Han Han: “A False Alarm” is the Most Beautiful Chinese Idiom

Han Han with a napkin over his face attempting to even the tan on his face due to previously wearing sunglasses.

Malaysia Airlines planes.


This is currently the hottest post of the week (#3 of the month) on Sina Weibo, China’s leading microblogging platform. It is by Chinese internet celebrity Han Han, who is also an author, race car driver, and has over 35 million followers on Sina Weibo. This post has over 115k upvotes, has been forwarded/reshared over 270k times, and has nearly 40k comments…

From Sina Weibo:

@韩寒: I once wrote something that said something like this: Sometimes, “虚惊一场” [xūjīng yī chǎng, “a false alarm”] these four characters is the the most beautiful idiom in the world, hundreds of times more beautiful than idioms like 兴高采烈 [xìnggāocǎiliè, “overjoyed”], 五彩缤纷 [wǔcǎibīnfēn, “colorful”],一帆风顺 [yīfānfēngshùn, “to go smoothly”]. You know what is loss. In these times, perhaps more so. May sadness and fear pass, and those who are not involved/affected know more to cherish [the lack of sadness and fear in their lives].

Comments from Sina Weibo:


When I was young, I often read in books mysteries like these, saying how a plane suddenly disappears in mid-flight but reappears many years later and the passengers are unaware of the passage of time. I don’t know if these are real, but at this very moment, I really hope this is real, and hope that they will be like the woodcutter who encountered the immortal in the mountains, the ax rotting away, eventually returning.


The attack in Kunming, the missing MH370, there are too many too many unknown catastrophes and indescribable calamities in this world… and the words that make people cry: “In the future whenever you will part with someone, be sure to say your goodbyes with earnest, the kind where you hug each other, because maybe when you really need to say goodbye, it’ll already be too late. So when parting, be sure to say your goodbyes with earnest, as if it were the last time; when meeting each other, have gratefulness in your heart, as if it were the first time.” ~Knowing to appreciate everything you have~


The news report I hope to see is: The plane has safely reached Beijing, the children sound asleep in their mothers’ arms, lovers telling each other their thoughts on the phone, tourists imagining their next vacation, tired young office workers have returned from their business trip closer to their dreams, talented artists describe their new inspirations to their wife and children, and pious religious believers put their hands together… the friends and family at the airport to pick up their loved ones embrace and sob, with sunshine, and the sadness have all passed.


I can’t handle bad/unfortunate news. I’d rather keep on thinking you all may have entered some time distortion, and that maybe the entire plane of people will one day however many years from now land in Beijing as flight MH370 all looking as they do today, giving everyone a pleasant surprise.


When putting on my headphones, I suddenly discovered that there is no sound on the left, but after careful examination, I discovered that it was a false alarm. Fortunately, it’s just that my left ear is deaf.


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The best conclusion I can currently think of is that the plane was hijacked by terrorists who had a meticulous plan, who cut off all communications with the outside world, landed the plane in the desolate countryside, and are currently preparing to put forth their ransom demands. I’d rather it be like this, as at least we’d still have hope.


They entered a space-time tunnel. Tomorrow, they’ll disembark from the plane as if nothing has happened, astonished by seeing their loved ones holding back tears, unaware that their watches are a few days behind.


Not every twist and turn is a false alarm, and not every loss can be regained. Life ultimately has too many things that are too late, so we must learn to cherish, cherish everything we have beside us, while we still have time.


I remember in my last year of high school that one time when my parents took a plane to go on vacation. They were supposed to arrive at 9 o’clock, but all the way up to 11 o’clock I couldn’t get through with it saying the other side’s phone was turned off. That night, I was crying as I kept refreshing the news and kept calling all the uncles and aunts I could remember. It wasn’t until 12 o’clock that I was finally able to get through. My mom said the plane was going in circles in the air, and maybe it was because it had heard my heart that it finally landed. It was at that time that I finally understood how relieving and happy “a false alarm” could be.


I’ve refreshed my screen [for news updates] an entire day because of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. For family, what torment it must be to wait holding onto a sliver of increasingly vague/distant hope, I dare not even think. Looking at all the missing person notices, I’m about to cry. Being able to walk to the end of one’s life [old age] safe and sound truly is one’s greatest luck in life. Let’s all say a prayer before bed, that when we open our eyes tomorrow, that Weibo will be filled with the words “miracle”, that every life is immersed in the rays of thanksgiving.

A relative of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she walks past journalists in Beijing

Coincidentally, the hottest post of the day is also by Han Han, and is less topical and philosophical…

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From Sina Weibo:

@韩寒: Only by doing this, by tanning my eyes that were not tanned over the past few days due to wearing sunglasses, can I make my entire face tanned evenly overall. Those who can’t help but marvel at their own ingenuity, click “upvote”.

