16 February 2009

Seismic frescoes – possibly the oddest earthquake induced landslide story of all time?

Posted by Dave Petley

There is little doubt that the Wenchuan (Sichuan) earthquake in May generated a huge number of shallow rock slides. A very odd story has now appeared in the Chinese media in which it is observed that the rock slide scars appear to form frescoes (wall-mounted murals) on the mountain sides. So, in the words of the People’s Daily Online “Although the massive Wenchuan Earthquake caused tremendous damage, it has also brought new natural wonders – a large number of seismic frescoes that were formed on cliffs from Yingxiu to Luobuzhai by landslides during the earthquake.”

So what do these seismic frescoes look like? This one apparently resembles “waving reeds” (images courtesy of People’s Daily Online):

This one is I think meant to be a cockerell crowing (the caption in the original article is a little bizarre):

And finally, this one is apparently “a girl playing the violin” (I am struggling to see this one, I must admit).

The article implies that there are many more, consisting of “human figures, animals, plants, as well as legends of ghosts and monsters. The majority of the frescoes depict various kinds of human figures.”

The article finishes by noting that this phenomenon could be developed for tourism, although I suspect that the combination of enlargement of the scars during rains and revegetation during the rest of the year may render this difficult. I have never heard of landslide scars being interpreted in this way – landslide scars as art!