Yu the Great is still remembered and respected as the ruler who got the Yellow River back under control. He lived about four thousand years ago. At that time, people suffered from a big flood of the Yellow River. King Shun, the ruler before Yu, initially assigned Yus father Gun to handle the problem. Gun tried out a method that consisted of blocking up the water wherever the flooding occurred. Nine years later, the situation had become even worse with the river overflowing everywhere. King Shun was very angry about what Gun had done, and ended up dismissing Gun and appointing Yu. Yu learned techniques from his father and adopted a new way of dredging water channels and conducting the river to the sea. He went into this project of water control with all his heart, and it was said that during this period of time, he passed by his house three times but never went inside. It took him 13 years to tame the river. The story of Yu's battle against the flood speaks of the fearless spirit of ancient people faced with natural disaster.

King Shun was impressed by Yu's endeavors and passed his throne to Yu later on. Yu the Great was the last legendary leader of the primitive society, in which the election of the leader followed the merit system. It was Qi, the son of Yu, who violated this practice. He killed the person Yu the Great had appointed and succeeded his fathers power. Qi founded the Xia Dynasty (21st-16th century BC) and initiated the hereditary system of monarchy.