The Deadliest Earthquake of all times

The Deadliest Earthquake – 1556 Jiajing Great Earthquake


Jiajing Great Earthquake as it is referred to in Chinese Historical Record is the deadliest earthquake of all times. Imagine a total of 830,000 people who lost their lives because of this. Although there may have been other earthquake with higher magnitude, Jiajing Great Earthquake is still regarded as the deadliest earthquake and the fifth deadliest disaster in history.

Shaanxi Map
Shaanxi Map
Emperor Jiajing of Ming Dynasty
Emperor Jiajing of Ming Dynasty

Jiajing the Earthquake, Jiajing the Emperor


It is often called the Jiajing Great Earthquake because it occurred during the reign of the ruthless ruler, Emperor Jiajing of Ming Dynasty. It is also referred as Shaanxi Earthquake because its epicenter was near Mount Hua in Shaanxi. It happened in the morning of January 23, 1556. It has a magnitude of 8 and an estimated intensity of XI. The earthquake was responsible for destroying 98 counties and eight provinces in Central China, but mostly in the Province of Shaanxi. The destruction extended over an area of 500 miles. In some of the counties, the average death toll was estimated to be about 60 percent of the population.

Chinese Historical Records

The Chinese Annals shows the following records pertaining to this earthquake:

''In the winter of 1556 AD, an earthquake catastrophe occurred in the Shaanxi and Shanxi Provinces. In our Hua County, various misfortunes took place. Mountains and rivers changed places and roads were destroyed. In some places, the ground suddenly rose up and formed new hills, or it sank in abruptly and became new valleys. In other areas, a stream burst out in an instant, or the ground broke and new gullies appeared. Huts, official houses, temples and city walls collapsed all of a sudden.''

Earthquake Records by Qin Keda
Earthquake Records by Qin Keda

Lesson Learned


Qin Keda a scholar and survivor of this earthquake recorded details of it. He concluded that people who are inside the house should not go out immediately for it could be more dangerous outside. They should just crouch down and wait for chances. He even says that “Even if the nest is collapsed, some eggs in it may still be kept intact." This figurative statement may mean that many people were killed because they are trying to escape while some who just stayed inside may have survived

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Comments 15 comments

Philipo 7 years ago


Ambersky profile image

Ambersky 7 years ago from Brisbane

Intresting information one day I hope to get to China


Charia Samher profile image

Charia Samher 7 years ago Author

Thank you, Philipo!

Thanks Ambersky! China has rich cultures and traditions; I hope to get there someday too.


guidebaba profile image

guidebaba 7 years ago from India

Great Research and Good Article, Charia. Keep it up !


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Great Charia! You can check out my Shaking up Safety hub about the Sichuan Earthquake in China last year.


Charia Samher profile image

Charia Samher 7 years ago Author

Thank you, guidebaba!

Hi cindyvine, I'll make sure to check it out! Thank you for the visit!


Haunty profile image

Haunty 7 years ago from Hungary

"Imagine a total of 830,000 people who lost their lives because of this." Well, I'd rather not do that, thanks. :)

Btw, did you know that in the ancient world, especially before Christianity, the King was also a priest in charge of the religious cult of the country? When a big disaster or misfortune occured to the nation, people sometimes thought it was because their ruler became corrupted, lost his purity and with that the ability to connect with the divine. I don't know if this happened in China, but in Europe many royal craniums had to roll, because of such things as a devastating earthquake. Great hub!


Charia Samher profile image

Charia Samher 7 years ago Author

Thanks Haunty for the additional insight. Yes I've thought of that too, although there were no assumptions written with regards to that. And Yes It's hard to imagine, huh close to a million! Horrible!


Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

Wow. Nature can truly be awe inspiring. Thanks for the info, I enjoyed your hub.


Charia Samher profile image

Charia Samher 7 years ago Author

Thank you Paper Moon.


Dottie1 profile image

Dottie1 7 years ago from MA, USA

What a frightening day that must have been. The details recorded by Qin Keda is great information.


Charia Samher profile image

Charia Samher 7 years ago Author

Yes Dottie, it might have been a nightmare!


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Whenever we experienced earthquakes (even those little tremors that happened in a few seconds) I just freeze inside and pray. This must have been really frightening.


Charia Samher profile image

Charia Samher 7 years ago Author

Hi teacher Michelle, what we can hope for is for this horrible thing not to happen again. To pray is the best thing we can do because we don't have any control when nature struck.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Yes you are right. :-)

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