Da Yu Conquers the Floods
Legend has it that severe floods hit China during the reign of Yao, destroying houses, ravaging farmlands, and drowning tens of thousands of people. In order to save the country from calamity, Yao called on the public to recommend capable persons to deal with the floods. A man named Gun was recommended. For the ensuing nine years, he fought against the floods by building dams. While dams were constructed in one place, those in another place were destroyed. As a result, all his efforts came to nothing in the end. Yao sent Shun to inspect Gun's work. Seeing that Gun could do nothing to stop the floods, Shun had him executed and ordered his son Yu to continue the mission.
Yu took over the task. Learning from his father's failure, he decided to first conduct onsite research. Yu, together with his many aides including Yi and Houji, traveled extensively in the flood stricken areas. They studied the topography of these areas, marking their findings with wooden logs. Based on their research, they came up with plans to tackle the floods.
As chief of the campaign against the floods, Yu set a good example for others. Everybody was moved to tears when they saw his blistered hands and feet. His calves and feet had been soaked in water for so long, that the nails of his toes and hair on his legs had all vanished. In the 13 years he was in charge of combating floods, he passed his home three times during his travels, but never once visited his home.
Yu found the correct approach to control the floods: by creating channels in the mountains, and by diverting the waters through those channels to big rivers and then to the sea. In Yu's time, a range of high mountains (between today's Hejin, Shanxi Province,and Hancheng, Shaanxi Province) blocked the surging Yellow River. Consequently, the river breached its embankments, flooding the regions nearby.
Yu believed that this was the crux of the anti-flood campaign. He decided to create a gap in the mountain so that the river could continue its journey. After strenuous efforts, a gap was excavated. Now, the Yellow River could flow down through the gap. To commemorate this hero, people named the mountain "Longmen" (Dragon's Gate) Mountain, and the gap, "Yumenkou" (Gate of Yu). Yu was also extolled as "Da Yu" (Great Yu) for his remarkable contributions.