Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

China: Seismologist Claims Sichuan Earthquake Was Predicted

Li Shihui, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), exposed in his blog that the Sichuan earthquake on May 12 was already predicted at an earlier time. In spite of the various rumors of earthquake omens which are flooded on the Internet, Li's specialty and systematic statement have helped him gain many people's confidence, even after his controversial articles are deleted by the network administrator.

The front page of Li's blog

Clicked on the relevant articles of Li's blog, the page appears to be”Sorry, the blog you visit doesn't exist.”

A copy of Li Shihui's article on

地震预报专家欲哭无泪 :今天的强震有人预报

中国科学院工程地质力学重点实验室   李世煇
2008-05-12 23:45:02





Seismologist with tearless grief: Today's strong quake was predicted
Key Laboratory of Engineering Geomechanics, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Li Shihui
2008-05-12 23:45:02
Under the direction of the modern science and technology of Western World, the forecast of destructive earthquake(over 5 magnitude) is impossible, especially the imminent earthquake prediction, which has been a general consensus in the seismology world. From this point of view, there is no way to well predict the Tangshan earthquake 32 years ago or today's Wenchuan earthquake. The TV program “Read News Everyday”(有报天天读)of Phoenix mentioned: some newspapers said the calamity of Tangshan earthquake is “mainly caused by human error” ; the anchor of “Debate on Current Affairs”(时事辩论会) said: if China had accepted the international aid, hundreds of thousands of people would have survived. Those opinions are not in accord with the facts. The truth is the tragedy might have been avoided if authorities had accepted the views of the scientists, who combined the research of the east and the west. Please refer to the relevant articles I copied or published in my blog.
During 1970‘s, a group of young seismologists in China had achieved great results which were well ahead of the world level by studying the essence of Chinese traditional culture(including the methods that fully make use of the historical documents and “analogy drawn from phenomena”). For example, according to the statistics of the relationship between drought and earthquake throughout the ages(including 1956-1970), Geng Qingguo discovered a law that “the epicentral region always suffered droughts 1-3.5 years before the earthquake over 6 magnitude. Besides, the larger the drought region occupied and the longer the drought lasted, the higher the corresponding magnitude would be.” (2-3.5 years after the long droughts during 512-1879AD, seven 7.5-8 magnitude earthquakes had occurred in China) In 1972, Geng Qingguo put forward a theory of “medium-term earthquake prediction based on the relationship between drought and quake”. By that law, Geng Qingguo successfully predicted the Haicheng earthquake in 1975 and especially the Tangshan earthquake in 1976. In 1980's, He published his treatise The Relationship between Drought and Earthquake in China (Science Press). However, those achievements challenged the powers in the Chinese seismology circle, so Geng Qingguo was shunted from the prediction team to an earthquake newspaper office.
Today is May 12, 2008, Chinese seismologist Geng Qingguo is suffering with tearless grief. In 2006, according to the relationship between drought and earthquake he predicted in recent years there would be a serious earthquake over 7 magnitude in Aba autonomous region. After a group discussion on April 26 and 27, 2008, Committee of Natural Hazards Prediction subordinate to Chinese Geophysical Society (CGS) reported that “a 6-7 magnitude earthquake may occur to the south of Lanzhou, around the borders of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.” (the written report had been sent to the China Earthquake Administration by confidential letter on April 30). What's more, Geng Qingguo clearly indicated that “the dangerous point of an earthquake over 7 magnitude in Aba region is on May 8 (within 10 days before or later)” in accordance with the magnetic storm Combinations.(The prediction above had obviously pointed out all the three essential factors). Geng Qingguo, an undoubted national treasure, is excluded by the earthquake experts of mainstream, and can only depend on a meager pension to continue his research. The pity is what this old seismologist said didn't make any difference.
I am filled with grief and indignation. I was wondering if there will come a day when Geng Qingguo, Wang Chengmin, Ren Zhenqiu and Wangdixing such national treasure are not frozen out any more, and freely work for the rejuvenation of China.


A picture taken before the “From Haicheng Earthquake to Qinglong Miracle Conference” on December 17, 2006. The one siting left is Geng Qingguo, Wang Chengmin on the right and Li Shihui in the middle.

The mass circulation of Li Shihui's article in the blogsphere and BBSs has provoked more criticism on China Earthquake Administration which did not publish any warning before the dreadful earthquake while some other netizens expressed their doubt about Li's unofficial statement.

