揠苗助长 - Pulling Seedlings to Help them Grow

March 31, 2020

揠苗助长 yà miáo zhù zhǎng 'To spoil things through excessive enthusiasm'

In this blog, we want to share the story behind the popular idiom “揠苗助长" (yà miáo zhù zhǎng) with you. This idiom comes from Mencius’s Gong Sun Chou (Part 1) and has a similar meaning to the idiom “slow and steady wins the race” in English.

We have included both the Chinese and the English versions of the story below.


以前,有个农夫总嫌家里的庄稼长得慢。他每天都去田地里看,发现庄稼都没有长高。他觉得很苦恼,怎么才能让庄稼长快点呢。他天天想,终于想到了一个好办法。

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who resented how slow his crops grew. He went to his field every day to check and found that the crops did not grow at all. Feeling frustrated, he wondered how the crops could grow quicker. He wondered every day until finally, he thought of a good solution.

他来到田地里,把全部的庄稼一根一根往上拔。拔了之后,他发现庄稼确实长高了不少,特别高兴。回到家,他对家人说:“可把我累坏了,我帮助禾苗长高了!”

He came to the field, and one by one pulled all the crops. After he pulled them up, he realised his crops are certainly a lot higher. He was ecstatic. When he returned home, he told his family: “Boy, am I exhausted, I was helping the seedlings grow!”

儿子听后,赶紧跑到田地里一看,庄稼全都枯死了。

When the son heard, he ran to the field immediately to see that all the crops had died.


This idiom tells us that no matter what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be too eager to succeed. You should go at a steady and firm pace. This way, step by step, you can reach your goal.

Because 揠 () has the same meaning as 拔 (; to pull), we can also say 拔苗助长 (bá miáo zhù zhǎng).

Character in the Idiom Chinese Meaning Pinyin English Meaning
to pull
禾苗 hé miáo grain seedling
帮助 bāng zhù help
生长 shēng zhǎng to grow

例句 (Example Sentence):

学习文化知识,要循序渐进,千万不能急于求成,揠苗助长。
Xué xí wén huà zhī shi, yāo xún xù jiàn jìn, qiān wàn bù néng jí yú qiú chéng, yà miáo zhù zhǎng.
Learning cultural knowledge requires steady progress. You mustn't rush to succeed and spoil things with excessive enthusiasm.

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