Thursday, 12 December 2013

Yu - The Emperor who Founded the Xia Dynasty

Compiled from The Great Chinese Emperors

        Xia Yu’s name was Wenming. He was Zhuanxu’s grandson. In his struggles to control the floodwaters, he emerged as a man of remarkable ability. He led the people in braving strong winds and heavy rain to mount a tenacious fight against the floodwaters. He won great respect and support for his toughness and brilliant achievements. Yu was best known for his dedication towards the flood control projects.
  • He left home after only four days of marriage.
  • En route to curb the floods in the North, he refused to see his wife who was about to give birth.
  • The plea of his young son for him to go home for a while did not deter him from travelling southwards on more flood projects.
  • After 13 years of hard work, the floodwaters were finally brought under permanent control.

        Even after Yu was made king, he often went down to the fields to plough the land. He turned down all kinds of sensuous indulgences, and swore never to drink wine after his first dose of the intoxicating drink. He shed tears for law-breakers. It broke his heart to witness selfishness and crimes among his people. A particular tribal chief, Fangfeng, often harassed other tribes, plundering and killing ordinary people. Yu was eventually compelled to have him executed. Yu established the Xia Dynasty around 2205 BC, and ruled for eight years before he passed on. Today, traces of his massive flood control projects can still be seen at Longmen (also known as the Gate of Yu) in Gansu.

Thought of the day:

  1. The feudal custom of passing on cauldrons by successful rulers was started by Yu. How did he do it?                                                              When Yu had surveyed the whole Earth, he called for Nine Shepherds to bring ores from the Nine Regions of the empire. When this had been done, Yu cast the ores and made the Nine Cauldrons. Upon each he emblazoned the symbols, scenery and creatures of the Nine Regions. By this, he was able to signify that all that dwelled in the Nine Regions were loyal to him and his dynasty.                                      The Nine Cauldrons were of miraculous form, as their weight varied as they were passed down from ruler to ruler, dynasty to dynasty. Thus, when Yu handed them over to his son, Qi, they weighed so much that it took 90 men and oxen to move but one of them. Yet, when the Xia Dynasty (founded by Yu) fell, the Nine Cauldrons could be picked up by one man.                                                      When the Shang Dynasty fell and the Zhou received the Mandate of Heaven, they also received the Nine Cauldrons. It took thousands of men to haul just one cauldron. Heavy when righteous men ruled, the cauldrons became surprisingly light when the morality of the emperors were drained and corruption had sapped the ruling family.
  2. What similarities were there between Yu, the flood tamer of China, and other flood heroes in world mythology?                                         Scholars have remarked on the number of similarities between Yu and Middle Eastern myths. The list of the mythical emperors with Yu as the final one is similar to the Sumerian pattern known from the Kings List. Here, it is the Chinese emperor who survives the floods, aka Sumer. In the Hebrew stories, the tenth patriach, Noah, was like Yu, lamed during the work of saving the creatures from the flood. Incidentally, in Greek and Norse-Germanic myths, there were also the figures of the lame king and lame metal-working hero.

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