1556 Shaanxi earthquake

Magnitude 8 Earthquake (23 Janaury 1556) in Shaanxi, China; regarded as deadliest earthquake in recorded history

The 1556 Shaanxi earthquake was a very bad earthquake that occurred on the morning of 23 January 1556 in Shaanxi, during the Ming Dynasty. It killed around 830,000 people, making it the worst earthquake in human history by number of deaths.[1]

Map of China showing the modern-day Shaanxi province (red) and the other provinces affected by the earthquake (orange).

More than 97 counties in the provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Gansu, Hebei, Shandong, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu and Anhui were affected.[2] The earthquake destroyed a 840-kilometre-wide (520 mi) area.[3] In some counties, 60% of the population was killed.[4] It had a magnitude of around 8.0.

At the time, many people in that area lived in homes they made from artificial caves. Loess, the material that made these caves, is known to be very weak and can cause landslides. Scholars believe that is why so many people had died.


  1. International Association of Engineering Geology International Congress. Proceedings. [1990] (1990). ISBN 90-6191-664-X.
  2. Science Museums of China Archived 2006-06-14 at the Wayback Machine Museum of Earthquakes, Ruins of Hua County Earthquake (1556)
  3. "China's History of Massive Earthquakes". 12 May 2008. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  4. Earthquake page of Dr. George P. C.

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