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Seismic JapanThe Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake$
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Gregory Smits

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824838171

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824838171.001.0001

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Why the Earth Shakes

Why the Earth Shakes

(p.37) Chapter 2 Why the Earth Shakes
Seismic Japan

Gregory Smits

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines early modern understandings of the causes of earthquakes from the standpoint of intellectual history and the history of science. The discussion focuses on scientific thought but also pays some attention to religious matters, especially cosmology. After providing a brief overview of early and medieval theories of natural hazards and natural disasters, the chapter considers early modern academic theories of earthquakes. In particular, it looks at Buddhist, Western, and Chinese theoretical frameworks. It also describes main shocks and aftershocks, along with precursors and atmospheric phenomena as possible earthquake causes. Finally, it analyzes the Ansei Edo earthquake and its ramifications for the notion that yin-yang acts as the physical mechanism causing the earth to shake. It argues that the lack of a clearly superior explanation for earthquakes at the start of the Meiji era partly explains why older ideas about earthquakes influenced the modern development of seismology.

Keywords:   earthquakes, science, cosmology, natural hazards, natural disasters, main shocks, aftershocks, earthquake causes, Ansei Edo earthquake, yin-yang

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