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GAO Mengtan

Institute of Geophysics, China Seismological Bureau, Beijing 100081, China




The policy of seismic disaster mitigation in the mainland of China is “prevention first”. According to the law, the earthquake design for ordinary structures must fit the demand of national seismic zoning map.  Seismic zoning map is the basis of the earthquake design (Tang, 1998; Wu 1998).

The seismic zoning map must be updated with the progress in methodology and accumulation of the data. There are three generations of national seismic zoning map before this new one. Prof. Li Shanbang published the first seismic zoning map in 1957. This map demonstrated the maximum affected intensity of China. The second edition of national zoning map was published in 1977. The map was provided by using the methodology of long term and middle term earthquake prediction. The map demonstrated the maximum encountered intensity in the forthcoming 100 years. This map was adopted by the building code. The third edition of national seismic zoning map was provided in 1990. The probabilistic method was used in preparing the map. The intensity with exceeding probability 10% within 50 years was given in the map. It was used in the building code and other regulation related with earthquake design. The new zoning map is the normal update of the national zoning map.

Intensity was adopted in these zoning maps. But up to now, earthquake design using the response spectrum is popular in China and also in the world. It is very hard to formulate response spectrum from the single parameter of intensity. It is widely accepted to use ground motion parameter to make zoning map in many countries. China is in the stage of fast economic development and urbanization. New structures and middle to high-rise buildings spring out everywhere and every day.  So it is necessary to provide the response spectrum related with the earthquake surroundings to fit the needs of earthquake design in the new situation. The national seismic zoning map must provide the zoning parameters of ground motion. With these parameters, design response spectrum should be formed easily. Intensity zoning map should be replaced to fit the demand of society. The update of this edition of seismic zoning map is driven by social development.

The deadline of the data used to the last national zoning map including geological data, seismological data, and geophysical data, is Dec. 31, 1987. After that time, there is a lot work concerned with the basic data. The instrumental earthquake database is doubled because the increasing monitoring stations. Nearly a hundred thousand events are recorded. 451 damage events with magnitude 5 were recorded. A lot of work has been done about the detailed investigation of active faults in western, southwestern, and northern part of China. There are also deep sounding studies in the eastern part of China to understanding the earthquake source. The updating of the national seismic zoning map is also driven by the new basic data available.

Another reason for the updating of the national seismic zoning map is the progresses in seismic hazard assessment for important projects and urban microzoning and improvement of the methodology of the seismic hazard assessment (China Seismological Bureau, 1998). The seismic ground motion parameters including seismic response spectrum and peak acceleration were widely used in the work. We already have experiences in the determination of the attenuation of the ground motion parameters. This makes it possible to provide zoning map with ground motion parameters.

The project for providing the new zoning map started in the end of 1996. Five institutes, 28 local seismological bureaus and 166 scientists involved in this project. The zoning map was finished in 2000. During the project, there were a series of interactive meetings with the users and local seismological bureaus.

The probabilistic approach was used for the zoning maps. In order to consider the uncertainties in the probabilistic analysis, logic tree methodology was adopted. Four working groups are responsible for delineation of potential sources under their knowledge base and database. These four sets of potential sources were used in logic tree method. The new results from the studies of active fault and the instrumental earthquake records were carefully used in the determination of potential sources and seismicity parameters.

The strong ground motion records were collected and used for the determination of attenuation relations. The strong ground records from the western United States were used to establish the original attenuation. Then we modified the original attenuations by the comparison of attenuation of intensity in western United States and that in east part of China and west part of China.

The country was divided into 40000 grids. The seismic hazard analysis for every grid was performed. The ground motion parameters with exceeding probability 10% within 50 years were determined. From this database, the final two zoning maps were made.

GIS technology was used in the projects, in different stage, including database management, delineation of potential sources, demonstration of the zoning results and the study of the reasonability of zoning results. 


The probabilistic methodology was adopted in compiling the new zoning map.

