Driven by a desire to improve the living conditions in his home, Huang Dafa, chief of Caowangba, a small village hidden deep in the mountains of Guizhou Province, China, spent 36 years digging a 10-kilometer-long water canal through three mountains.
The Chinese legend of Yu Gong speaks of an old man whose house was separated from the nearest village by two mountains. So he started digging away at them to make a direct route to the village. People mocked him for what they called a futile effort, but he responded that while his descendants could dig for generations, the mountains couldn’t grow any higher. Moved by his determination, the gods moved the mountains, clearing the way for Yu Gong. Today, the saying “yu gong yi shan” – “the old man that could move mountains” – is used to describe ambition in the face on insurmountable odds.
But while the mythical Yu Gong was helped by divine intervention, Huang Dafa, village chief of Caowangba, in the mountains of Guizhou, could only rely on his will and the power of persuasion to build a long water channel through three karst mountains. His ambitious project began in 1959 and required 36 years of hard labor to complete. Today, his village is thriving thanks to constant running water, and he is celebrated as a real-life version of Yu Gong.