The Man Who Dug 36 Years for Water

Andrei Tapalaga

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Huang Dafa at the age of 82 (Source: Inhabitat)

It's amazing to see the dedication some people have towards achieving a certain goal, no matter how difficult it gets or how long it may take, nothing will stop them from reaching that goal. As far as recorded, no one has shown more dedication in life than Huang Dafa, a simple farmer from a small village called Caowangba in the South region of China.

Every goal is a solution to a problem

In 1959, the small village had seen a severe drought for almost a whole year with no rain and a hellish summer. Almost all the sources of freshwater had disappeared with the exception of a well, but that simply wasn't enough for the whole village. This drought soon led to insufficient food as there was no water for the rice fields and getting food from somewhere was difficult due to the remote location of the village.

This made the life of those villagers very difficult as they had to ration their food and water supplies. Taking too much water from the well could have lead to it drying, meaning the loss of their only source of freshwater. A year had passed and things didn’t improve. The villagers were thinking of migrating to other villages as there was no hope for a better life in Caowangba.

However, Huang Dafa, who was only 23 at the time, came with an idea that could save the village. The closest source of freshwater from the village was 10 kilometers (6 miles) away, a river stream powerful enough to be extended to the village. The solution was to dig a canal from the top of the river all the way down to the village. When the villagers heard this crazy idea, they called Dafa crazy and no one was up for it.

One man’s dedication

That is the moment when Huang Dafa decided that he wanted to save his beloved village and dig the canal himself, no matter how many years it would take. As the project came along, some of the villagers decided to start helping Dafa dig the canal. The main challenge was digging in the mountainside, due to the extreme conditions it was taking much longer to dig. Some portions were solid stone, and these proved to be the hardest parts as some of them even took years.

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The canal going down from the mountainside towards the village (Source: Wonderfull Engineering)

It was not only about the exhaustion provoked by this project or the time it took but also the danger it involved for those working. That is the reason why after a few years from the start of the project, some of the villagers decided to quit. It seemed like a never-ending project, but even when left alone, Dafa never gave up.

He was actually so dedicated that he paused his project for three years to go and study engineering in order to be more efficient at finishing this project. With the right knowledge he kept pushing on, most of the work was done by him over the years. It was only in 1990 when the project was around 80% completed that the villagers once again decided to help him finish the canal.

Over all those years, the water situation within the local sources of the village did not improve, so the villagers were becoming more dependent, at least the ones who remained in the village. With many villagers gone, the well in the village, although still not enough for everyone, had more to share.

An end to his project, but not his dedication

In 1995 the canal was completed and the village was now supplied with enough water for everyone. After 36 years of digging and chiseling the 1,200 villagers had their lives improved because of Dafa’s dedication. Not only that but in 1995 Dafa was able to bring electricity to the village via a contract he had been working on with the local government for years.

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82-year-old Chinese man Huang Dafa leads local villagers to build a water channel along cliffs, stretching over seven kilometers, in Zaowangba village (Source: Pinterest)

Huang Dafa’s story didn’t end there, as in 2001 he started helping out the villagers of another nearby village called Zaowangba who were suffering from the same drought problem to dig their own canal from the same river. This canal was an easier project as the village was only 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the river.

The people of China have awarded him with many different prizes and medals for his dedication over most of his life. Many see Huang Dafa as Yu Gong, a Chinese mythical character that is said to have been so determined that the Gods granted him the power to move entire mountains. It is simply amazing to see people dedicating their whole lives to what we may consider “a simple cause”.

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