Daily Chinese Proverb: Warning

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Sunday, 27 September 2009
This Chinese proverb has two clear meanings.

1) to punish someone as a warning to others.
2) to accidently alert an enemy so that they are now on guard.

打草惊蛇 ​ ​ ​
dǎ​ cǎo jīng shé
To beat the grass to frighten the snake

The first meaning of this proverb is the original meaning, however the proverbs meaning has devoloped since. This is a story about the how this proverb may have come about.

A county magistrate named Wang Lu was very greedy and took many bribes. One of his secretaries was equally corrupt, and often schemed for Wang Lu's deeds. One day a man lodged a complaint against the secretary to Wang Lu. The secretary's crimes were almost the same as the crimes the magistrate himself committed. Wang Lu was so frightened that he forgot his proper role in handling the case. Instead of issuing a judgment, he couldn't help writing these words concerning the complaint: "By stirring the grass, you have startled me who am like a snake under the grass!"

Proverb Meaning Source:
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  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. It is interesting that there are quite a number of Chinese proverbs about snake. 打草惊蛇, 画蛇添足, 貓鼠同眠, and even more.


  3. Wanchi, it seems that there is an awful lot of Chinese proverbs with animals.

    Much more so than our English proverbs.


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