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Archaeology & History

Did China's mythical flood actually happen ?

By T.K. Randall
August 5, 2016 · Comment icon 6 comments

The river was once blocked by a landslide. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Leruswing
The legendary story of how Emperor Yu tamed the raging floodwaters may actually have some truth to it.
Tales of great floods are relatively common in the ancient world, but while most of these are only loosely based on true events, one in particular looks like it may have actually taken place.

Legend tells of how the heroic Emperor Yu of China drove back the floodwaters of the Yellow River by dredging and redirecting all the tributaries - a monumental task that took decades to complete.

The story tells of how he was aided by a dragon which dug out vast channels in the ground and a large turtle which hauled tons of mud. Yu's success lead to the founding of China's Xia dynasty.
While the dragon and turtle were certainly rooted firmly in the realms of mythology, the flood itself may have some truth to it - that is at least according to scientists who recently revealed that they have discovered unusual sediment in the Jishi Gorge of the Yellow River.

The team believes that somewhere around 1,900BC a landslide dumped enough material in to the gorge to completely block the river. When this dam eventuallly burst it created a deluge of water which inundated the low-lying lands downstream with a devastating flood.

"The flood was about 300-500,000 cubic metres per second," said co-author Dr Darryl Granger from Purdue University. "That's roughly equivalent to the largest flood ever measured on the Amazon river; it's among the largest known floods to have happened on Earth during the past 10,000 years."

Whether Emperor Yu actually did drive back the floodwaters however remains a mystery.

Source: Live Science | Comments (6)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Leto_loves_melange 7 years ago
  [[[[   Quote:   The story tells of how he was aided by a dragon which dug out vast channels in the ground and a large turtle which hauled tons of mud. Yu's success lead to the founding of China's Xia dynasty.    ]]]]- Emperor Yu had an excavator and dump truck?  
Comment icon #2 Posted by third_eye 7 years ago
Here ... Wiki link ~   NatGeo link ~
Comment icon #3 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
As I said before, most legends are born in a truth of some kind.
Comment icon #4 Posted by fred_mc 7 years ago
I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps he did, of course not powered by engines, but perhaps simple machines consisting of levers, wheels etc and powered by human muscle power and horses. Ancient people were quite smart.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Zalmoxis 7 years ago
Doesn't sound as awesome as myth-tellers portray ancient flood stories. Myth-tellers usually say that the water reached mountain peaks and turned them into islands. Perhaps the western flood myths are of a similar cause, not a global phenomenon. Story tellers tend to embellish the truth, especially in the ancient world.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Leto_loves_melange 7 years ago
...the fact that the legend is practical in its approach to solving a problem shows to me at least that the ancient Chinese mind was grounded in logic. One animal to specialise in digging and the other to remove the waste. 

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