Ba Miao Zhu Zhang -- Pulling Seedlings to Help Growth

The Story Behind the Idiom

A farmer was desperate for a good harvest from his rice paddies -- even though he had only recently sowed the seeds. He couldn't eat or sleep and frequently wandered to his paddies to see if the seedlings grew taller. One morning, he was struck by a brilliant idea. He ran to the field and pulled each seedling upward so they seemed to grow taller. He busied himself all day doing this and went home exhausted but extremely happy.

'Oh, I'm so tired,' he said to his children, 'but we are definitely going to have a good harvest this year since all the seedlings are growing taller.' His children didn't understand what happened. They went to the field to check and found that all the seedlings had died.

The Idiom

Ba miao zhu zhang means 'pulling seedlings to help growth.' The story and the idiom warn us that if we try to speed up development in an unnatural way, our action will backfire. It seems as though ancient Chinese scholars already understood the importance of sustainable development.

Example: It would be considered ba miao zhu zhang if you sign up your five year old son for a whole slew of extra-curriculum courses as he enrolls for Kindergarten. It won't make sense to have him study classic literature and advanced math if he hasn't learned to read or count yet. After all, he's only seedling!

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