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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Foolish Old Man Moves The Mountains

This is a Chinese folktale that I really love. It's a wonderful (and short) tale coming from the Han Dynasty. It is about Old Man Yu whose dream was to literally move mountains. Enjoy!
Once upon a time, there were two mountains that stood right beside each other. Both were more than 10,000 feet high, and together, they were four-hundred miles wide.
Facing the mountains lived Old Man Yu, who was over eighty-years-old and also known throughout the county for his foolishness. Every morning, as Old Man Yu walked to the village, his wife would shake her head as she saw him make yet another detour around the two mountains. As the years went by, he found it a great inconvenience to make these daily detours. So one day, Old Man Yu finally decided that the twin mountains would have to be moved.
He then called a family meeting and told his wife, sons, daughters, and their families of his intentions. He will move these two mountains, Old Man Yu cried, and you will all help me do it!? Old Man Yu's sons and grandsons thought it was a terrific idea. They encouraged him and gave them their unyielding support. 
Old Man Yu's wife sneered. "You are a foolish old man indeed! Just how would you go about moving those mountains? Never mind the mountains, I don't think you can even move two piles of cow manure! And even if you could move the mountains, just where would you dispose of the dirt and rocks from the mountains?"
The old man thought for a moment, and without backing down, answered that he would throw the dirt and rocks into a place far away. "I will throw them into the Bohai sea." (off the east coast of China)
Once again, Old Man Yu's sons and grandsons thought that it was a wonderful idea to throw the dirt into the sea. They cheered a second time and pledged to him their unyielding support. Even the neighbour's son, Little Turnip Boy, gave the old man his support even though he was only 8 years old. 
Old Man Yu, his three sons, his many, countless grandsons, and Little Turnip Boy went to work on removing the two mountains. It was such grueling work that in a year's time, Little Turnip Boy was only able to make one trip to the sea to dispose of the dirt and rocks. Nonetheless, no one lost their enthusiasm. They were all steadfast to Old Man Yu's dream.
On one of their trips to the sea, they met a man who lived along the Yellow River, who was known throughout the county for his cleverness and arrogance. He mocked Old Man Yu saying, "You foolish old man! I have seen you, your three sons, your many, countless grandsons, and even Little Turnip Boy making trips to the sea to dispose of the dirt and rocks from the mountains. Do you think that you can actually move two whole mountains? And you; you must be over ninety-years-old and closer to the grave as each day passes! You cannot possibly expect to move two mountains in your lifetime.
Old Man Yu looked upon the Yellow River Man with pity. 
"You are known throughout the entire country as a clever man. Yet, you are a man lacking in vision. Regarding this matter, even Little Turnip Boy has more wisdom than you.? Old Man Yu continued, you are correct in saying that I am an old man who is closer to the grave as each day passes. But I have three sons, and many, countless grandsons." 
"In time, my grandsons will bear their own children, who, in turn, will bear even more children. So in time, my dream of removing these two mountains will become a reality. As each day passes, my dream can only increase, as these two mountains can only decrease."
What a great story, huh? I thought it was pretty cool! Ancient China hummed with stories of will, determination, wisdom, and what is really foolish versus what people think is foolish. It's one of the things I love about ancient China.


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