Yu (禹), also known as Yu the Great (大禹), was one of the five legendary sage kings of ancient China in the 23rd or 22nd century BC. After being handed the throne by his predecessor, Shun (舜), Yu went on to become renowned in Chinese history for building a system of irrigation canals that reduced flooding in the rich agricultural plains surrounding the Yellow River and brought unprecedented prosperity to the nation.
Unlike his predecessor Shun, however, Yu designated his son as his successor, thus establishing China’s first hereditary dynasty, the Xia (夏朝) in ca. 2070 BC.
Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 8, Chapter XVIII
Book 8, Chapter XXI
Confucius said: “How majestic was the manner in which Shun and Yu ruled over the world but treated none of it as their own.”
Confucius said: “I can find no flaw in Yu. He drank and ate simple fare, but showed complete devotion in his offerings to the ghosts and the spirits; he wore humble clothes, but his ritual vestments were magnificent; he lived in a modest palace, and he spent all his strength in draining floodwaters. I can find no flaw in Yu.”