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Chinese Fable : Old Man Yu Moves the Mountains

Once upon a time, there were two mountains that stood right beside each other. The first was name, “Tai-Ying” and the second was named, “Yellow House.” Both were over ten-thousand 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. “I 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 cheered and gave him their undying support. Old Man Yu’s wife sneered, “You are a foolish old man indeed! Just how would you go about moving two big mountains like Tai-Ying and Yellow-House?” she continued, “never mind two mountains, I do not think you can even move two piles of cow-dung! And even if you could move the mountains, just where would you dispose of the dirt and rocks from the mountains? Huh?!?” she cried.

The old man thought for a moment, and without backing down answered her, “I will throw out the dirt and rocks into a faraway place. I will throw them into the sea!” Once again, Old Man Yu’s sons and grandsons thought that it was a terrific idea to throw the dirt into the sea. They cheered a second time and pledged to him their dying support. Even the neighbouring widow’s son named, Little Turnip Boy, gave the old man his support although he was only eight-years-old.

Off went Old Man Yu, his three sons, his many, countless grandsons, and Little Turnip Boy to work on removing Tai-Ying and Yellow House. 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, as they all held steadfast to Old Man Yu’s dream of having the two mountains removed.

Now 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 his arrogance. The clever man, who lived by the Yellow River 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 remove two whole mountains? And look at you! You must be over ninety-years-old and closer to the grave as each day passes. How do you 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.”

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