In the last years of the Warring States period
(战国, 475-221BC), the State of Qin
(秦国) attacked the State of Wei
(魏国) on a large scale repeatedly
and occupied large areas of land, for the State of Wei was too weak
In 273 BC, the Qin army launched
another attack upon the State of Wei with a momentum
than ever. The king of the State of Wei summoned
his officials,and asked with a worried look if anyone could propose
a way to defeat the Qin army.
After years of chaos caused by the wars,the officials trembled
when fighting was mentioned, and no one dared
to speak of “resistance
At the critical moment when a large enemy force was approaching the border
, most of the officials persuaded the king to sue for
peace, at the cost of giving away to the State of Qin the large area of land north of the Huanghe River
(huáng hé 黄河) and south of the Taihang Mountain
(tài háng shān 太行山).
However Su Dai
(sūdài 苏代), a counsellor
, did not agree. He hurried up to the king and said:"Your Majesty, they don't think about the interests of the country at all.It is just because they are cowardly
and afraid of death that they ask you to sue for peace by betraying
the country.Of course you can temperarily satisfy
of the king of the State of Qin is insatiably
greedy. It will never stop assaulting
us until our land is totally given away."
(sūdài 苏代) told a story,"Once there was a man whose house was on fire. People told him to put out
the fire with water, but he would not listen. Instead, he carried a faggot
to put out the fire, only to make the fire fiercer. That was because he didn't know that,instead of putting out the fire, faggots could only make it burning more vigorously
. Isn't it equivalent
to carrying faggots to put out a fire if you agree to sue for peace at the cost of the land of the State of Wei?"
Though Su Dai's argument was very convincing
, the king accepted the suggestion of those officials and gave away to the State of Qin a large area of the land of the State of Wei.
The State of Wei was finally destroyed by the State of Qin. This story appears in the Historical Records Written by Sima Qian. The set phrase"carrying faggots to put out a fire"is used to mean adopting a wrong method to save a situation and ending up by making it worse.
英文中“抱薪救火”的相应说法可以用“to add insult to injury”，“insult”是“言语侮辱”的意思，试想当一个人已经受伤了，你可能本想用激将法，但最后却适得其反，越帮越忙，变成了“在伤口上撒盐”，那就是“抱薪救火”啦~
同时也可以用“to add fuel to the fire”来表达“抱薪救火”的意思，其实“to add fuel to the fire”的直译是“火上浇油”，但实际表达的含义是相近的~