May 12

512 Wenchuan Earthquake

Written by Nimrod on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 12:00 am
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Today is the Anniversary of the Wenchuan Earthquake. In the past year, I have treasured a number of particularly powerful photographs that epitomized this event. I share them with you now with no further comment, because they can tell this story of great tragedy and even greater hope, in ways that no words can.

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(Share your interpretations, thoughts, views on this slideshow and anything related… You are welcome to share more photos and stories with us, too.)

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28 Responses to “512 Wenchuan Earthquake”

  1. Allen Says:

    Thanks for putting this up. But how exactly could readers share photos? Should they email picts to the admin?

  2. Nimrod Says:

    I was thinking posting links? We can turn them into image tags.

  3. shane9219 Says:




  4. TonyP4 Says:

    Thanks! Powerful pictures that bring out a lot of emotion.

    Here is one link of many links for more pictures: http://www.myowneyes.org/category/asia/china-disaster/

    China has more than its share of disasters, natural and man-made. From recent history, we have farmer army turned to killers/rapers in the end of Ming, then the opium pushers from the west, the barbarians from Japan in WW2, Mao’s disasters and two major earthquakes.

    This one demonstrates China can survive better than before. We need to prepare for the next disaster. Enforce building codes at a reasonable cost.

  5. Shane9219 Says:

    “5.12汶川地震”记录—— Saving 陈坚





  6. Shane9219 Says:



  7. Shane9219 Says:

    @TonyP4 #4

    We need to look at Mao’s mistakes from a broad perspective. Those mistakes were made partially due to his limitation and personal traits, and partially due to extreme external pressures. It is very hard for ordinary people like us to accurately describe the situations that top leaders had to face. It is a similar situation when we come to discuss Bush #43’s mistakes.

    Mao Zhedong, first and foremost, is a great visionary and nationalistic political leader who made a genuinely independent China into reality. His political contribution provided a solid foundation for China to fully realize her potential for years to come.

    Mao is also a avid thinker and great military strategist. Not many people in this world are capable of standing next to him even counting those political mistakes he made.

    China’s next leader, Deng Xiaoping, is of course equally important in China’s modern history. He prepared a solid foundation for China’s industrialization and modernization, personally pushed the reform and open-up movement.

  8. TonyP4 Says:

    @Shane #7.

    How successful is a leadership can only be judged by his contribution to his citizens. In the most simplest term, how many millions of his citizens die of hunger because of his mis governance. Deng to me is a great leader from how many millions are lifted from poverty by his vision.

  9. Shane9219 Says:


    Using a broad perspective requires us to look at things with long views. That means a leader’s impact on civilization, globe issues etc.

    Mao did offer a somewhat wild and unorthodox leadership that many people from “civilized” world would want to keep a personal distance. But he was a great leader from those wild years.

    Last year, there was a famous oil portrait called “Dscussion with Dante” by three Chinese painters. He was painted next to Lincoln


  10. pug_ster Says:

    This is truly sad event yet the Western Media seems to be gloating all over this story. MSNBC and CBS is running stories about ‘shoddy construction’ in the schools yet Western Media never complained about ‘shoddy construction’ in a much weaker earthquake has leveled buildings in Italy a month ago. Associated press is running the same kind of garbage too.

  11. TonyP4 Says:

    We have to admit ‘a lot of shoddy construction’ in China. Many bad constructions abound.

    China is a developing country and we cannot be judged from a yardstick of a developed country. If China is rich (not now judging by the per capita income), there is no reason we cannot spend money on well-constructed houses.

    If the ‘shoddy construction’ is due to corruption and/or relaxed building codes, shame on us.

    Italy had a weaker earthquake. Most houses shown on TV demonstrated they’re better constructed and I believe there is no fatality.

  12. raventhorn4000 Says:

    1 Western article wrote on the Chinese Earthquake as the inevitable consequence of rapid development and construction.

    Historically, Taiwan, even US, had shoddy constructions during time of boom.

    The reason is simple: When China was developing the remote regions in Sichuan, some of those little towns grew from small farming communities of a few 1000 people into a medium size town of about 1/4 million in about 5 years!! The local government simply does not have enough money to build infrastructures of water, electricity, hospitals, and schools for that speed of growth.

    Some schools are built shoddy, undoubtedly, because there is not enough money.

    It’s a choice between building a bunch of low quality schools for every body, or build a few really high quality schools for just a portion of the people.

