Earthquake

The events described in this account occurred during Kangxi,  the name given to the reign period of the 2nd Qing emperor, which lasted from 1661 to 1722 AD.

In the evening on the 17th day of the 6th month in the 7th year of Kangxi, there was a major earthquake. I happened to be visiting my cousin Li Duzhi in Jixia and was drinking with him by candlelight. Suddenly we heard a sound like thunder coming from the south-east and heading north-west. Everyone was astonished and unsure of the cause. Presently the tables began to sway and the wine cups were overturned. The roofbeams, rafters and pillars produced a grinding, twisting sound. We looked at each other and turned pale.

   Eventually we realized it was an earthquake and each of us swiftly rushed outside. We saw all manner of buildings thrown down and lifted back up, while the sound of walls and houses collapsing mingled with the howls of women and children in a seething cauldron of noise. People, too dizzy to stand, sat on the ground and were tossed around by the earth movements. The river water was thrown up more than ten feet high and the clucking of chickens and barking of dogs filled the town.

   After about an hour things calmed down a little. Looking at the street, naked men and women had gathered together, all talking over each other, forgetting they had no clothes on. Later I heard that the well in some place had tilted and couldn’t be used and the pavilion of some family had changed direction from south to north. In Qixia a hill split open and in Jishui a sinkhole appeared several mu wide. The transformation was truly extraordinary.

 

   There was a local woman who got up during the night to urinate and upon returning found a wolf with her son in its mouth. The woman frantically struggled with the wolf. As soon as the wolf relaxed its jaws, the woman snatched the boy out of its mouth and held him in her arms, but the wolf crouched down and wouldn’t leave. The woman shouted out and, when a group of neighbours hurried over, the wolf finally left.

   As her shock turned to relief, the woman described with wild gestures and florid words how the wolf had the boy in its mouth and how she snatched him out. After a long time, she suddenly realized she didn’t have a stitch on and ran off. This is the same state of affairs as the men and women forgetting themselves during the earthquake. It’s so laughable how people panic and lose the plot!