The Taishan Earthquake


The Taishan Earthquake was an earthquake that occurred in 1831 or 1652 B.C. in the Taishan region of China and was first recorded in the present-day Bamboo Book of Chronology. It is now recognized by most scholars as the earliest recorded earthquake in Chinese history.


According to statistics, the two major earthquake belts, the Pacific Rim and the Mediterranean-Himalayan, account for more than 90% of the total number of earthquakes in the world and release 95% of the total energy released by earthquakes in the world. China, which is right in between these two seismic zones, is one of the most active and intense countries in the world in terms of seismic activity. Because of the tradition of history revision in China, China has also become the country with the most abundant earthquake history in the world.

During the pre-Qin period, people’s understanding of earthquakes was based on primitive legends and nature worship, mixed with natural and supernatural factors. The original meaning of “earthquake” refers to thunderbolt, which comes from lightning. In spring, when the mussel opens its mouth, it is called “chen”, and the character “rain” is added to the upper part of “chen” to form “Zhen “. As “Zhou Yi – said Gua Chuan” said, “Zhen for thunder, for the dragon.”

China is an earthquake-prone country and has a history of over 4,000 years of recorded earthquakes. From 1177 B.C. to 1969 A.D., there were 2097 earthquakes of magnitude 5 and above, except for inaccurate information (some data are extrapolated from historical sources). There have been 18 earthquakes of magnitude 8 or higher since the records began.


The earliest record of earthquakes in Chinese history is found in the Bamboo Book of Records.

The earliest recorded earthquakes in history
The first recorded earthquake in Chinese history is found in the Bamboo Book of Chronicles, which reads: “The emperor Fa (a Hou Jing), assumed the throne in the first year of Yi You. …… seven years (about 1650 years ago) Zhi Zhi (death), Taishan earthquake.”

Qing – Xu Wenjing paper says: “Taishan earthquake, then there will be a generation to rise and the king, this is also its omen.”

This is the first time that the word “Zhen” appears in the whole book. Although the word “earthquake” is not preceded by the word “earth”, it was recorded in the tenth year of Xia Jie shortly afterwards that “the five stars were misplaced, and the stars fell like rain in the night, resulting in an earthquake”; and then in the Shang Dynasty, there was also Di B “Three years …… summer June, Zhou earthquake”. The earthquakes are all very clear. On the other hand, the word “earthquake” in the book also refers to thunder quake. It is not clear whether the word “earthquake” in Taishan Zhen refers to an earthquake or a thunderstorm. However, there are cases where the word “Zhen” is used alone to record earthquakes, such as in “The Book of the State” (Zhou Shu), where “in the third year of King You, the three rivers of the Western Zhou were shaken”, and the word “Zhen” is used to refer to earthquakes. According to this, it is very likely that the quake of Taishan refers to the earthquake, because a thunderbolt could not have shaken Taishan. The ancients liked to find explanations for the rise and fall of the country and the change of emperors from natural disasters, and the above quoted note of Xu’s paper can be a proof that the use of earthquakes as a sign of the rise of the emperor was in line with the historical view of the rise and fall of natural disasters at that time. (According to “Compilation of Historical Materials on Earthquakes in Shandong Province” and “Recent Activity of Faults in Tai’an Area of Shandong Province and the “Taishan Earthquake”” by Chao Hongtai et al.)

If so, the “Taishan earthquake” is the earliest recorded earthquake in Chinese history.

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