Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California.
This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China.
Y: The Foolish Old man removes the mountain – the story goes, this story became famous after Chairman Mao used it in his speech or writing.
The story goes that in old times, there was an old man who was 90 years old. He lived near the mountains called the Tai Ha Sang and Wang Mu Sang, the two mountains. Basically, he was angry because the mountains blocked his view and he wanted to move them. He wanted to dig up the mountain. Because the mountains are kind of far away, even though they look near, when you go to them it’s pretty far. It takes about a year to, basically it takes time to go to the mountains and he can’t really dig up the mountain because he can only dig up some rock and dirt each time. So people laugh at him and say you’re so old with limited timee left, and you can only remove a little bit of dirt and rock at a time. How can you remove the mountain, its impossible. And he said, Oh, although I may not be able to accomplish in my lifetime, my kids can continue it and my kid’s kids, my grandkids, can work on it after. So if I have generations working on it, eventually we can succeed.
Y: yeah. So generations and generations continued to work on it, working on removing the moutanins. Eventually the gods heard about it and were impressed by his perseverance, so basically the gods seperated the mountains.
Me: Ohhh, they did it for him.
Y: Yeah so the gods separated the mountains.
The moral is that if you are determined to do something, the perseverance will eventually help you succeed.
This story focuses again on the morals in Chinese culture to persevere, as well as to respect the wishes of your ancestors. It is also a direct example of advising to respect your elders because those who told the old man that he was too old were proved wrong as his legacy persisted past his lifetime. This long line of families all follow the wishes of the original protagonist before the gods reward them for their actions. I think it is also interesting that my informant remembered it because of a speech from Chairman Mao. Mao notoriously appealed to the lower class and therefore I think it is telling that he references this folktale in order to appeal to this audience. This fable also gave way to a figure of speech that references the hardship of the old man.
“The Foolish Old Man Moves a Mountain – Xu Beihong – Google Arts & Culture.” Google, Google, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-foolish-old-man-moves-a-mountain-xu-beihong/VwF2EURLdtUNww?hl=en.