes naive!"
  • "Pardon. As an elder, I need to tell you something. I'm not a journalist, but I've seen too much. It's necessary for me to teach (tell) you some life experiences."
  • "Whenever I meet you, I want to say... There's an old saying in Chinese—'Keep silent and make big money.' That's the best way."
  • "You people, don't want to...try to...make a big news! Saying that it's already decided internally, and then take me out for criticism. You people, naive!"
  • I'm angry! I guess I displeased you guys today.

Interview with Mike Wallace[edit]

  • "You mean I'm a dictator?"
  • "Even under extreme situations, our soldiers have demonstrated restraint." (referring to the Tank Man)
  • "Do you trust the Falun Gong?"
  • "All men are created equal."

Visiting China United Engineering Corporation[edit]

  • "This thing (book) you made for me. Excited!"
  • "The Politburo has decided. You will be new General Secretary! I said please find a better candidate! I'm really not being modest; I'm the Party Secretary of Shanghai, why should I be going to Beijing?"
  • "Then I recited two lines of poetry: "Were it to benefit my country I would lay down my life; What then is risk to me?" (simplified Chinese: 苟利国家生死以,岂因祸福避趋之; traditional Chinese: 苟利國家生死以,豈因禍福避趨之)[9] (poem by Lin Zexu)
  • "During my years in Beijing I haven't done much, just three things."
  1. Establishing a Socialist market economy.
  2. Adding the Deng Xiaoping Theory to the constitution.
  3. Proposing the Three Represents.
  • "If there's any other achievements, it is to forbid the army from doing business. The battle against the Flood of 1998 is also important, but that's all secondary. My main achievements are just these three things. Pardon me, but I've only made a tiny contribution. Thank you."

Further reading[edit]

  • Fang, Kecheng (19 Jun 2018): Turning a communist party leader into an internet meme: the political and apolitical aspects of China’s toad worship culture, Information, Communication & Society

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Jiang of Jiang Hall". The Economist. July 30, 2016. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  2. ^ AMY QIN (October 21, 2015). “膜蛤文化”盛行中国网络,或为影射习近平 (in Chinese). New York Times Chinese language edition. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  3. ^ "How Hong Kong journalist berated by Jiang Zemin turned to art". South China Morning Post. November 3, 2016. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  4. ^ AMY QIN (October 20, 2015). "Ridicule Turns to Affection as Chinese Social Media Embraces Jiang Zemin". New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  5. ^ 江澤民90大壽 網民膜拜反映不滿時局 (in Chinese). Central News Agency. August 17, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  6. ^ "No wonder Jiang became so angry - Taipei Times".
  7. ^ China Uncensored (August 8, 2013), Rare Footage of Former China Leader Jiang Zemin Freak Out (With English Subs!), retrieved February 17, 2019. The interview is conducted mainly in Mandarin Chinese; the video has English subtitles. Bits of Cantonese and English can be heard in the interview, and the "too simple, sometimes naïve" quote can be found at 1:43 through 1:50 in the video.
  8. ^ "长平观察:"哈哈",江泽民形象咸鱼翻身?" (in Chinese). 德国之声. October 24, 2015. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  9. ^ "中央文献重要术语译文发布(2015年第七期)". 中共中央编译局, Compilation and Translation Bureau. October 23, 2015. Archived from the original on August 14, 2018. Retrieved August 14, 2018.