Yu The Great

Era Information
Time:(1.7 million years - the 21st century BC)
Location of Capital:
Emperors: Shun, Yao, Yu
Replaced by:Xia Dynasty

Yu the great in China's historyYu the Great (大禹 Dà-Yǔ), was the legendary founder of the Xia Dynasty.[1] Occasionally identified as one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, he is best remembered for teaching the people flood control techniques to tame China's rivers and lakes. Yu established his capital at Yang City (陽城). According to the Bamboo Annals, in the second year of his reign, Mi, the prime minister of the previous king of Shun died. In the 5th year, he held the first meeting with all the leaders of the states (諸侯) at Tushan (涂山). In the 8th year, he held a second meeting with all the leaders of states at Kuaiji (會稽), and in order to reinforce his hold on the throne, killed one of the northern leaders, Fangfeng (防風氏). Yu is the only Chinese ruler posthumously honored with the appellation "the Great,".

According to the legend of China's Great Flood, Yu's father, Gun, was assigned by King Yao (堯) to tame the raging waters. In 9 years, Gun had built earthen dikes all over the land in the hope of containing the waters. But during a period of heavy flooding, the earthen dikes collapsed everywhere and the project failed miserably. Gun was executed by King Shun (舜), to whom Yao had handed the rulership. Shun recruited Yu as successor to his father's flood-control efforts. Instead of building more dikes, Yu began to dredge new river channels, to serve both as outlets for the torrential waters, and as irrigation conduits to distant farm lands.

Yu spent thirteen years at this task, with the help of some 20,000 workers. In an "apocryphal" version of his story, presented in Wang Jia's Shi Yi Ji (4th century), Yu is helped in his work by a yellow dragon and a black turtle (Xuan gui, which is not necessarily related to the Black Tortoise Xuanwu). "Passing his own door three times" is a tale of Yu's dedication. It is said that when Yu was given the task of fighting the flood, he had been married only five days. He then said goodbye to his wife, saying that he does not know when he will return. His wife then asked him what name to give if a son is born.

Yu replied, Qi (啟), a character meaning five days in ancient Chinese. During his thirteen years of fighting the flood, Yu passed by his own family's doorstep three times. The first time he passed by hearing that his wife was in labor. The second time he passed by, his wife was holding his son's hand as he was learning his first steps. The third time, his son greeted him and enjoined him to come in for rest. Each time, Yu refused to go in the door, saying that the flood was rendering countless people homeless, he could not rest in his own. For this engineering feat, Yu has been remembered as an examplar of perseverance and determination and revered as the perfect civil servant. Stories continue to dwell on his single-minded dedication. In spite of passing his own house three times during those thirteen years, he never once stopped in for a family visit, reasoning that a personal reunion would distract him from dealing with the public crisis at hand.