Chinese Chengyu – 守株待兔 – Holding a tree and waiting for a rabbit

TutorMandarin, Changyu, Learning Chinese, Mandarin

Chinese Chengyu – Holding a tree and waiting for a rabbit

Chinese Chengyu 守株待兔 (shǒu zhū dài tù) breaks down to hold (守 shǒu) plant  (株 zhū) wait (待 dài) rabbit (兔 tù). In English, this is translated to ‘holding the tree and waiting for the rabbit’ or ‘keeping watch at the tree awaiting a rabbit.’

During the Spring and Autumn period, there was a farmer (农民 Nóngmín) who had a tree in his field. He would frequently rest under a tree after a long day of working.

One day, he was working in the field and saw a scared rabbit come running past him, crash into that tree, and die suddenly. The farmer was overjoyed! He had just gotten a free dinner without having to put in any work.

While eating rabbit stew that night, the farmer had a thought. “Why even bother farming, when I have a tree that rabbits just ran into?” The farmer really liked this thought and from that day forth, he abandoned his plow to simply sit by the tree and wait for another rabbit to run into it and die.

However, to the farmer’s surprise, no more rabbits crashed into the tree again ever again. Overtime, the farmer ended up with barren fields, impoverished, and the laughing stock of the village.

The idiom “holding the tree, waiting for rabbit” is similar to the English expression “waiting for something to fall into one’s lap.” It is the folly of relying on luck and not putting in the necessary effort. The chéngyǔ can be used even more literally in situations where someone expecting something to happen the exact way as it has in the past.

Chinese Vocabulary

shǒu adj. hold
zhū n. plant
dài v. wait
n. rabbit
农民 nóngmín n. farmer


Here are other chengYu from Chinese language learning related to animals you might be interested in: 狗急跳牆, 狼多肉少.                                                                                                                                   Sign up our free trial to learn Chinese and download the Chinese App for more Chinese language materials and to learn Mandarin online.

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