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Chinese Idiom - 画蛇添足

Posted by vann0000 February 9, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: idiom, feet, snake, draw, unwanted, wine, bottle, drink, argue

Draw feet on a snake (画蛇添足 hua she tian zu)


A nobleman, after making offerings to his ancestors, took some of the wine that was left over from the offerings and gave it to his men. The men looked at the wine and saw that there was very little of it. One of the men suggested, "If we all drink from this bottle of wine, each of us will just barely get a taste of it. It would be much better if all the wine went to one person. What do you think?"

Everyone agreed that this was a good idea, but couldn't agree on who should get the wine. No one was willing to give in and let someone else have it, for everyone wanted the wine for himself. They didn't know how to decide. The man who had the first idea soon spoke up: "We will have a competition and see who can draw a snake on the ground first. The one who finishes drawing first will win the bottle of wine, all right?"

Everyone though this idea was good, so they began the competition. Everyone squatted down on the ground to draw a snake. One of them finished his drawing quickly, but before he claimed the bottle of wine, he looked around at the others who were still drawing. Everyone had their heads bent over their work, and the man thought he had time to add more to his drawing. He decided to add four feet to his snake.

"But while he was drawing the feet, another man finished drawing. This man took the wine and laughed at the first man: "A snake didn't have feet to begin with! Why have you given your snake feet?"

Then, he took the bottle of wine, and guzzled it down. The man who drew feet on the snake could only look at the empty bottle of wine and drool with longing.

The idiom "Draw feet on a snake" comes from this story. Now people use it to illustrate this idea: it is harmful to do unnecessary things when they are not wanted.

画蛇添足(huà shé tiān zú)

有一个贵族在祭祀(jì sì)祖先以后,把祭祀用的一壶(hú)酒赏(shǎng)给为他办事的几个人喝.那几个人看了看酒,认为酒太少了,于是其中一个人说:"这一壶酒如果我们每个人都喝的话,谁也喝不痛快;最好是只让给一个人喝,你们觉得怎么样?"

大家虽然都表示同意,可是对于应该由谁来喝这壶酒,却因为谁也不肯退让而无法做出决定.于是,最先提议(tí yì)的那个人又说:"我们每个人在地上比赛画蛇,谁先画好,谁就喝这壶酒,行不行?"

大家都认为这个主意不错,便一致赞成(zàn chéng).于是,他们几个人就蹲(dūn)在地上画起蛇来.其中有一个人很快就把蛇画好了,可是当他正要拿起酒壶喝酒的时候,看到别人都还在低着头画,就想:那我再给蛇添四只脚吧,反正来得及.

可是正当他在画脚的时候,另外有一个人已经把蛇画好了.那个人拿过壶酒笑着对他说,:"蛇本来就没有脚,你为什么要给它添上四只脚呢?"

然后,他举起酒壶,咕噜咕噜(gū lū gū lū)把酒喝光了.而原先那个替蛇添脚的人,只能懊悔不已(ào huǐ bù yǐ)地在一旁吞(tūn)口水了.

成语"画蛇添足"就是从这个故事来的.现在人们用它来说明这个道理:做了没必要的、多余的事,反而不恰当(qià dàng).

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