Faulty Business – Earthquakes in China

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Usually, when people are thinking about earthquakes in Asia, Japan most often comes to mind. It is not as well known, however, that China too has its fair share of twists and shakes, geologically speaking.

Photo by openDemocracy

An earthquake is called 地震 (Dìzhèn -literally “earth-shake”) in Chinese, and these devastating natural disasters typically show up in China’s western provinces. This is because of the many fault lines which lay in this area, including the precarious Longmenshan Fault ( 龙门山断层- Lóngmén shān duàncéng), which runs along the Longmen Mountains in Sichuan Province. The fault is actually a thrust fault, meaning part of the lower Sichuan basin is thrusting up over the higher Tibetan plateau. When the two plates lining the fault slip, earthquakes are triggered. In fact, this area is home to some of the world’s most devastating earthquakes, such as the deadly 7.9 magnitude Sichuan Earthquake (May, 2008), which killed over 60,000 people, and the more recent 6.9 magnitude Ya’an earthquake, which occurred on April 20th of this year and killed over 200 people.

But just how do Chinese people act during these terrible events? Well, the official protocol is not far off from what we are told in the West. Actually, there is a Chinese word for this, called 黄金三角区 (Huángjīn sānjiǎo qū – golden triangle) or sometimes 活命三角区 (Huómìng sānjiǎo qū – survival triangle). The term refers to the safest structure you can find if you are inside a building while an earthquake is occurring. The idea is that if you find a space that will make a triangle if something were to fall (i.e. in a corner, under a sofa), that structure would protect you from further falling debris – quite common sense, but helpful none the less. So, if you ever spend time in southwest China’s Sichuan province, don’t forget your golden triangles! Also be sure to check out this week’s earthquake related lesson: Intermediate – Earthquake Evacuation.


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S Chen

About S Chen

Director of My Learning Club Pty Ltd. Owner of Learn Chinese Cairns
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