Tag Archives: perseverance

Taiwanese story: Yu Gong and the Two Mountains

Nationality: Taiwanese
Primary Language: Taiwanese/Mandarin
Age: 76
Occupation: Retired, former teacher
Residence: Taipei, Taiwan
Performance Date: 24 March 2024

Tags: wisdom, mountains, hard work, perseverance, Jade Emperor


Once upon a time, there was an elderly man living between two mountains. The mountains were big enough that it would take multiple days and nights to navigate them, making them incredibly inconvenient for the old man and his family. One day, the man decided to remove the mountains to make life easier for him and his family, much to the bewilderment of his wife and others. The old man and his sons began to chip away at the mountain, dumping the dirt and stones in the Bohai Bay, working tirelessly each day. Others laughed at their attempts and called the old man “Yu Gong” (dumb geezer, approx.). There was another old man around whom others called “Zhi Shou” (smart man, approx.) who also started belittling Yu Gong, telling him to give up since he was too old to ever hope to finish moving the mountains. Yu Gong retorted that even if he withered away and died, his sons and those sons’ sons would continue his work, since the mountain couldn’t do anything but shrink and shrink throughout the years. The Jade Emperor happened to hear this conversation, and, touched by Yu Gong’s determination and spirit, ordered two of his own men to help Yu Gong move the mountains. The Jade Emperor’s men moved the mountains with ease in an instant, and Yu Gong’s family celebrated.


C. is a born and raised Taiwanese citizen, and has told her fair share of stories to her children and grandchildren alike. Interestingly enough, in contrast to the stories of Hou Yi and Yu Gong, this was a story not told to me until pretty recently. When I inquired about this, C. simply said she forgot.


I have never personally heard this story until recently, but it does hold up as a traditional aesop that one would tell their children and such to learn the importance of perseverance and determination. Perhaps it is because the other two stories (Hou Yi and Chang E) are more deeply ingrained into Asian society due to their connections with festivals, and this story of Yu Gong is simply a cautionary tale.