Chinese Man Spends 36 Years Chiseling at Three Mountains to Bring Water to His Village

Jan 29, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Driven by a desire to improve the living conditions in his home, Huang Dafa, chief of Caowangba, a small village hidden deep in the mountains of Guizhou Province, China, spent 36 years digging a 10-kilometer-long water canal through three mountains.

The Chinese legend of Yu Gong speaks of an old man whose house was separated from the nearest village by two mountains. So he started digging away at them to make a direct route to the village. People mocked him for what they called a futile effort, but he responded that while his descendants could dig for generations, the mountains couldn’t grow any higher. Moved by his determination, the gods moved the mountains, clearing the way for Yu Gong. Today, the saying “yu gong yi shan” – “the old man that could move mountains” – is used to describe ambition in the face on insurmountable odds.

But while the mythical Yu Gong was helped by divine intervention, Huang Dafa, village chief of Caowangba, in the mountains of Guizhou, could only rely on his will and the power of persuasion to build a long water channel through three karst mountains. His ambitious project began in 1959 and required 36 years of hard labor to complete. Today, his village is thriving thanks to constant running water, and he is celebrated as a real-life version of Yu Gong.

Before the impressive water channel, droughts cracked the soil around Caowangba and residents barely had enough drinking water. Apart from a single well, all water sources had dried up, and everyone could only take so much water, because taking too much from the well meant that someone else would be left with no water at all.

“There was a rule that nobody could take too much. If they did, someone else may not have any for breakfast. These conditions motivated us,” deputy chief Xu Zhou recalls. “Forget irrigation. We had a 330-square-meter rice paddy that was parched to the point you could put your foot in the cracks in the dry season. It was a serious problem. So, we started looking for a serious solution.”

But there weren’t too many options available, apart from moving away or doing nothing, and nothing was not an option. That was Huang Dafa’s main argument when he set out to convince the village that they had to bring water all the way from Yebiao village, a few kilometers away and separated from Caowangba by three mountains.

At first, people told him it was impossible, that the water would never reach them, but there was no other alternative, and Huang Dafa believed it could be done. He managed to convince a few young men and work on the ambitious canal began in 1959. He was only 23 at the time. But the conditions were hard, and Dafa had to lead his people in the most difficult and dangerous of tasks.

Huang recalls being the first to tie himself to a tree trunk at the top of a 300-meter-high cliff and take a leap of faith over the edge. “If I didn’t, nobody else dared,” he says. But even after witnessing his courage, some people refused to follow his example, because it was just too dangerous.

Villagers spent 10 years digging a 100-meter tunnel through a mountain peak using only hand tools, for nothing, because the water wouldn’t flow as they intended. Huang realized that while their determination was strong, their knowledge of waterways and irrigation was not, so he spent a few years studying water-system engineering in Zunyi’s Fengxiang town.

He returned in the early 1990s and asked the villagers to try again. They agreed and work on the monumental water channel began once more. They made good progress, but only because Huang Dafa was always on site, guiding their efforts. That took a heavy toll on his personal life, as his daughter and his grandson passed away while he was working in the mountains.

“He wasn’t home, even when my sister was on her deathbed,” his 53-year-old son, Huang Binquan told China Daily. “The construction teams wouldn’t know how to proceed if he wasn’t there.”

In 1995, the 7,200-meter-long water canal and a 2,200-meter-long branch channel were finally completed, and water began flowing into Caowangba. It traverses three other villages, supplying them with running water, and three mountains. It was named Dafa Channel, in honor of its mastermind.

“I was determined to bring water to Caowangba. People have had plenty of food since. Full stomachs mean peace of mind,” 82-year-old Huang Dafa said recently. “If we can do something (for progress), we should. We shouldn’t wait for things to happen. Dozens of years of my life could have passed without anything happening.”

ECNS reports that the impressive waterway has benefited 1,200 people and has bumped up rice production for 25,000 kilograms to 400,000 kilograms a year.

In 1995, the year that the water canal was completed, electricity and a new road reached Caowangba village. All three projects were led by Hunag Dafa. “I decided to do three things for the villagers: draw water to the village, build a road and get access to electricity,” he says proudly.