Han Han with a napkin over his face attempting to even the tan on his face due to previously wearing sunglasses.

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • On the other hand…
    Don’t let the possibility of a false alarm manifest as delusional false hope.

    • the ace of books

      This. It’s well and good to wish that something else had happened, but when you start believing it, and refusing to believe in objective reality, that’s when the problems begin.

  • FYIADragoon

    I’m still curious as to what else it could be, if communication was lost, besides terrorism.

    • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

      The beginning of Lost!

      • mr.wiener

        I’m starting to think it is the Langoliers after all.

    • Markoff

      well there is one quite simple explanation doing rounds on +Google that there was some kind of fire on the board, so pilot decided to go to nearest big airport with easy landing which is on islands Langkawi, so he turned there but the fire overcame devices and pilot and then just plane continued to fly until crashed into ocean, seem quite plausible and simple to me compared to other crazy theories

  • Repatriated

    It’s called hope, and is the foundation for countless religions. Ever think about how every civilization has had some kind of “afterlife” built into their beliefs?


    Stop Jackie Chan …and all Chan products

  • donscarletti

    Han Han proves once again what a useless douche he is.

    He’s helping the masses to beleive in something nice and palatable until they forget about it and move on to another cause

    After all, wherever the passengers are, the only ones who really need to deal with the reality of it are their family and friends. Everyone else just needs a nice, feelgood story so they can enjoy this tragedy like a good crowd of gawking onlookers should.

    But if he wants to be a truth dodging demagogue, surely he can think of a better palliative than “false alarm”. I mean for fuck’s sake, even if they are somehow all alive, being either marooned or abducted for over a week still qualifies as a damn legitimate alarm.

    Reading shit like this gives me more admiration for Yao Chen having the courage to piss off a few netizens recently through her comments about the Kunming thing.

    • Kai

      I don’t quite share your contempt for Han Han but it’s nice to see a commenter here who is familiar enough with him and his influence in Chinese modern society to have an opinion.

      I think the problem with this post (the translation/reporting of Han Han’s post), is that it is like 7 days out of context (he posted this the day after the plane went missing, so you can’t really fault him for “over a week”) and thus falls pretty flat, at least for most cS readers.

      Then again, I suppose the juxtaposition with his more recent post is kinda amusing, but then again, that too relies quite a bit on being familiar with Han Han already.

    • Reflect

      nobody’s reading that long useless post

  • wnsk

    This guy sounds pretentious to me. Why is he popular anyway?

    • Insomnicide

      Because he’s a professional rally driver, author, singer, creator of a magazine and most important of all, a rebellious character. Something often noted by foreign commentators as lacking in China.

      • wnsk

        In other words, his popularity as a writer has nothing to do with the quality of his writing. Okay. Hmmmmm.

        • Robert Lo

          Of course it sounds pretentious in English after translation. The original Chinese message is much deeper and more eloquent. You are blaming Han Han for the translator’s incompetence.

          • wnsk

            How would you translate it? The original Chinese is not even a metaphor. Surely there are many other phrases/idioms in Chinese that are many times more poetic and beautiful than “xu jing yi chang” — calling this THE most beautiful Chinese phrase ever seems pretentious to me. *shrug*

          • Robert Lo

            It was his opinion, written right after the incident occurred. It has nothing to do with pretentiousness and more to do with how he was feeling at the time. And my point about the translation wasn’t the idiom itself, but how Han Han’s whole tweet was translated.

  • Conspiracy or not, some “pinko” Chinese expressions of grief concerning the beloved concept of family and loss that should make many Westerners ashamed to be alive. We in the U.S. have lost the meaning of family over that of the almighty and fading dollar.

  • Boris_Da_Bengal_Tiger

    Well, when it starts with a plane crash, things aren’t usually getting better…

  • Reptilian

    It’s incredible that Chinese people and their stinking gov’t would have the balls to rage at the Malaysians for “dereliction of duty” and “ultimate culpability”(Xinhua editorial).

    It’s either terrorism or an accident, nobody in Malaysia is to blame, you Communist f(u)cktards. You point your fingers at the US and Malaysia, but where’s your vaunted PLA Navy? Aren’t those guys fond of showing new generation defense capabilities on CCTV? Where are those now? Why haven’t they shared what Chinese satellites have seen? Those areas are contested maritime boundaries, don’t tell me China didn’t have eyes on them 24/7?

    • Robert Lo

      Did you just criticize the Chinese for generalizing Malaysia by…generalizing all of China? Most Chinese people aren’t blaming Malaysia. Only the vocal minorities are. Learn the difference.