Comments on KDNET:

作者:东风51 发布于 2008-5-15 0:11:55

Author: Eastwind 51 Posted on 2008-5-15 0:11:55

In a word, the information about the earthquake should be treated with scientific and realistic attitude. Tell the people that those information is neither rumors nor totally reliable truth. I believe people will understand that. To deal with the situation only by violent ideological confrontation can only backfire. The authorities should learn the lesson.
On the other hand, it is really inadvisable to give too much emphasis to Geng Qingguo's prediction, because before the earthquake no one knew whether his prediction was right or not.
Someone may believe that it's a case involving human life, so the authorities should have paid more attention to his prediction. However, those friends may not know there are hundreds and thousands of such kind of prediction. it's not easy for the authorities to pick the valuable out of vast information.

作者:后台操作 发布于 2008-5-15 0:21:34

Author: Background Operation Posted on 2008-5-15 0:21:34
To hell with political needs!

作者:李三来也 发布于 2008-5-15 3:28:16

If the thing is true, the head of the Earthquake Administration should be handed over to the justice!

Comments on Tianya:

作者:中国结3 发布于 2008-5-14 11:13
如果地震局的领导有一丝人性的话 这样的预报至少也应该引起他的一些重视吧 密而不发 他居心何在!!让他去和温总理一起到四川 去挖那些遇难者!!

Author: Chinese Knot 3 Posted on 2008-5-14 11:13
If the head of the Earthquake Administration still had a little humanity, at least he should have paid some attention to the prediction, but he just kept it as secret. What was he up to!! Let him go to Sichuan with Premier Wen and unearth those victims.

作者:游客 发表于 2008-5-14 12:04

Author:Guest Posted on 2008-5-14 12:04
Our country is doing all that which is to be done, but whether the Earthquake Administration carried out their responsibilities? Is there a negligence of duty?? Should the authorities call the Earthquake Administration to account??? All the people are proud of Premier Wen, the rescue officers and soldiers, the medical personnel and the reporters; When those people who are negligent of their duties mourn for the dead, is it necessary to let them experience the bereaved family's feelings???
I have no idea of Seismology and I am not sure whether the person mentioned in the article is a Seismologist. If so, it's really a big woe of China. If China does not value talents, the country will…

作者:游客 发布于 2008-5-14 13:06

Author:Guest Posted on 2008-5-14 12:04
I don't think it's a negligence of duty or problems of prediction capability, but a terrible fear of responsibilities. If the predicted earthquake occurs, the prediction become an honor, but more often the prediction will fail, and in that case who is going to be responsible for the failure? From the technical experts to the chief executive, who is willing to take the risks?

作者:游客 发布于 2008-5-16 3:46

Author:Guest Posted on 008-5-16 3:46
I was in doubt about the earthquake at very beginning. The officials of Earthquake Administration are still practicing Tai chi chuan, prevaricating with a excuse that prediction and early warning are impossible. Bullshit!The work of this Earthquake Administration is only to measure the quake magnitude?
Poor Chinese!!!!! We have lost so many little lives!!!!!!!


  • Sonagi


    It is a gamble either way whether or not to take precautions. In the Qinglong case, the first precaution was to educate citizens on staying safe in an earthquake and looking for natural signs of an impending quake, a low cost measure. When seismology readings and unusual natural phenomena like well water turning muddy and animals moving bizarrely suggested that a quake was imminent, then tents were set up about two days before the quake. Only 60% of residents moved into the tents, so the safety tips themselves, such as keeping doors and windows open for easy escape, seemed to have helped. In fact, that is how a visiting doctor from Qinglong managed to survive the collapse of a house in Tangshan where he was staying. Thirty years ago, even in a large city like Tangshan, people probably could have left their doors open and felt safe, but nowadays, that is an option only for villages.

    I recall reading that all the doors but one were locked in one school which collapsed with high casualties during the recent earthquake. I’d guess the doors were chained and weren’t the kind of that are locked on the outside but able to be opened from the inside. Fires are a more likely risk than earthquakes, and chaining doors in buildings where there are people inside is unsafe anywhere anytime.

    The key thing is for citizens to have access to information and make their own choices.

