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Evidence of legendary China flood may rewrite history

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Staff Writer | August 8, 2016
Great Flood
4,000 years ago   The first evidence for Great Flood

Geologists have found the first evidence for China's Great Flood, a 4,000-year-old disaster on the Yellow River that led to birth of the Xia dynasty and modern Chinese civilization, researchers said.

The findings in the journal Science may help rewrite history because they not only show that a massive flood did occur, but that it was in 1920 BC, several centuries later than traditionally thought.

This would mean the Xia dynasty, led by Emperor Yu, may also have started later than Chinese historians have thought.

Yu gained fame as the man who was able to gain control over the flood by orchestrating the dredging work needed to guide the waters back into their channels.

Restoring order after chaos earned "him the divine mandate to establish the Xia dynasty, the first in Chinese history," said the study, led by Wu Qinglong, professor in the department of geography at Nanjing Normal University.

Stories about Emperor Yu laid the ideological foundation for the Confucian rulership system, but in recent generations, some scholars have questioned whether it ever happened at all. Perhaps, they say, it was all a myth designed to justify imperial rule.

So geologists investigated along the Yellow River in Qinghai Province, examining the remains of a landslide dam and sediments from a dammed lake and outburst flood.

What they found suggests a catastrophic flood that is one of the largest known floods on Earth in the last 10,000 years, said co-author Darryl Granger, professor in the department of Earth atmospheric planetary sciences at Purdue University.

The floodwaters surged to 38 meters (yards) above the modern river level, making the disaster "roughly equivalent to the largest Amazon flood ever measured," he told reporters on a conference call to discuss the findings.

The flood would have been "more than 500 times larger than a flood on the Yellow River from a rainfall event," he added.


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