成語故事

To Draw a Snake and Add on Feet

During the Warring States Period, there lived in the kingdom of Ch'u a temple caretaker who gave to the people who worked for him a pitcher of wine. But there were a lot of workers and not much wine, and if they were to split it evenly among themselves, nobody would get very much. Finally, one worker suggested that they each draw a snake in the dirt, and whoever finished first would get the wine. So they all began to draw, and the worker who finished first picked up the wine, preparing to drink. But noticing that others still hadn't finished, he continued to draw, boasting; "I can even give my snake feet!" Before he could finish, however, a second person finished his snake, and immediately grabbed the wine away from the first person, saying, "Snakes don't have feet; how can you add feet to yours?" And the worker who had begun drawing the feet looked sadly on as his friend finished the wine.

This idiom "to draw a snake and add on feet" has now come to mean that taking extra measures after one has already satisfactorily completed a task, or adding extra description after one has already explained oneself clearly, is harmful rather than beneficial.

畫蛇添足

戰國時代,楚國有個廟宇的主人,送給看廟的人們一壼酒。可是粥少僧多,怎麼分這壼酒呢?其中一個人就說:「這壼酒,每人喝一口,誰也不過癮,不如讓一個人喝。這樣吧!我們每個人在地上畫一條蛇,誰先畫完,誰就喝這壼酒。」大家都贊成他的意見,就分別在地上畫起蛇來。一會兒,有一個人畫完了。他拿起酒壼準備喝酒。可是他發現別人都沒有畫好,就左手拿著酒壼,右手又在地上畫著,還得意洋洋地說:「我還能替蛇畫出腳來呢!」當他還沒把蛇腳畫完的時候,另外一個人已經把蛇畫完了。立刻從他手裡奪過酒壼說:「蛇本來沒有腳,你怎麼能添上腳呢?」替蛇添腳的人只好懊惱地看人家喝酒了。


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