Even though he is now in his 80s, the former village chief still spends a lot of his time checking the canal regularly to make sure it is in working condition.

This amazing story of determination reminds us of another man who proved he could move mountains. Dashrath Manjhi, from India, spent over two decades chiseling away at a mountain with hand tools to make a road for his community, after the Government refused to. He is popularly known as The Man Who Moved a Mountain.

PAP members call on party to embrace diversity and be open to opposing views

Nov 29, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership
Two People’s Action Party (PAP) members have called on the ruling party to embrace diversity and listen to opposing views, with one Member of Parliament (MP), Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin, going as far as to say that PAP has to fix its "empathy deficit and grow more comfortable with understanding views we disagree with".

The MP for Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was among some party activists who spoke at the annual PAP convention on Sunday (Nov 28). There were about 2,000 party activists as well as members from the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) who attended the event both physically at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre and online.

Ms Gho Sze Kee, branch secretary of the party’s Bukit Timah branch, also talked about how the party needed to introduce a diversity of perspectives to avoid the dangers of groupthink and being part of an echo chamber.

Addressing fellow party activists in her speech, Ms Nadia acknowledged that there is a tendency for people to live in “bubbles”, which refer to how individuals are often surrounded by others who look or think the same way as them, and that these “bubbles” have led to social divisions.

And these differences have played out online in the way party members have responded to opposing views as if they were threats.

However, she urged party members to be conscious of their own inherent biases and not view these differences as a threat, but as opportunities to have hard conversations.

“I hope we have them, and in listening, be at least open to the possibility of changing our minds,” she added.

“More than any trait during this time, I call for empathy that goes two ways. Empathy should drive us to amplify voices of others, to join forces for a shared cause, for our future.

“We have always been a party of action, and empathy is how we will continue to stay relevant, and continue to take meaningful action for our fellow Singaporeans.”

Recounting her own experience as a party activist since 2012, Ms Gho, 42, said PAP’s biggest pressing need is to ensure that it renews its members at every level of the party’s hierarchy, and not only in the candidates it fields during a general election.

Citing some branch-level statistics, she said that there are only 12 branch secretaries who are female, compared with 81 who are male.

“We need to ensure our party’s membership at the branch level truly reflects the diversity of Singapore. And we have to make sure that diversity counts when anticipating ground needs, giving inputs to policy formulation, and communicating our messages to our voters,” said Ms Gho.

When asked by reporters later if her point about PAP needing to embrace people from diverse backgrounds extends to people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Ms Gho agreed.

Recurring theme

The need to embrace people from diverse backgrounds and different viewpoints was a recurring theme at Sunday’s party convention.

PAP’s secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong, who is also Singapore’s Prime Minister, made similar points in his speech.

He had said that the party must show that it is not afraid of opposing views or being challenged, and that voters today want to see more debate, contestation and questioning of established ideas.

“We welcome good ideas, regardless of who proposed them… We also have to rebut wrong views, if possible gently, but when necessary firmly,” said Mr Lee.

Speaking to reporters after the event, MP for MacPherson ward Tin Pei Ling said that embracing diverse viewpoints would strengthen trust.

“It’s not just me pushing things to you and you have to accept it, or I just say things that you like to listen. But I explain to you so that even if we may not see eye-to-eye 100 per cent on everything, you know where I am coming from, that it’s not self-serving,” she added.

“And so, it comes back to what are we in politics for? It’s about serving people. And if that’s the case, then, having that empathy, bridging those differences, listening to people and to willingly engage and see whether we can have a midpoint perhaps, and letting you know where I come from. I think that’s important.”

Also speaking at Sunday’s convention was Mr Ling Weihong, 40, branch secretary of Sengkang Central, which is currently under the Workers’ Party.

He talked about the difficulties operating in an opposition ward, but said that his team would continue to work to win back Sengkang GRC, though he acknowledged that it would be an uphill task.

Representing the trade unions, Mr Sanjeev Tiwari, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, talked about the need to reinforce the strong ties between NTUC and PAP.

He said the collaboration between both organisations is mostly happening within the leadership level and that it needs to be extended to all members of both organisations.