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Old Legend Became Real? The Winding Roads Through Taihang Mountains

‘Yu Gong Yi Shan’ (The Foolish Man Who Moved Mountains) is a saying in traditional Chinese culture similar to the saying “faith can move mountains”. According to legend, there was an elderly guy who lived in a house with two mountains in front of it, making it difficult for him to come and go. Yugong, who was in his 90s, was resolved to remove the mountains, shovel by shovel, to make movement easier for himself and future generations. Despite being mocked, the old guy remained steadfast.

He said that if he could not finish the task, he has his sons and they will have their sons and so goes the list. Finally, the gods were moved by Yugong’s endurance and dispatched two titans from heaven to assist in the removal of the mountains. The word ‘Yu Gong Yi’ is now used to denote someone who has unbreakable willpower.

Picture: Business Recorder

The fable has become synonymous with pushing forward in the face of huge obstacles and persisting until the end. While the story may not be real, villagers in Shanxi Province, north China’s Taihang Mountains, dug through a mountain that stood between their community and the outside world. The villagers of Shenlongwan, a once-isolated town in China’s Shanxi Province, spent 15 years chiseling and hammering through rock to connect their home to the rest of the world and escape poverty.

Due to its favorable climate, Shenlongwan has long been known for its fine walnuts and pears, but getting their harvest to market has always been a difficult task for the residents. This is because peasants had to journey six hours to the county seat, passing through eight townships in three provinces, or risk their lives climbing a narrow, nearly vertical mountainous pass.

Picture: Xin Hua Net

The locals decided one day that things needed to change and that if the authorities refused to build a road to their village, they would have to build it themselves. A local veteran who worked on the project stated that they were in severe need of a road. And, like the mythical old man, the villagers were so determined that if they couldn’t complete it in a year, they would try again in two years. They would make it three years if two years weren’t enough.

This was no ordinary road. Because Shenlongwan is encircled on all sides by mountains, the people had to tunnel through the sheer rock to reach the rest of China. Carving through mountains with simple equipment like hammers and chisels proved to be incredibly difficult and time-consuming. The Shenlongwan people built a road that is only 1,526 meters long, yet it took them 15 years to finish. Work on the project began in 1985 and ended in 2000.

Picture: Daily Mail

Despite the difficulties, the construction paid off in the end. The short but priceless route paved the way for tourism and business, as well as helping the inhabitants of Shenlongwan escape poverty. They were able to sell the results of their labor more quickly, and the village’s natural beauty began to attract tourists as well.

Today, more than 60 percent of the villagers work in tourism-related industries, and poverty is a thing of the past. The average per-capita income was only 680 yuan in 2000, before the mountain-carved road became operational, but it now stands at 12,000 yuan, or $1,900.

The story of the villagers of Shenlongwan is really a great way of reminding us that with great willpower, anything is achievable.

Sources: Oddity Central, Xin Hua Net, Medium, Flip Board, Chinese Story

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