Chinese Idiom Explained: 守株待兔

April 11, 2020

"守株待兔" (shǒu zhū dài tù) is a popular Chinese idiom that comes from Wu Du, by Han Feizi, written during the latter years of the Warring States Period, and can be literally translated as “to wait by a tree for a hare” in English.

In this blog, we want to share with you both the Chinese and the English retelling of the original story behind "守株待兔" (shǒu zhū dài tù), what it means, as well as how to use it in a sentence.

Let’s dive in!


There was a farmer that lived in the state of Song. He had a tree stump in the middle of his field. One day, a hare bolted across his field, hit the stump, and died. The farmer was thrilled, he picked up the hare and went home to enjoy a delicious dinner. He hoped that he could be this lucky every day.


So he left his farming tools behind and waited by the stump all day for another hare to be delivered. A day passed, then another, and another. His crops all withered, and yet he still did not have a hare hit the stump. He became a laughingstock for generations to come.

This idiom is a metaphor for those that don’t take initiative or work hard and bank on good luck to succeed.

shǒu (to guard)

zhū (tree trunk)

dāi (to stay/wait)

(hare; rabbit)

例句 (Example Sentences):

Xiàndài shèhuì jìngzhēng jīliè, nǐ ruò zhǐguǎn shǒuzhūdàitù, chízǎo huì bèi táotài de.
These days, the competition in society is fierce; if you wait around aimlessly, eventually you will be left behind.

Jǐngchá shǒuzhūdàitù, máifúle jǐ tiān, dǎitú zhōngyú chūxiànle.
The police laid in wait for a few days; eventually, the felon appeared.

How would you use the idiom? Is there a similar one in your country?