Carry Firewood to Put out A Fire
"Bao xin jiu huo" is an idiom used to refer to a behavior of adopting the wrong method to save a situation and end up by making it worse. Find out the story behind it here.
Today we'll introduce you to a Chinese phrase “bao xin jiu huo”. In this phrase, “baoxin” means “to carry firewood,” and “jiuhuo” means “to put out a fire.” Our listeners will probably have guessed the idea behind the phrase. It means adopting the wrong method to save a situation and end up by making it worse. This is the story behind it.
The story goes back more than two thousand years to China's Warring State period. At the time, China was divided into several kingdoms. The kingdom of Wei was often harassed by the Qin kingdom, a much more powerful state. When Wei's new king Anli came to power, Qin sped up its invasion of Wei. In only a couple of years, Qin took over several cities. Once Qin's army started to advance on Wei's capital city, Wei had to appeal to other nearby kingdoms for help. After their allies were also defeated, Wei was left with no choice but to cede a part of its territory to Qin. A little while later, Qin waged war on Wei again, and again Wei was not strong enough to defeat the invaders. Facing heavy attacks, some frightened generals advised the king to cede an important city to Qin. Anxious to end the war, the king did just that.
In the Kingdom of Wei lived a person named Su Dai who favored the idea of forming alliances with other kingdoms to fight against Qin. When he learned of the plan to cede territory, he came to the king and said: Our enemy is very greedy. As long as we have any territory at all, the invaders won't be satisfied. If one carries faggots to put out a fire, the faggots will fuel the fire instead of putting it out. The fire will not die until all the faggots have burnt.
But the king insisted that he could save his kingdom by exchanging territory for peace, and turned a deaf ear to Su Dai's words. Because he continued to compromise with invaders by ceding cities and villages, Wei was finally gobbled up by Qin.
“Baoxinjiuhuo” has now come into use as a kind of warning to people who use improper methods to solve a problem and end up making things worse.