Chinese Flood Legend Was Historic
A dam breach flood in China known only from legend appears to be supported by geological evidence.
National Geographic reminds its readers that the stuff of legend can sometimes have a historical basis. According to Chinese legend, about 4,000 years ago a river dried up after an earthquake. Later, a great flood occurred. A hero named Yu helped the people recover, founding the Xia dynasty, a turning point in Chinese history. NG says that there has been “considerable debate” whether Xia existed. Now, geologists have found evidence for a megaflood on the Yellow River.
When that dam finally burst and the river broke free, a massive flood raged across the countryside—and potentially altered the course of Chinese history.
That’s the story told by sediments and archaeological remains described Thursday in a provocative new study published in Science. If correct, the geologic evidence provides a kernel of truth to one of the country’s most important legends: a great flood that paved the way for the Xia, China’s semi-mythical first dynasty.
Other historical dam breach floods are well known. Some were witnessed by humans, like Gros Ventre in Wyoming and Canyon Lake in Texas (6/21/10). Others have been inferred by circumstantial evidence, such as the Channeled Scablands in Washington, and one in Argentina (2/18/16). The power and speed of a dam breach is often underestimated. After decades of debate, for instance, some geologists have come to believe that the Grand Canyon, or at least a portion of it, was carved by a dam breach flood (10/27/13).
National Geographic took the opportunity to compare the Chinese flood to Noah’s flood:
Its importance is just like the story of Noah’s flood in the Western world,” says study leader Qinglong Wu of China’s Peking University.
While this might suggest that they believe Noah’s flood is an exaggerated legend of a local event, the BBC News pointed out that “Different flood legends exist in many cultures around the world.”
The known and inferred dam breach events are all post-Flood in the Biblical timeframe. Noah’s Flood had a different source, mechanism and scale. What we learn from the local floods is the power of moving water. Instead of downgrading the Genesis account to fit local floods, as Robert Ballard did with the Black Sea hypothesis (9/10/07), could the worldwide memories of large floods be upgraded to a global flood? Which account is the truth, and which is the legend?
Modern secular materialists want to present themselves as the wise men of our age. Part of their narrative is to make ancient people look gullible and stupid, only able to get their stories partly right until scientists came along to tell what really happened. Peter said, however, that their scoffing attitude is due to willful ignorance of the Great Flood described in Genesis 6-9. It’s not like they lack evidence: worldwide megasequences of sediments, pure quartz layers over vast areas (6/27/03), the fossil record, seashells on the highest mountains, flat sediments over hundreds of square miles, massive folds in strata, the mid-oceanic ridge, and more.
Historical records are more a function of honesty than intelligence. Ancient peoples were smart, but they were also sinners like us. We know ancient kings exaggerated their exploits to maintain power and prestige. Biblical writers, by contrast, are scrupulously honest about the misdeeds of the powerful. Why would they record their own sins for posterity unless God directed them? The Biblical Flood account, too, is remarkable for its detail. It doesn’t say “Once upon a time” but “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the 17th day of the month, all the fountains of the great deep burst forth” (Genesis 7:11). Legends can be corrupted by verbal transmission over centuries, but the Biblical records were likely written down by eyewitness very early and passed down through the patriarchs till Moses compiled them. The Biblical authors all affirm divine inspiration. God preserved His word for the ages to come, so that all might know the history of the world. It takes willful unbelief to deny it.
We know what water can do by observation; there’s no limit to how its destructive power can be scaled up, given sufficient water and forces to move it. The skeptics were wrong about the Chinese flood. We would hope the long list of occasions when geologists were proven wrong about other phenomena (e.g., 7/08/16) might make them a little more humble before relegating Noah’s account to mere legend.