A West Zhou bronze vessel

This more than 3,000-year-old bronze vessel was recovered by a Beijing museum researcher in 2002 from an antique market in Hong Kong. On the bottom of the container, there are 98 Chinese characters with the opening lines praising the legendary Great Yu’s hydraulic projects nearly 5,000 years ago to control the flood of the Yellow River.

An Ancient Reference to the Great Yu’s Hydraulic Project

Below are the 98 characters and an English translation:

Great Yu had the mandate from Heaven to build dams along the shores and plant trees on the hills for the purpose of flood control.

Hence the tax for the project was collected. Following the completion of the product, people’s lives were greatly improved.

Great Yu did a great service to his people and people respected him as their leader.

Now I am the sovereign and I require all my government officials to serve your people as Great Yu did and fulfill moral responsibilities to your families and communities.

All people in my kingdom should revere their ancestors, respect their parents, help their siblings and appreciate their sponsors.

In so doing, the Heavenly power will bestow happiness and longevity to individuals, and secure peace and prosperity for the kingdom.

As your king, I urge you to act in accordance with the civil code and observe morality.

天命禹敷土 随山浚川 乃差地设征 降民监德 乃自作配享民 成父母 生我王作臣 厥贵唯德民 好明德 顾 在天下 用厥邵 绍 好 益干懿德 康亡不懋 孝友 訏明经齐 好祀无废 心好德 婚媾亦唯协 天厘用考 神复用祓禄 永御于宁 遂公曰 民唯克用兹德 亡侮

The Popular Legend of Great Yu

The legend of Great Yu’s monumental flood control feat is well-known in China for thousands of years, with Tribute to Yu (禹贡) in the Book of Documents (尚书) compiled by Confucius being the most cited reference.

Among all stories about Great Yu, how he passed by his home three times but did not stop to pay a visit when he busily worked on the flood-control project is learned by every Chinese kid in the school.

Confucius teaching believes a good man should place the interest of the state ahead of his community, the interest of his community ahead of his family and the interest of his family ahead of himself.

However, so far there is no direct evidence to support the Great Yu tale.

The Physical Evidence of the Great Flood

In 2002, Chinese archaeologists excavated 14 human remains in the upper reach of the Yellow River and found they died of drowning.

Further study confirms the area where the remains were discovered was an agricultural settlement during the Neolithic Period around 4,000 years ago, and the oldest noodle made of rice was unearthed at the site. But the settlement was destroyed in flood.

In 2007, Chinese geologist Wu Qinglong studied the landform near the settlement and concluded there was an ancient quoke lake in a short distance, indicating a massive earthquake prior to the flood-hit region.

The carbon-14 dating conducted by a joint team of Chinese and American scientists suggests a huge flood occurred in China 4,000 years ago, which blocked the Yellow River for more than half a year and caused the water level to rise 240 metres in a 1,300-metre-long section, with at least 11 billion m3 water inundated surrounding land.

It was a great flood once in 10,000 years.

The research paper was published in Science magazine in 2016 titled “Outburst Flood at 1920 BCE Supports Historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia Dynasty”.

This is the area where the massive earthquake and the great flood occurred more than 4,000 years ago.

Nevertheless, whether this is sufficient evidence to support the claims of hydraulic projects and the establishment of the Xia Dynasty by Great Yu is still debatable.

You are welcome to share your thoughts here