Huangshan city mirage, all down to bad translation.

The ' Huangshan city mirage ' generated some wildly speculative claims amidst a whirlwind of media misinformation and hype.   In a nutshell the reality was bad chinese translation combined with hyper-sensationalist reporting. All the buildings in the footage are real buildings, not visions, mirages or illusions, they actually physically stand exactly where they were filmed.  The only thing out of the ordinary here is they are surrounded by floodwater and mist.

Background of the myth:
Huangshan City in Anhui Province, China was one city out of a number affected by the 2011 flooding over 12 or 13 provinces.  By 14th June 2011 the water had exceeded warning levels  in reservoirs and inundated low parts of land near the city.

Click to Enlarge - Huangshan City
Googlemap image with key identifying landmarks
within frames in the 'Mirage' video.
Incredibly, video footage of the floods, as the waters slowly rose were broadcast, sensationalised and then spread by western media with a completely incorrect story.

An all too literal translation of the english interpretation describing the surreal sight of the buildings looking mysterious as they rose out of the mist above the flood waters ironically fell foul of the 'Chinese Whispers' phenomenon and was circulated via news websites, touted as being an amazing mirage with never before seen clarity.

Presumably this misinformation was passed on in the same hurried fashion endemic to modern media that does away with cross checking of facts in order to increase readership traffic to their sites.  Poor journalism indeed!

Predictably the YouTube videos for this event went viral, along with the emergence of a multitude of conspiracy and prophecy theories ranging from hologram technology experiments, the second coming and otherworldy portals.

The truth of course is a little more mundane than the fiction and just doesn't sell a story, the poetic romanticism of 'floating' buildings suspended in mist above the river may be lost in sloppy translation but it strikes me as odd that the worlds media had not linked this footage to the 2011 China floods.   It was a mildly amusing that a lot of news sites did try to provide rational scientific explanation of the 'phenomenon' they were reporting on by including videos of scientists explaining how mirages work!

I don't think any amount of science can help them when it comes to poor language translation and lack of basic reference checking however.  However if one thing should come out of this whole thing it is that real people have died in this very real flood.  Hopefully there's a very real but very unfortunate story that the media SHOULD be covering instead.

The Video Landmarks for your Reference:
For easy identification the coloured key and identifiable landmarks/buildings are marked for you below with the corresponding slides from the video.

Click to Enlarge Image
Huangshan City Mirage
Click to Enlarge : Not a 'mirage' after all,  Easy to identify Huangshan City landmarks in the video.

The Video (complete with incorrect reporting ) 
that started it all off


itchy8me said...

well done, thanks.

Ian T. said...

Excellent work, thanks for clearing this up!

Robindra said...

Thanks for this concise explanation. I saw it and was never truly convinced it was a mirage. To prove it was real someone would need to show a picture of the river before/after the mirage and one during.

D.B. Echo said...

Fantastic. When I saw this is was hoping that this was the most amazing Fata Morgana ever, but a look at Google Earth showed that there were lots of buildings visible downriver from almost every one of the bridges in Huangshan. Thank you for this excellent report putting this story to bed. Now, if you could clear up the issue of the dragon in the river in the north part of Huangshan...

Lucy said...

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Anonymous said...

Thanks Auki!

The fake story just arrived in my Facebook stream - good stories never die. I was doubtful, and googled to find an answer, but I run into these Blue laser and secret satellite projection conspiracies en masse. In my second attempt I finally found you.

Well done!

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