The villagers he led only had hand tools－and explosives. He's the stuff of legend－but real. Huang Dafa is arguably an actual, modern incarnation of the ancient myth of Yu Gong.
The saying yu gong yi shan－or "the old man moves mountains"－is a parable of persistence that seems foolhardy in the face of unimaginable odds.
Fable says two peaks separated Yu Gong's home from the village.
So, he decided to dig them away.
Another elderly man mocked him. Yu Gong responded that while his descendants could dig for generations, the mountains wouldn't grow any higher.
The gods were so moved by his determination that they moved the mountains for him.
Huang enjoyed no such divine intervention.
He had to rely on pure will.
Huang Dafa [Photo provided to China Daily]
The 81-year-old spent 36 years persuading and then leading villagers to chisel about 10 kilometers of irrigation channels into the vertical sides of three karst mountains.
Droughts below puckered the soil and left residents with just enough drinking water.
Villagers forging the waterway sometimes had to hike to the top of the ascendable side of the mountains, tie themselves to trees and rappel down sheer－sometimes-concave－cliff faces.
The peaks stood in the way of the water source nearest Caowangba village on the outskirts of Guizhou province's Zunyi city.
So, like the ancient Yu Gong, Huang grabbed a shovel－and made the impossible possible.
It was not only difficult but also dangerous.
Huang was the first to lash himself to a tree trunk at the top of a 300-meter-high cliff and take a leap of faith over the edge, he says.
"If I didn't, nobody else dared."