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Great Yu Controls the Waters

"Great Yu Controls the Waters" is a famous ancient legend based on Yu the Great, the offspring of the Chinese emperor Huang, who successfully controlled the flood.


The Central Plains suffered flooding for many years during the life of king Yao. Millions of hectares of agricultural land had been inundated, crops destroyed, cattle lost, people were even driven away from their homeland. Under these circumstances, the leader of the tribe Yao decided to regulate water conservancy to protect his people. He gathered his ministers to search for an engineer who was capable of this job and Gun, Great Yu's father, was recommended. Considering there was no other suitable candidate, Yao appointed Gun in charge of the flood control despite their frosty relationship. 


Nine years had passed and the flooding was just as regular. Moreover, Gun was not only ineffective in his work, but viewed the work as unimportant. So when emperor Shun succeeded the throne, Gun was dismissed and was banished to Feather Mountain, where he eventually died. Shun continued trying to control the flood and continued his search for someone capable. His ministers all recommended Great Yu for the job, because unlike his father, Great Yu was more skilful and serious and also lived a simple life, which made him an honourable man. Shun followed the suggestions and gave him the job despite Great Yu being the son of Gun, while the Great Yu didn't harbour resentment against Shun for the exile of his father and took on the task responsibly. He decided to fix the problem that his father had failed with and save the people from the suffering.

However, the flood was not that easy to be controlled, so Shun arranged another two officers, Boyi and Houji, to help him. Great Yu learnt from his father's "interception" method and managed the water conservancy by evacuating the flood to the sea. Many men died or got injured due to the tough work, but Great Yu never gave up. He became extremely skinny and his toenails even fell off as a result of the length of time he spent in the river. He successfully led people clear to the mountains and resolved the issue of the flood. People built a temple in memory of Great Yu's merits and honoured him as the "Yu God".


Legend has it that he was only married for four days when he left and he never returned. His spirit of selfless dedication and scientific innovation was a key influence in China's ethos.