China, being located in an earthquake-prone region, is one of the countries in the world that suffers the most from earthquake disasters (Chen et al. in Earthquake risk analysis and seismic damage prediction. Seismological Press, Beijing, 1999; Jiang in Disaster prevention and mitigation engineering. China Machine Press, Beijing, 2005). Spanning over a long history, China has experienced a significant number of devastating earthquakes, resulting in enormous casualties and property losses. Past earthquake events have repeatedly proven that damage to civil infrastructures is the major contributor to earthquake disasters. Building collapses in particular are responsible for a large percentage of deaths and property losses in earthquakes. Therefore, one of the important research pursuits is to develop rational and practical engineering solutions and mitigation strategies to reduce the impacts of earthquakes, through an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms of earthquake damage to civil infrastructures.