Da Yu Controls the Waters (大禹治水 dà yǔ zhì shuǐ)
This is a very famous legend from Chinese mythology, the story of how Da Yu (大禹 dà yǔ), commonly known in English as “Yu the Great,” saved China from flooding by inventing a new form of flood control. Da Yu is said to have been a direct decedent of the Yellow Emperor (黄帝 huáng dì) and was alive during the period of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors (三皇五帝 sān huáng wǔ dì).
The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were two groups of mythological rulers/deities in ancient China. The Three Sovereigns preceded The Five Emperors, and they all ruled at different times between c. 2852 BCE to 2070 BCE.
During the reign of Emperor Yao (尧帝 yáo dì), China was frequently plagued by floods that put a strain on economic growth and social development. While Yu was still a young boy his father, Gun (鲧 gǔn), was tasked by the emperor to devise a system to control the flooding. However, after more than nine years of building a series of dikes and dams along the riverbanks, all his efforts proved to be in vein. The floods persisted.
As an adult, Yu continued his father's work and took to learning all he could about river systems in an attempt to understand why his father's methods had been so ineffective.
In time, Yu successfully devised a system of flood controls that would later bring prosperity to China. Instead of directly damming the rivers' flow, as his father had done in the past, Yu created a system of irrigation canals which relieved floodwater into neighbouring fields. He and his team also dredged the riverbeds to improve drainage even more.
According to the stories, Yu is said to have eaten and slept with the common workers, rarely returning home to see his family. He spent most of his time personally assisting the workers until the project was complete, some thirteen years after he left his home.
For his ingenuity and personal sacrifice, Yu was granted the title “The Great,” and his name has been immortalised in history.
In other versions of this story, Yu is assisted in his endeavours by a blue dragon and a black tortoise; he cuts a mountain ridge with a divine battle-axe; he kills one of Gong Gong’s (共工 gòng gōng) minions, Xiang Liu (相柳 xiāng liǔ); and in yet another, his father, Gun, was killed for not completing the task that had been set for him. In order to avoid the same fate, Yu stole the Tian He Ding Di Shen Zhu Tie from Tai Shang Lao Jun and used it to stabilise the waters. Though successful, Yu dared not return the artefact to Tai Shang Lao Jun, so instead, he hid the artefact deep within the Eastern Sea; in another version, Yu leaves the artefact in the Eastern Sea where it becomes known as the “Pillar holding down the sea."
Ru Yi Jin Gu Bang and the Monkey King
When the Monkey King's first teacher, Master Puti (菩提祖师 Pú tí zǔ shī) the immortal sage, realised it was time to let the Monkey King go, he knew that Sun Wu Kong would require a weapon of extraordinary power to match his own. Knowing that the King of the Eastern Sea, Ao Guang, had an underwater treasury full of magical weapons and armour, Puti advised he start there.
Heeding his master’s final words, the Monkey King entered the Eastern Sea and made his way to the Crystal Palace where Ao Guang resides.
Upon his arrival, the Dragon King ordered his minions to turn Sun Wu Kong away so in typical Monkey King fashion, he barged his way through the guards and presented himself to Ao Guang anyway. After realising how formidable Sun Wu Kong was, the Dragon King wisely decided to check his manners and received his kingly visitor appropriately. Sun Wu Kong explained that he had come to the Crystal Palace in search of a powerful weapon and would like to take a look in the treasury. Through fear of his guests power, Ao Guang agreed.
The two kings sat together drinking tea as Ao Guang’s guards brought out heavenly weapons, one after another, none of which were to Sun Wu Kong’s liking. As he tested the weapons they would break under his grip, nothing seemed to be strong enough. Witnessing this power first hand, Ao Guang grew more and more intimidated by his guest and prayed they would find a worthy weapon soon.
At this point, Ao Guang’s wife entered the room and quickly realised what was happening. She spoke to Ao Guang and suggested that they let the Monkey King try the Tian He Ding Di Shen Zhu Tie (the Stabiliser of the Four Seas) for she had noticed it had recently been emitting a heavenly light, suggesting that the Monkey King was destined to wield it.
As it stood in Ao Guang’s Crystal Palace, the artefact was an enormous pillar, stretching from the seabed all the way up to further than the eye could see in such deep waters. But the moment the Monkey King touched it, the pillar shrunk to the size of a staff that fit in his hands perfectly. The sea that was once stabilised by the magical artefact began to churn, both confusing and scaring the Dragon King even more. At this point, he just wanted Sun Wu Kong to leave.
In order to appease the Monkey King further, with the help of the other Dragon Kings, Ao Guang bestowed upon him an attire fit for a king; a golden chain mail shirt (锁子黄金甲 suǒ zi huáng jīn jiǎ), cloud-walking boots (藕丝步云履 ǒu sī bù yún lǚ), and a phoenix-feather cap (凤翅紫金冠 fèng chì zǐjīn guān) – a red and gold circlet adorned with phoenix feathers.
the Monkey King left the Crystal Palace very pleased with his new toys. And the Dragon Kings were happy to see the back of him!