A core Course of General Education An outline of the Traditional Chinese Culture 中国传统文化概览 Shandong University Contents

Da Yu Led People in Curbing Floods

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2. Da Yu Led People in Curbing Floods

Legend in Book of Mountains and Seas and Huai Nan Zi has it that four or five thousand years ago there came a flood in the Yellow River Valley which rose as high as the sky, washing away whole villages with their houses and inundating large areas of cropland. Many people lost their lives in the flood and those who were fortunate enough to survive were forced to abandon their homes and go and live on hillsides or migrate to places far away. To stop the flood Gun stole some of the growing earth possessed by the Heavenly Emperor without asking for permission. For this the emperor ordered Zhu Rong to execute him near Yushan Mountain. Nevertheless, out of Gun’s belly Yu was born. Yu carried on the work of fighting the flood. It was barely four days after he got married when Yu received Shun’s order. Determined to have the flood under control and remove the menace to the people, he left his wife behind and set off for the worksite. Before, under Gun’s leadership, the people spent nine long years building dams and dykes to stop the flow of the rivers. All the efforts had however ended only in more disastrous floods. Yu first made a study of the causes that had led to his father’s failure. Then he made a careful survey of the afflicted areas and asked for advice from experienced workers. Knowing that water tends to flow from higher to lower regions, he abandoned Gun’s method of building dams and dykes to stop the flow of waters. Instead he led his men in digging ditches and canals to divert the flood and also in dredging the river channels so as to provide outlets for the flood into the sea. In those days there was a high mountain in the upper reaches of the Yellow River that blocked the way of the river. In order to cut a canal into the mountain, Yu turned himself into a bear and stole into the mountains to do the digging. Rain or shine, Yu worked in the midst of his men, digging and taking earth away all through the four seasons of a year. He was so dedicated that it was said that he had three times refrained from entering the door of his home when he was passing by. Missing Da Yu so much, his wife visited the worksite. In the shape of a bear, Da Yu was dredging the watercourse. His wife was greatly frightened so she ran away. Da Yu chased his wife, forgetting to convert himself back into a human being. The wife saw no chance to escape and turned herself into a stone. Da Yu was greatly depressed. He said to the stone, “Give back my son!” The stone split and revealed a child — the son of Da Yu, named Qi. After thirteen long years of continuous efforts, Yu and his men succeeded in dredging all the rivers, big and small, and in doing away with the evil of flood. After the death of Shun, Yu became the head of the tribal confederation.

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