Old Man Moves a Mountain
By Lie Zi
Tatxmg and Wangwu are two mountains with an area of seven hundred li square and rise to a great height of thousands of ren. They were originally situated south of Jizhou and north of Heyang.
North of the mountains lived an old man called Yugong (literally 'foolish old man') who was nearly ninety years old. Since his home faced the two mountains, he was troubled by the fact that they blocked the way of the inhabitants who had to take a roundabout route whenever they went out. He gathered his family together to discuss the matter.
"Let us do everything in our power to flatten these forbidding mountains so that there is a direct route to the south of Yuzhou reaching the southern bank of the Han River. What do you say?" Everyone applauded his suggestion.
His wife voiced her doubts. "You are not strong enough even to remove a small hillock like Kuifu. How can you tackle TaTxmg and Wangwu? And where would you dump the earth and rocks?"
"We can dump it into the edge of the Bo Sea and north of Yintu," said everyone.
Therefore Yugong took with him three sons and grandsons who could carry a load on their shoulders. They broke up rocks and dug up mounds of earth which were transported to the edge of the Bo Sea in baskets. His neighbour, a widow by the name of Jingcheng, had a posthumous son who was just at the age of discarding his silk teeth. This vivacious boy jumped at the chance of giving them a hand. From winter through summer the workers only returned home once.
An old man called Zhisou (literally 'wise old man') who lived in Hequ, near a bend of the Yellow River, was amused and dissuaded Yugong.
"How can you be so foolish? With your advanced years and the little strength that you have left, you cannot even destroy a blade of grass on the mountain, not to speak of its earth and stone."
Yugong from north of the mountains heaved a long sigh. "You are so obstinate that you do not use your reason. Even the widow and her little son do better than you. Though I die, my son lives on. My son produces a grandson and in turn the grandson has a so?of his own. Sons follow sons and grandsons follow sons. My sons and grandsons go on and on without end but the mountains will not grow in size. Then why worry about not being able to flatten them?" Zhisou of Hequ was bereft of speech.
The god of the mountains who held a snake in his hand heard about this and was afraid that Yugong would not stop digging at the mountains. He reported the matter to the king of the gods who was moved by Yugong's sincerity. The king commanded the two sons of Kua'eshi, a god with great strength, to carry away the two mountains on their backs: one was put east of Shuozhou and the other south of Yongzhou. From that time onwards no mountain stood between the south of Jizhou and the southern bank of the Han River.