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Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Foolish Old Man Removes the Mountains

   The Taihang and Wangwu Mountains, which had a periphery of seven
   hundred li and were a hundred thousand feet high, originally lay south
   of Jizhou and north of Heyang.
   The Foolish Old Man of the North Mountain, nearly ninety years of age,
   lived behind these mountains. He was unhappy about the fact that the
   mountains blocked his way to the south and he had to walk round them
   whenever he went our or came back, so he called the whole family
   together to talk about the matter. " What would you say," he said to
   them,"if I suggest that all of us work hard to level the two mountains,
   so as to open a way to places south of Yu Prefecture and the Han
   River?" Many voices said they agreed to the idea.
   But his wife had her doubts. "With your strength," she said, "you could
   hardly remove a small hill like Kuifu. What could you do with the
   Taihang and Wangwu Mountains? Besides, where could you deposit the
   earth and rocks.?"
   "Carry them to the shores of the Bohai Sea and north of Yintu," said
   several people.
   The old man, helped by his son and grandson who could carry things,
   began to break rocks and dig earth, which they carried in baskets and
   dustbins to the shores of the Bohai Sea. The seven-year-old son of a
   widow named Jingcheng, one of the old man's neighbours, came running up
   to offer his help. One trip to the sea took them a long time: they left
   in winter and came back in summer.
   The Wise Old Man at the River Bend stopped the old man. He laughed and
   said, "How unwise you are! At your age, old and feeble as you are, you
   cannot even remove one hair on the mountain, let alone so much earth
   and so many rocks!"
   The Foolish Old Man of the North Mountain heaved a long sign and said,
   "You are so conceited that you are blind to reason. Even a widow and a
   child know better than you. When I die, there will be my sons, who will
   have their sons and grandsons. Those grandsons will have their sons and
   grandsons, and so on to infinity. But the mountains will not grow. Why
   is it impossible to level them?" The Wise Old Man at the River Bend
   could not answer him.
   The Old Man's words were heard by a god with snakes in his hands. He
   was afraid that the old man would really level the two mountains, and
   reported the whole thing to the Heavenly God. Moved by the old man's
   determination, the Heavenly God ordered the two sons of Kua'ershi to
   carry the two mountains on their backs and put one east of Shuo and the
   other south of Yong. After this, there were no more mountains between
   Jizhou and the Han River.
   Posted by Michael Yamin at 6:48AM
   Labels: Chinese

1 comment:

    1. Michael ReinhardDecember 28, 2022 at 3:59PM
       It's a little like Pascal's wager applied to the power of
       generational will.

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