The exceeding probability of the new zoning map is 10% within 50 years. The scale of the map is 1:40000000. The soil condition is hard (Yuxian Hu, 2001).

The new zoning map includes two specific maps (1) Acceleration (a) related to the platform of the response spectrum, which is defined as the platform value of the response spectrum over 2.5; (2) The characteristic period of the response spectrum (Tg). From these two parameters, the design response spectrum can be determined easily. Figure 1 is the illustration forming the design response spectrum. The decay rate from the characteristic period is 1/Tg.  Considering the syntonic frequency of most structures, these parameters are much better than intensity and peak acceleration.

1. Acceleration Zoning Map

In the acceleration map, the territory is divided into seven zones. Zone 1 is with acceleration less tham 0.05g; zone 2 with acceleration 0.05g; zone 3 with acceleration 0.10g; zone 4 with acceleration 0.15g; zone 5 with acceleration 0.20g; zone 6 with acceleration 0.30g; zone 7 with acceleration equal to or greater than 0.40g. Compared with the intensity zoning map, we have two more zones. There are the zone with acceleration 0.15g and the zone with acceleration 0.30g. On the consideration of “concept design”, the zone 3 and zone 4 are considered as intensity 7; the zone 5 and zone 6 are considered as intensity 8.

The zone 7 (≥0.40g) is highest seismic potential, and includes 16 regions. These regions are located in the main seismic provinces and the potential sources with maximum magnitude 8. These regions are part of western Taiwan, Gulang in Gansu Province, Haiyuan in Ningxia Autonomous Region Maduo and Dolan in Qinghai Province, Tashkuegan and Xinyuan of Xinjiang autonomous Region, Yangbajing in Tibet Autonomous Region.

The zone 6(0.30g) is also high seismic hazard region.  It includes 22 regions and covers 2.6% of the land territory of the country, nearly 210,000 km2. There are mainly distributed in Taiwan, North and south Tianshan, Silk Corridor, Tibet, South-north seismic Province. Haikou, the capital of the Hainan Province, and the Baotou of Inner Mongolia are also located in zone 6. Linyi of Shandong Province is a region with high-density population in zone 6.


Fig.1. Illustration of the zoning parameters.

The zone 5 (0.20g), zone 4 (0.15g) and zone 3 (0.10g) cover 46% of the land territory. Most of the densely populated regions are in these zones. The most part of western China, some regions of the northern China are in zone 5 (0.20g).

Zone 2 (0.05g) regions covers 20% of the land territory. It mainly distributed in the eastern part of China.

Earthquake design must be considered in 80% of the country.

Most cities and Towns in China are located in the high seismic hazard regions.

The design acceleration in Haikou and Taipei is 0.30g. These two large cities face the highest seismic hazard. Beijing, the capital of the country, Taiyuan, Hohhot, Xi'an, Lanzhou, Lhasa, Kunming, Yinchuan and Urumq are located in the zone 5 (0.20g). Tianjin, Zhengzhou and part of the Hang Kong are located in the zone 4 (0.15g). There are 11 large cities in zone3 (0.10 g), including Shenyang, Changchun, Shanghai, Shijiazhuang, Nanjing, Hefei, Macao, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Xining. The number of the capital of provinces with high design acceleration (equal to or greater than 0.10g) is 25. That is 74% of the capital cities of the provinces. According to the statistics, 194 cities with population over 500000 are situated in high seismic regions, 1073 small cities also situated in these regions.

2.  Characteristic Period Zoning Map

In the characteristic period zoning map, the territory is divided into three zones.

Zone 1 is the region with Tg 0.35 s zone 2 with Tg 0.40 s, and zone 3 with Tg 0.45s. This zoning map characters the shape of response spectrum controlling by the earthquake environment. According to the studies, Tg is controlled by the magnitude of the controlling event. The higher the magnitude is, the larger the Tg  is. Roughly, Tg 0.45 is controlled by the earthquake greater than 7, Tg 0.40 controlled by the earthquake 6.5 to 7, and Tg 0.35 controlled by the event with magnitude less than 6.5. In this map, most part of the western China, Tg value is 0.40 and 0.45. While in the most areas of eastern China, Tg is 0.35. This is consistent with tectonic environment of China.

