China Earthquake Foreshadows Withdrawal of the Mandate of Heaven

But probably not.

It’s eerie just the same. Manolo Quezon wrote about the Mandate of Heaven in his column yesterday and, as if to illustrate the point, a 7.9-magnitude magnitude earthquake, as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey , hits Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, the most populous part of China, bordering the Tibetan region. Striking in mid-afternoon, it was felt across the country in Beijing, and as far away as Vietnam and Cambodia. At least 10,000 people have been killed, up to 5,000 of them in one county alone, Beichuan , about 50 km. from the epicenter. Many more have been killed and injured in other parts of the country.

At least two large schools, each with nearly 1,000 students, were reduced to rubble, trapping the children inside.

Rescue and relief efforts are ongoing, and the actual magnitude of the destruction has yet to be known.

As explained by MLQ III:

The ancient Chinese believed that the “mandate of Heaven” was revealed by tangible signs, such as flood or famine. Such misfortunes were indications that the legitimacy of a ruler was waning.

According to the BBC:

The death toll could turn out to be much higher once the damage in Wenchuan county – the epicentre – is assessed, says BBC China analyst Shirong Chen.

The area is very rugged, full of mountains and valleys and a number of roads are connected with bridges from one mountain top to the next, he says.

A top official from the region, Wang Bin, appealed for outside help quickly.

“We are in urgent need of tents, food, medicine and satellite communications equipment through air drop,” he said. “We also need medical workers to save the injured people here.”

There were fears that China’s programme to save the endangered giant panda may have been affected.

Wenchuan county is home to the Wolong Nature Reserve, the country’s leading research and breeding base for pandas – but the centre could not be reached by phone.

The earthquake was China’s worst since 242,000 people were killed in 1976 by the Tangshan quake.

Sichuan province is the most populated part of China – home to 87 million people.

Even the pandas were not spared. This is surely a bad omen.

According to this celestial rule, Heaven, or whoever deities are running the show up there, would bless the authority of a just and wise ruler, but Heaven would be displeased with an unjust or just plain inept ruler and withdraw its Mandate and give it to someone else. The way the Chinese government had been treating the Tibetans, destroying the environment and generally behaving in a most inequitable manner, the more superstitious or most wishful would believe that the Mandate of Heaven is about to be withdrawn.

This heavenly formula seems a bit unjust, since although it’s the ruler who offends the gods, the brunt of Heaven’s wrath is borne by the masses, in the form of earthquakes, floods and other cataclysms.

But even though the situation looks dire, it could have been worse. According to reports, China’s massive Three Gorges dam, the world’s largest, about 350 miles to the east of the epicenter, was not affected by the earthquake, although the area around the huge dam remains precarious as rising waters in the enormous reservoir have led to landslides. This comes at a most inconvenient time too, just before the Beijing Olympic games.

Realistically, of course, the Mandate of Heaven is not in any immediate danger of being withdrawn from Hu Jintao and the rest of the Communist Party Central Committee. Mao Zedong during his time, led China through social upheaval, famine, flood, earthquakes and various disasters, the most destructive having been instigated by Mao himself, like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Yet he held on to power until his death, even though he was under the sway of the Gang of Four in his later years.

But one never knows. It therefore behooves the Beijing leadership to be on their best behavior, as Heaven may be watching.

No hope for children buried in earthquake.

For couples who adhered to China’s one-child policy and who lost an only child in the massive earthquake, the tragedy has been doubly cruel. Robbed of their sole progeny and a hope for the future, they find it even harder to restart their shattered lives, haunted by added guilt, regret and gnawing loss.

Tiny bodies in a morgue, and grief in China.

Quake death toll now close to 15,000 as an estimated 25,000 remain buried under rubble.

The earthquake is a chilling reminder of the country’s seismic vulnerability, forever linked to the devastation of the Tangshan quake in 1976 which killed more than 240,000.

The Chinese rescue efforts ought to shame, or at least instruct, Burma.

The rush to bury the dead has forced the Chinese to dispense with ceremony, closing the door on any opportunity family members have of identifying their kin and upsetting the traditional Chinese reverence for the deceased.More than 60,000 people have died in China’s greatest natural disaster in three decades.

China mourns, but finds the community spirit to begin picking up the pieces.

5 thoughts on “China Earthquake Foreshadows Withdrawal of the Mandate of Heaven”

  1. The official Xinhua News Agency said that as of today (13 May 2008) about 12,000 people are already confirmed dead, while another 10,000 were still buried under rubble.

    According to reports from CBS and AP, aftershocks with magnitudes as great as 6.0 on the Richter scale continued to jolt the region.

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