Four people were killed and another 24 injured when an earthquake shook Qiaojia county in Yunnan, southwestern China, late on Monday evening.
Video clips on Weibo showed shoppers taking cover in a store as boxes flew off the shelves, while students in a classroom elsewhere scrambled to hide under their desks.
The quake hit near the city of Zhaotong, which has a population of more than six million, and registered 5.0-magnitude, the government seismology authority said.
About 600 rescue workers have been sent to the disaster area, the Yunnan government said, including firefighters and soldiers.
The country is regularly hit by earthquakes. A 7.9-magnitude quake in Sichuan in 2008 left 87,000 people dead or missing.