Chinese Proverbs‎ > ‎

Add Leggs To The Snake

Add leggs to the snake
Meaning: Do something that is totally unnecessary and spoil what you already have done.

Draw a snake and add feet to it

Following the ceremony for the worship of ancestors, a man from the state of Chu had one bottle of wine remaining. This wine was to be given to the assemblage.

However, many were there. Who would receive the single bottle of wine? Finally, someone suggested that each person draw a snake on the ground. The one who finished first would get the bottle of wine. Everyone agreed.

One man drew very quickly. In an instant, his snake was finished. Therefore, he had earned the bottle. Then, he looked at the others who had not finished and holding the bottle in his left hand, he took a stick in his right hand and said confidently, "You are drawing so slowly. I can add legs to my snake." As he drew the legs, another man finished drawing his snake and grabbed the bottle from the first man, saying "Snakes don't have legs. Why did you add legs? I am the first to finish and not you." This man deserved to drink of the bottle.

This story, also from the Warring States Anecdotes, cautions people not to overdo. Superfluous actions can turn against the actor.