Heavy rainfall inundated streets and caused major rivers to burst their banks in the central province of Henan on Tuesday.
Unusually heavy rain has been falling in the province — twice the size of Austria with a population of 94 million — since the weekend.
Dozens of cities have seen massive disruption to transport services. The provincial capital of Zhengzhou, situated on the Yellow River, had to stop all subway services on Tuesday after 200 millimeters of rain fell in just one hour.
A video shared widely over social media showed torrents of water cascading through one of the city's subway stations as well as people standing waist-deep in water inside a subway train.
Devastating flooding around the world
There were no reports of deaths or injuries so far, but some 10,000 residents in the province had been relocated to shelters, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Henan is a particularly populous province and a major transport hub. It is also a key base for industry and agriculture.
Summer often brings heavy rain and flooding to the region, but growing cities and changes to land use have increased the costs of flood damage.
The flooding in central China comes days after catastrophic flooding led to the deaths of over 160 people in western Germany.
New York City was also left with flooded subway stations after being hit by tropical storm Elsa earlier in the month.
Fears over key cultural sites
The heavy rain has sparked concern for the Longmen Grottoes — a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring thousand-year-old Buddhist carvings in limestone cliffs.
The world-famous Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng, known for its monks' mastery of martial arts, was also forced to shut.
Since Saturday, over 3,500 weather stations have recorded rainfall over 50 mm. Some 150 stations saw rainfall exceed 250 mm.
The highest amount recorded by the provincial weather bureau in that period was 498 mm of rain in the city of Lushan.