Last week, when China’s state broadcaster CCTV unveiled a mascot for its upcoming annual gala to celebrate the Year of the Monkey, the internet was universally appalled. The red, yellow and green cartoon monkey, called Kang Kang, looks like a traffic light gone mad.

CCTV’s Monkey Year mascot Kang Kang. Photo: Weibo.

Besides a face split right down the middle, Kang Kang also has two tumour-like round balls growing on his cheeks. Authorities later explained the designer wanted to convey the image of a cute monkey with a mouth so full of food that his cheeks swell. The internet obviously did not get that impression.

But if you think Kang Kang is the ugliest monkey on earth, you may want to think again. This week, Taipei released its own mascot for the Taiwan Lantern Festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year, and it sparked a debate among netizens across the Taiwan Strait – is this a bigger abomination than Kang Kang?

Taipei’s Fulu Monkey. Photo: Taiwan Lantern Festival.

The “Fulu Monkey”, a combination of a gourd and a monkey face, was meant to represent both the monkey year and auspiciousness as the gourd in traditional Chinese culture is linked to good luck and career success. However, the internet sees it as more like the lovechild of a teletubbie and a rubber duck.

The “Fulu Monkey” is expected to appear as a 14-metre-tall light sculpture in Taipei. Taiwan netizens are certainly not looking forward to it. Some said they felt sorry for laughing at the CCTV monkey last week. Others mocked: “This is convenient, change the face and you can use it for 12 years.”

Taipei’s Fulu Monkey. Photo: Taiwan Lantern Festival.

A local news website reported the story with the headline: “Why do we hate monkeys?” Mainland netizens responded by saying China and Taiwan have the same kind of taste. “We are one big family after all.”

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Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.