猴赛雷 may be THE WORD for 2016 Spring Festival. Actually, this word is derived from the mascot of the 2016 Spring Festival Gala-Kang Kang, which was announced by CCTV on Jan. 21st, 2016. It had been the first time that CCTV announced its mascot for Spring Festival Gala since 1983 (a four-hour TV show that has run in every Chinese Lunar New Year, operated by state-owned broadcaster Chinese Central Television).
According to Baidu Baike (a web-based encyclopedia like Wikipedia in China), Mr. Han Meilin’s original design was in the style of traditional Chinese ink-wash painting and it was well-received by the general public. It is also Mr. Han who designed the mascot for Beijing Olympics Fuwa. However, the 3D rendering of Kang Kang has been critiqued by netizens as “terrifying” and “so ugly, I want to cry” once it’s released online.
(This picture is from the Internet. Actually, the original style is very cute.)
The cheek pouches of original ink wash painting were created to show the cuteness of the little monkey, and they’re also the place where the monkey can temporarily store food. However, the 3D rendering didn’t present the ink wash painting style and its cheek pouches seem to be “tumors” rather than stuffed cheeks. China’s netizens have mocked the new Spring Festival Gala mascot and there were many Chinese netizens using Photoshop to make fun of this 3D rendering.
The cheeks (腮，sāi) of the monkey(猴, hóu) are have been criticized by tens of thousands of netizens for being ugly (雷，léi). Coincidentally the teasing pronunciation sounds like the Cantonese phrase, and the middle word (腮 sāi ) is changed into another character (赛, sài) to sound even closer to the Cantonese Phrase, which means “awesome” or “very impressive”.