Hey guys, welcome back to Office Hours with the Brofessor: the show where I say things. Today: Historical Chinese Badass Bros, Part I: Da Yu.
So, Chinese history is pretty darn rich, and I for one think it’s a travesty that it’s so little-known in the West. So, in this series I’d like to do my part to fix that by talking about four of my heroes from China’s long history. In my opinion these are some of the greatest men ever to live, not just in China but in all of human history. When I’m talking with my Chinese friends, I like to call them my “big brothers”, or in Chinese, da-ge.
So, da-ge number one is Da Yu, the oldest of my four big bros:
He was a semi-legendary emperor who lived during the 21st century BC. We’ve already talked a little about him, but it’s worth repeating one more time how much ass this guy kicked. My man Da Yu was basically the model of an enlightened sage-king. He’s been revered throughout Chinese history for his accomplishments and the dedication with which he served the people.
According to legend, the China of Da Yu’s time was stricken by a terrible flood. Whole harvests were ruined, and the people were starving to death. When the floods struck, Da Yu had just gotten married. Regardless, he left his wife behind and got right to work.
For the next thirteen years Da Yu worked without a break to control the floodwaters. Legend has it that three times he walked by his house’s doorstep, but refused to go inside and rest while his people needed him. Even though he was the emperor, no task was beneath him. He worked, ate and even slept alongside the workers. By the end of his thirteen years of work, his hands and feet were covered in rough calluses.
Finally it became apparent that no amount of ditch-digging or dikebuilding could stem the raging flood: the very course of the river Yangtze would have to be changed. So Da Yu traveled up the river, took his magic battle ax, and split the very mountains asunder, forming a new course for the river and saving countless lives.
But his work wasn’t over yet. Da Yu also had to kill a terrible nine-headed serpent that was causing the floods in the first place.
Having tamed the floodwaters and slain the dragon, Da Yu went on to prove a capable ruler, founding a dynasty that would rule China for the next five centuries. He had two major accomplishments during his reign: first, he divided the land into nine provinces and appointed vassals to govern them. Second, he cast the Nine Dings, or ceremonial cauldrons. He gave one to each of his vassals to symbolize royal authority. Since then, even to this day, the ding cauldron has been a symbol of power, prestige and ambition in Chinese culture.
So that’s about it for Da Yu. Up next we have my man the Duke of Zhou; or as I like to call him, the Duke of Bro. See you next time.