Chinese Idiom Story – Hua She Tian Zu

Chinese Idiom Story - Hua She Tian Zu

Today we are reading an Idiom story called 畫蛇添足. This idiom is commonly used in everyday life, and its literal meaning is “adding legs to a snake”, or in other words, “ruining a thing by adding something unnecessary”.

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他的蛇脚还没画完,有一个人抢过酒壶,说: 「我画完了!」那位画蛇脚的人说:「我先画完的,因为我补画脚,你才赶上来。」夺过酒壶的人说:「蛇本来没有脚,谁叫你画蛇添足?」然后一口就把酒喝光了。


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他的蛇腳還沒畫完,有一個人搶過酒壺,說: 「我畫完了!」那位畫蛇腳的人說:「我先畫完的,因為我補畫腳,你才趕上來。」奪過酒壺的人說:「蛇本來沒有腳,誰叫你畫蛇添足?」然後一口就把酒喝光了。



English translation:

A long time ago, there was a nobleman. He intends to give his friends a small pot of wine. However, the people are many yet the wine is few, it is hard to divide evenly. Who will be the first one drinking, is a hard question. One person suggested: “Let’s draw snakes on the ground. Whoever finishes drawing first will drink.”

Everyone agreed, they started to draw snakes on the ground. They all wanted to paint fast and good, striving to drink this pot of wine first. Not long after, a person had finished painting the snake. He grabbed the jug and was very happy. He thought: “I can finish this pot of wine in one go.” He looked at other people still painting, he was very proud, casually said “I still want to add legs to the snake that I drew. I believe that after drawing the snake legs, they would have not finished painting yet.”

His snake’s legs have not been finished yet. One person grabbed the jug and said, “I have finished drawing!” The person who painted the snake’s legs said, “I finished drawing first because I added the legs, you just caught up.” The man who had won the jug said, “The snake has no legs. Who told you to add legs to a snake?” Then he drank the wine in one bite.

Now, if someone does something that they don’t have to do, and then the result is not only unbeneficial but also harmful, we will say that he is “adding legs to a snake.”

Special notes:

  • 補 – bǔ – make up (+verb (exam, study, draw, etc))
  • 奪過 – duóguò – snatch over
  • 誰叫你 – shéi jiào nǐ – who ask you (to do something)

The photo is taken from here.   

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