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February 28, 2010

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愚公移山 (yu2 gong1 yi1 shan1) Moving mountains

IN China, Yu Gong (the Foolish Old Man) is a household name. The legendary hero not only appears in primary school textbooks, but also serves as a symbol of herculean courage and human determination.

The story of the hero was quoted by late Chairman Mao Zedong more than 60 years ago in a famous speech using the popular idiom "The Foolish Old Man Removes the Mountains" as its title.

According to legend, there was an old man, called the Foolish Old Man, living in Jizhou, north China, a long, long time ago.

In front of the old man's house were two high mountains, one called Taihang Mountain and the other Wangwu Mountain.

The two elevations blocked the way to both the nearest town and a major river.

To go there, the man and his family had to take long detours or climb the mountains.

One day, the old man called a meeting of his whole family and announced a plan to move the two mountains.

His proposal was readily accepted by all members of the family, who had long been fed up with the inconvenience created by the two mountains.

However, the old man's wife asked hesitantly: "Where can we dispose of the immense amount of earth and stones of the two mountains?"

One of her grandchildren immediately answered: "Don't worry, Grandma. We can throw them into the Bohai Sea."

So, the next morning the whole family went to start digging up the two mountains. Soon, some of the old man's neighbors joined the endeavor. Day and night, rain or shine, they never stopped digging.

One day, another grey-beard, called Zhi Sou (the Wise Old Man), came by the site and asked the Foolish Old Man: "Aren't you silly? At your age and with such a small group of people, do you think you can ever clear away these two towering mountains?"

The Foolish Old Man replied: "Why not? I may not live long enough to see the two mountains moved from here, but after I die, my sons will carry on the mission. After my sons die, my grandchildren will continue to dig up the mountains," he said.

"And my grandchildren will have their own sons and grandchildren. At the same time, the two mountains are not likely to grow any higher. So as long as we keep digging, why can't the two mountains be cleared away someday?"

Hearing his remarks, the God was moved by the firm determination of the Foolish Old Man. So one night he sent down two celestials to carry away the two mountains.


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