Chinese Idiom Explained: 揠苗助长

March 31, 2020

“揠苗助长" (yà miáo zhù zhǎng) is a popular Chinese idiom that 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.

In this blog, we want to share with you both the Chinese and the English retelling of the original story behind “揠苗助长" (yà miáo zhù zhǎng), what it means, as well as how to use it in a sentence.

Let’s dive in! .


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.


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!”


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):

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?

Guess what? We have more Chinese Idioms in store for you!