    *additionally, I would like to add that at 8.0 magnitude, the mountains LIQUIDFY into mudslides. Foundations of buildings collapse.

    1 photo on AP, showed that 1 building completely intact, but tipped over, because its foundation had collapsed in the LIQUIDFIED mud.

    Well, it really won’t do you much good if the building is “up to code”, when it falls over.

    And let’s face it, no one really predicted that such a size Earthquake would have happened in Sichuan.

  13. Shane9219 Says:

    Western media personnel have been set themselves up with a confrontation with Chinese government. They lost the battle on Tibet issue (they are still banned if I am correct). Now they want to take up the earthquake issue.

    Unfortunately, they knew little about China and they also brought in biased views with their own agenda. Here is a good comment from last year.


    It’s clear western media personnel like to exaggerate and stretch the tension between average Chinese citizens and the government. They would be very happy to see any kind of social unrest, in order to proof their point as well as serving their customers to the notion that China is evil.

    The kind of social tension is there in every society, and can be very acute in any society undergoing rapid change. China has been handling internal tensions quite well since 1989 incident.

    Regarding the school building issue, they don’t know most of those buildings were built in 80’s when China started its compulsory education. A sudden influx of student population overwhelmed China’s education system, and the country was still quite poor and building code was not enforced seriously, especially at country side. Given that situation, it is hard to do finger pointing except on few selected cases if there are records to prove.

  14. huaren Says:

    The Sichuan earthquake was indeed sad. Few years ago, I went to jiuzhaigou from Chengdu by car and I remember distinctly how mountainous the region was. The rescue effort was monstrous as many narrow roads were blocked by landslides.

    I hope FM readers continue to donate towards Sichuan’s reconstruction. Remember, the first year after a massive quake is shelter and food. The follow-on years are all about helping them getting back to norm so one day the region can thrive again.

    I agree with Nimrod’s sentiment – I was really impressed by the outpouring of support and hope within China and around the world. For one, I thought there was general recognition around the world that the Chinese government/PLA were extremely responsive to the crisis.

    This story brought tears to my eyes and is one that I will always remember:


  15. barny chan Says:

    Shane9219 Says: “Western media personnel have been set themselves up with a confrontation with Chinese government.”

    This really isn’t the case.

    Western multinational media corporations are motivated solely by profit and view China purely as a future untapped market. It would be a very brave and foolhardy editor at any News Corp or Time Inc publication/network that would jeopardise the parent company’s commercial intentions by demonising China – they’d be out of a job within the week.

    “They lost the battle on Tibet issue (they are still banned if I am correct)”

    If anybody’s losing the propaganda battle regarding Tibet it’s China. Banning foreign journalists from Tibet plays straight into the hands of Tibetan independence campaigners.

    “the earthquake issue…they knew little about China and they also brought in biased views”

    So grant them unfettered access and let them learn more about the reality.

    “western media personnel like to exaggerate and stretch the tension between average Chinese citizens and the government…serving their customers to the notion that China is evil.”

    Unfounded paranoia. Even leaving aside the point I’ve made regarding commercial interests in the Chinese media market, there’s no incentive to demonise China as being evil – the majority of westerners harbour no hostility towards China and have a generally benign curiousity.

  16. shane9219 Says:

    @barny chan #15

    The large number of western media reports since last year tells the whole store, so no need to argue or cover it up. Here is an expert opinion article from LA Times on this issue.

    “Lack of news about China has nothing to do with bias
    – Comprehensive foreign coverage doesn’t fit into the financial structure of traditional mainstream media.”


    Here is an interview with a French diplomat


    “the majority of westerners harbour no hostility ..”

    Never said most westerners have a general hostility. Many of them including media personnels have geniunely good intention, yet knew very little about China. Their wish is to have China making an exact copy of western society.

  17. shane9219 Says:

    汶川地震一周年:肩并肩 心相连[组图]



  18. barny chan Says:

    shane9219 Says: “The large number of western media reports since last year tells the whole store”

    So what is the “whole story”? I’m not getting it from you or your links.

    “so no need to argue or cover it up.”

    There’s every need to argue, because you appear to be putting forward a totally false premise: “Western media personnel have been set themselves up with a confrontation with Chinese government”.

    “Here is an expert opinion article from LA Times on this issue…Here is an interview with a French diplomat”.

    I’ve no idea what conclusion you’re drawing from the comments of these two writers as they appear to contradict your own stated position.

    “Never said most westerners have a general hostility.”