  • subjectivelistener

    The most effective way to counter Earthquake is not through prediction. Personally, I doubt that it is so easy to predict. I heard they use statistics to do it. It implies it is irregular and only PROBABILITY can be predicted. With many years working experience in dealing with statistics, I fully doubt that it is >50% predictable.

    So, what is the most effective way to deal with earth quake? Simple, make sure all the houses to be earth quake proof. That will prevent the disaster more effectively.

    In manufacturing, we believe in preventive actions instead of check or inspection.

  • Sonagi

    So, what is the most effective way to deal with earth quake? Simple, make sure all the houses to be earth quake proof. That will prevent the disaster more effectively.

    Agreed, and of course, not only houses but schools and other public buildings. The images of students being pulled out of the rubble of collapsed schools is heart-wrenching.

  • Knights

    We all learned from our mistakes. This earthquake is a tragedy, we hope this will be a good lesson learned. Hence earth-quake proof standards will apply to all buildings.

  • fake

    i’ve searched internet for the original web page and copies of Li Shihui’s story, they seemed all have been banned. however, i found that some blog hoster claiming that they have been fooled by Li Shihui with his fake story, one said he has logged on the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)’s website and found there is no staff nor scientist called ‘Li Shihui’. There had been examples of people faking stories like ‘earthquake predicted’ after the disaster in order to make themself famous or just for fun.

  • my_mother

    Meng Zhang:

    I was wondering when this stuff was going to make it in to wikipedia. Fake or not, it made it in there several days ago in the “Earthquake Prediction” section. Check under the “Earthquake prediction in China” subsection. Just thought you might be interested in it.

    Anyhow, I appreciate your honesty in your response to my query above.

    The reason I posted the query above is that drought is not a unique earthquake precursor. That is, drought can occur through a multiplicity of reasons. So there isn’t a straight forward (one-to-one) correspondence between drought and earthquake.

    That kind of makes it a bit hard to use drought as a reliable earth quake predictor. So, I was kind of curious as what other variables / parameters besides drought were used. I don’t have access to those articles, but I was hoping may be you or one of reader might.

    Also, whenever people make strong claims about anything when the evidence or detail is kind skimpy , we have to look at it with a certain degree of skepticism.

    At the same time, I am not arguing that the claim that the 5.12 earthquake was predicted well in advance is complete false. It is just that it’s an unsubstantiated claim. It should remain so until there is evidence showing otherwise.

    So, I kind of share the same sentiment as Li above —“有本事现在把余震的时间和级别预测出来让大家看看.”

    Again, thank you for your honesty.


  • I’m so delighted with this site – my first time here and having a blast with all these wonderful articles.

    Living in Southern California – this is of great interest to me. I wish we could predict these.

    The standards of building here and the retrofitting still leave a lot to be desired and I hope we have nothing to test in anytime soon. Retrofitting is taking far too long after our Northridge quake.

  • hillary

    its so sad to hear that all those children died in the schools. i saw the newspaper and none of the kindergartners survived.

  • chan

    Abstracted From Wiki, “Since 1994, Zhonghao Shou, a retired Chinese chemist living in New York, has made dozens of earthquake predictions based on cloud patterns in satellite images, and claims to have a 70% accuracy. Stress and friction in the ground can vaporize water long before the earthquake happens, according to Shou, and clouds formed through these mechanisms are distinctively shaped. He has identified five different types of earthquake cloud, including “line-shaped”, “feather-shaped”, and “lantern shaped” clouds. He claims that an earthquake will take place within 103 days of the appearance of one of these clouds, and that the average time is 30 days. On December 25, 2003, one day before the Bam earthquake, he predicted an earthquake of mag. 5.5+ within 60 days over a fault line in Iran. Due to this correct prediction, in May 2004, he was invited to a workshop by the UN and the Iranian Space”
    Hope one day earth quake can be coorectly and accurrately predicted to prevent loss of lifes

  • Re:
    I had predicted a major earthquake between the 13th to 20th of May 2008 a whole hydrological year in advance. I had predicted the longitude band 100-120 a week in advance. This would have been useful to proactive earthquake disaster monitoring and action authorities immensely. I base my prediction on the fact that Indian dams are causing worldwide earthquakes because of the peculiar characteristics of the Indian monsoon. See and
    The latter tells the story of the ability of the method in warning such authorities of the calamity. Yes, the disaster in Wenchuan could have been prevented.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site