“Ya Miao Zhu Zhang” or “To Spoil Things Through Excessive Enthusiasm”

Long ago during the Song dynasty there lived a farmer. Once, after planting his rice seedlings, he hoped for an early harvest. Every day when he went to the rice paddies he sensed that the rice plants were growing unusually slowly. Impatient of waiting any longer he thought to himself: “How can I make the rice plants grow tall and fast?” He thought and thought, until finally he arrived at the “perfect method”. All he had to do was lift up the rice plants a little higher in the soil. After pulling up each one of the plants, he lifted his hoe up with satisfaction onto his shoulder and headed home to rest. When he arrived home he vindicated to his family, saying: “Today, I worked myself to death, but I’ve managed to help our crops grow much taller!” His son rushed out to the fields to take a look at what his father meant. He arrived there to find that all of the seedlings had withered and died.

Original English translation by Patrick Nowlin, Copyright 2013.