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Earthquakes in China — History, Predictions, What To Do

The Great Wall of ChinaThe Great Wall, and Beijing tourism in general, is at very low risk of being affected by an earthquake.

Planning a trip to China requires planning out the perfect itinerary for your needs. But how do you prepare for the possibility of something unplanned, such as an earthquake? China Highlights takes great care in making sure your trip is structured and adaptable to any needs that may arise.

We have provided this page to help put your mind at ease about navigating travel in China with regards to the possibility of earthquakes. We will provide you with current predictions and tips for what to do in the rare event an earthquake does occur during your travels.

China's Earthquake History

While no sustained threat of earthquakes exists, China does have a long history of devastating natural phenomena, including earthquakes. In fact, the site of world's most devastating earthquake took place near Shaanxi. However, this was in the year 1556 during the Ming Dynasty and has yet to be rivaled in China or elsewhere. The world's third and fourth most deadly earthquakes also happened in China in 1976 and 1920 in the cities of Tangshan and Haiyuan respectively.

Earthquakes in Modern Day China

In more recent history, China has experienced few earthquakes throughout its vast territory that have had little impact on travel for international visitors. The most recent earthquake at the time of publication is the Guangxi (Wuzhou) earthquake of 2016. This was a minor event, and though felt in the city of Guilin, it had no impact on tourism.

This is fairly common as most earthquakes tend to occur in non-tourist areas of western China or are too weak to have a significant impact. For example, the Assam/Tibet earthquake of 1950 is regarded as the largest to take place in the 20th century and has been studied extensively but had a low death rate of 1,500 to 3,300 people due to the isolated nature of the area. See our coverage of recent earthquakes and how they affected China tourism:

nepal earthquake news update

We provided travel information on areas affected following the Nepal quake in May 2015.

Earthquake Predictions for China

Earthquake predictions can help determine when and where a future event could happen, but are subject to imperfect algorithms and the erratic behavior of the Earth's tectonic plates. Current predictions suggest the next significant earthquake in China might occur between 2016 and 2019.

China is currently 10th in the world for likelihood of a 6.5+ earthquake [2016]. Relatively nearby Japan is first in the world, but it's far enough away to only affect the east coast of China in the event of a tsunami, or nuclear disaster followed by a strong easterly wind.

Most At-Risk Areas

China has been the sight of three of the top ten deadliest earthquakes known in human history. This is due in part to seismic activity and large, condensed populations. A few areas are known to experience more earthquakes on average when compared with other parts of China. These areas include: Sichuan Province, Tibet, Yunnan Province, and Taiwan.

Prediction efforts are still developing and as technology advances. The Chinese Earthquake Administration (CEA) takes great care in gathering data in all provinces and working to ensure the safety of citizens and visitors. In fact, in 1975 many lives were saved through early evacuation of the Haicheng area after seismologists reported activity the day before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake rocked the area.

Low/No Risk Areas

Looking at the history of data relating to China reveals that some areas are indeed less likely to experience significant seismic events. Much of the eastern portions of China have experienced very few, if any, destructive events caused by earthquakes. Cities such as Shanghai and Beijing are at very low risk of experiencing an earthquake according to current interpretations of data.

Tips for Travelers in the Event of an Earthquake

a train station in ChinaIn an earthquake, find shelter, keep calm, and don't try to exit until safe to do so.

China Highlights details the current safety and security situation in China in detail regularly. We like to keep our customers up to date on all relevant tourism information to ensure your trip is enjoyable and that you are prepared for emergencies in China. Likewise, we also encourage travelers to check in with their country's embassy to read up on safety in your intended travel area.

Follow these tips to stay prepared and know how to react if you experience an earthquake while traveling.

Be Prepared

  • Stay connected to your guide and family, letting them know where you will be at all times.
  • Keep up-to-date with the news. Websites like earthquakepredict.com and world-earthquakes.com provide a potential warning service (earthquake prediction is not a very accurate science, but this is better than nothing).
  • Make sure you understand the earthquake evacuation plan for your hotel/building.
  • Notify your embassy of your stay.

How To React

  • Cover your neck and head with your arms, pillows, etc.
  • Take shelter under a secure structure (desk, table, doorway, etc.).
  • Wait for the noise and shaking to subside before moving from your location.
  • Get clear of damaged buildings or debris.
  • If you are in a coastal area, evacuate to higher ground.
  • Contact your nearest embassy and relatives (and China Highlights if traveling with us).

What Is Likely To Occur

In the event of an earthquake, it is likely that communication and transportation lines will be affected directly after. You can expect that airports, train stations, and other transportation terminals will be inactive directly following a significant seismic event.

The Chinese government is quick to respond to all forms of natural disaster, and the lines should reopen as quickly as possible. In the meantime, you can contact China Highlights for a change in itinerary. We are here to help all our visitors make it to their intended destinations as safely and smoothly as possible.

Planning Your Trip To China

Earthquakes in China

Let China Highlights take you on the adventure of a lifetime to China's greatest sights and cities with one of our popular tour packages

Your safety and enjoyment are our top priority and we will work hard to make your trip a success. Plan a custom tour with us to highlight unique areas on your bucket list.

With a China-based travel agency like ourselves, you'll have a ready local resource to help in the event of an emergency.

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