A long time ago, so the legend has it, a young man followed in his father’s footsteps and made such a good job of engineering the Chinese landscape to prevent the catastrophic flooding that plagued their land, that he was made an Emperor. Not a bad promotion, but one he declined at first , agreeing when he was aged 53 . To put a date on it, we are talking about two millennia before we started counting time as a positive number.
One of the few men to earn the posthumous accolade of ‘the Great’, Yu was applauded by Confucius amongst others as a deeply virtuous and moral man. Few records exist from the time, and ballads were a predominant measure of popular thought, this is one verse of many ballads at the time praising Yu for giving the people back their land to farm,
Very grand is Mt. Liang,
Its cultivation being made possible by Yu.
The waters of the Fung flow on to the east.
Through the meritorious work of Yu.
The people of the four quarters have the same
opinion; He is truly a great ruler.
Yu had a right hand man, chief minister Kao-Yao who was responsible for defining the codes of behaviour . I particularly admire his list below – what society would not benefit from such a list? Though I suspect the list came a long time after, since there are virtually no historical records from that period in China.
The Nine Follies:
• To think oneself immortal
• To think investments are secure
• To mistake conventional good manners for friendship
• To expect any reward for doing right
• To imagine the rich regard you as an equal
• To continue to drink after you have begun to declare that you are sober
• To recite your own verse
• To lend money and expect its return
• To travel with too much luggage
Further reading :