In United States and Japan, the Tg value is 0.58 and 0.6 respectively. According to the statistics of strong ground motion records and the seismic hazard assessment recent years in China the Tg values are higher than the values used in the last building code. The value in the new national is just the balance of the last building code and real data analysis. That means that the Tg in the new zoning map is the minimal request.

Zone 1 (0.35) is mainly distributed in eastern China, with an area of 4360000 km2, covers 45% territory of the country. There are 21 capital cities of provinces in zone 1. That is the 62% of all capital cities of the provinces.

Zone 2 (0.40) is situated along the earthquake potential sources, covers territory of 2200000 km2 square kilometers, with percentage of 23%. There are 7 provincial capital cities with Tg 0.40.

Zone 3 (0.45) is distributed in northern China and western China. The total area is 3040000 km2. There are 6 provincial capital cities in this zone, including Xining, Lanzhou, Lhasa, Kunming, Taipei, and Jinan. The characteristic periods of these cities are all related with potential sources, those maximum magnitudes are equal to or great than 8.

According to the statistics, the earthquake design level is higher for the whole country, and about 17% towns and small cities promote their prevention level.  There are about 200 towns without earthquake design which will take care the earthquake disaster mitigation. The design acceleration for these towns is 0.05g and Tg value 0.35 s in medium hard soil condition. There are about 160 towns with intensity (design acceleration 0.05g) in the last seismic zoning. According o the new zoning map, their design acceleration values are changed into 0.10g. These changes are mainly from the data accumulation.

The response spectrum zoning with two parameters is the advanced seismic zoning technology in the world. The United States has already used this technology in the new zoning map and building code. China is one of the major countries to use this technology.


Figure 2 shows the new seismic zoning map of China. This new national seismic zoning map serves as the obliged state standard, which took into effect in the August 1, 2001. For the ordinary new constructed building, the standard (GB18306-2001) must be followed. The standard drafts several regulations about how the parameters in the zoning map used in the earthquake design.

The standard response spectrum of earthquake design can be written in the following formulation:

where a is the acceleration value from the acceleration zoning map, and Tg is the parameter from the characteristic period zoning map.



Fig. 2.  Illustration of acceleration zoning map.

For different soil conditions, the Tg value should be adjusted as Table 1.

For these zoning map, the a values do not change with soil conditions.

According to this national seismic zoning map, the design standard for some regions has changed. So for the existing buildings and structures, the reinforcing work should be considered.

This seismic zoning map can also be used to the land using planning and social development planning and primary siting of important construction projects.

 Table 1.  Tg Values for Different Soil Conditions


Soil conditions


Medium hard

Medium soft


Zone 1





Zone 2





Zone 3







China Seismological Bureau, 1998, Proceedings on the Seminar on Seismic zoning in China, Seismological Press, Beijing (in Chinese)
Frankel A., C. Mueller, T. Barnhard, D. Perkins, E. Leyendecker, N. Dickman, S. Hanson, and M. Hopper, 1997a, Seismic Hazard Maps for the Conterminous United States, U. S. Geological Survey, Open-file Report 97-130
Hu, Y., et al., 2001, Textbook for explanation of GB 18306 -“Earthquake ground motion parameter zoning map of China”, China Standard Press, Beijing (in Chinese)
Tang, Q., 1989, Lessons for Law on earthquake disaster prevention, China Law Press, Beijing, p217 (in Chinese).

Wu F. Z., Cao K. T., Chen Z. L., 1989, Paraphrases of the “Law of the People's Republic of China on Protecting Against and Mitigating Earthquake Disasters”, China Law Press, Beijing (in Chinese)

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