    You claimed that the western media are in the business of “serving their customers to the notion that China is evil”. Why would their “customers” be receptive to the notion that “China is evil” if they were not inherently hostile?

    “Many of them including media personnels have geniunely good intention, yet knew very little about China.”

    I agree, but it would be just as valid to say of their Chinese counterparts: Many of them including media personnel have genuinely good intentions, yet know very little about the West.

    “Their wish is to have China making an exact copy of western society.”

    Absolute nonsense. Some in the west would like China to replicate western society, while others would like the west to replicate Chinese society (the latter position would be very popular with many western industrialists). The reality is that the majority of westerners, who are far more diverse than you’re giving them credit for, believe that both cultures have both positive and negative traits and could learn a great deal from each other.

  19. pug_ster Says:

    @Barny Chan,

    Unfortunately, those foreign reporters and tourists are guests in China, so they will have to respect the laws while they are in China. The laws in the US, EU, and other western countries doesn’t apply to them while they are in China. Recently there was a blog about this very same issue.


    Unfortunately, this reporter from FT who seems to want to get attention from the police and I wouldn’t be surprised that he is going to get deported.

    Edit: Journalists also have the same kind of restrictions from doing whatever they want. Here in the US there are numerous altercations between reporters and police over taping of crime scenes. In addition some reporters actually got convicted and jailed for crossing crime scenes.

  20. barny chan Says:

    @pug_ster, what’s your point? Journalists, just like everybody else, have to respect the law of the land whatever country they’re in or face the consequences. Have i suggested otherwise?

  21. Raj Says:

    Ravernthorn said:

    Historically, Taiwan, even US, had shoddy constructions during time of boom.

    Why is it that Chinese people’s defence of things that go wrong in China is often “country X wasn’t any different when it was developing”? No one has to develop with shoddy building standards. Surely the very fact other countries previously had building problems should serve as an example for the Chinese authorities to enforce tougher restrictions, rather than just let anything go because they’re poor, peasant families with few or no connections.

    Your position is like a Police chief responding to criticism of a high murder rate by saying “well other big cities around the world have high murder rates – it’s not unusual”. Nothing is inevitable.

    And let’s face it, no one really predicted that such a size Earthquake would have happened in Sichuan.

    What, ever? China has had its share of severe earthquakes too.

    In any case, even if you are right it’s quite irrelevant because many of the schools collapsed when other buildings sometimes survived. So unless you’re saying that it’s ok for schools to be built with less stringent standards than hotels, etc, it’s clear corners were cut even for normal building standards.

  22. shane9219 Says:

    @barny chan

    “I’m not getting it from you or your links …”

    There is another old thread covering this specific topic. So not interested spending too much time on this one


  23. barny chan Says:


    Yes, that thread covers the topic, but your comments on it are no more accurate or sustainable than your comments on this one.

  24. Charles Liu Says:

    Raj, here are some facts you may not be aware of (sources are in my “saving grace” comment):

    – There were many schools near the epicentor that didn’t collapse.

    – Some experts in China said shearing force varied throughout the region depending on soil condition; some area had increased quake magnitude due to sandy substrate, while buildings on rocky substrate fared better. It’s not as simple as blaming poor construction, as it is unlikely to be the sole factor.

    – The region’s quake standard in building code for the last 20-30 years was way below the quake that struck. Buildng that were permitted and built to old spec broke no law.

  25. Si-Si Says:

    Thanks for sharing. The song was fantastic accompaniment. The pictures still bring me to tears one year after the tragedy.

    Like the motto for the anniversary: 我们没有忘记;我们不能忘记。

  26. Si-Si Says:

    And I think comments about shotty construction are ludicrous. Although it should be a warning to inspect and regulate public construction from now on, the accusations against the government are quite pointless and harmful to the event as a whole. What I mean is that at times of national crisis and tragedy like the Sichuan earthquake, people should be working together supporting each other, business groups, individuals, communities and government alike. If the public were to start antagonizing the government straight after such an event, instead of working together in compassion to overcome the crisis, the situation would be much worse, and those who lost their lives would have done so in absolute vainness.

  27. Nimrod Says:

    Beichuan residents mourned at its old town (earthquake remnants),

    …while direct provincial aided reconstructions are slated to be finished ahead of schedule two years after the earthquake.

    But there are also problems with the local government’s own reconstruction quality.


  1. Sichuan Earthquake One Year Anniversary « meandering in daislexia

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