1642 Yellow River flood
Kaifeng is located on the south bank of the Yellow River, prone to violent flooding throughout its history. During the early Ming dynasty, the town was the site of major floods in 1375, 1384, 1390, 1410, and 1416. By the mid-15th century, the Ming had completed restoration of the area's flood-control system and operated it with general success for over a century.
The 1642 flood, however, was not natural, but directed by the Ming governor of the city in the hopes of using the floodwaters to break the six-month siege the city had endured from the peasant rebels led by Li Zicheng.
The dikes were burst – but the water destroyed Kaifeng. Over 300,000 of the 378,000 residents were killed by the flood and ensuing peripheral disasters such as famine and plague. If treated as a natural disaster, it would be one of the most deadly floods in history.
After this disaster the city was abandoned until 1662 when it was rebuilt under the rule of the Kangxi Emperor in the Qing dynasty. It remained a rural backwater city of diminished importance thereafter and experienced several other less devastating floods.
The flood also brought an end to the "golden age" of the Jewish settlement of China, said to span about 1300-1642. China's small Jewish population, estimated at around 5000 people, was centered at Kaifeng. Further, the flood destroyed the synagogue and most of the community's irreplaceable Torah.
- Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry. SUNY Series in Chinese Local Studies: The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty. SUNY Press, 1996. ISBN 0791426874, 9780791426876. Accessed 16 Oct 2012.
- Lorge, Peter A. War, Politics and Society in Early Modern China, 900-1795, p. 147. Routledge, 2005. ISBN 9780415316910.
- Xu Xin. The Jews of Kaifeng, China: History, Culture, and Religion, p. 47. Ktav Publishing Inc, 2003. ISBN 978-0-88125-791-5.
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