24. Disaster Strikes Shaanxi in 1556
Ming Dynasty China was rocked by a massive earthquake early in the morning of January 23rd, 1556. It was the epicenter in the Wei River Valley’s Huazhou District, in Shaanxi. Damage across a region stretching for hundreds of miles was extensive, and the loss of life was horrific. Because it occurred during the reign of the Jiaging Emperor, the earthquake is often referred to in traditional Chinese history as the Jiajing Earthquake. Today, it is more commonly known as the Shaanxi Earthquake of 1556. Whatever the designation, it proved to be the most catastrophic earthquake in human history.
The upheaval lasted for only a few seconds, but the results were astonishing. Mountains were leveled, fissures up to 66 feet deep were opened, river paths were altered, massive flooding and massive landslides occurred, and extensive fires were ignited that lasted for days. Over half the population of Huazhou was killed, as every single home and building was destroyed in an upheaval that probably registered 8 on the Richter scale.