Chinese Idiom Stories for Software Professionals: #2 Lord Ye Loves Dragon (葉公好龍)

Just like the idea, but fear the real

Zhimin Zhan
6 min readDec 2, 2021


Story: Lord Ye's Love of the Dragon (葉公好龍)

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This article is one of the “Chinese Idiom Stories for Software Professionals” series.

Dragon is a legendary creature in Chinese mythology. Lord Ye was well-known for his fondness for dragons. He worshipped the dragons so much that he decorated his mansion with dragon drawings and carvings everywhere, from living rooms to bedrooms, from the front gate to the garden. He even named his children dragons.

By learning this, the real dragon in Heaven was very happy and decided to visit Lord Ye. The dragon arrived with thunder and violent storms. When Lord Ye saw a giant dragon was staring at him with red eyes and its tail swinging horizontally in front of him, he was so frightened that he collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

So it turned out that what Ye Gong liked was painted and carved fake dragons but not real ones.

The meaning

I didn't get this idiom (of course, I understood the story) when I first learned it, until many years later when I met some people …

Lord Ye's story is a metaphor for people who claim they like something but actually don't like or even understand it. Having been working in the IT industry for so many years, I have seen so many people, especially managers and tech leads, who behave just like Lord Ye, towards the new and more advanced knowledge and technology, such as Agile and DevOps. They talked about these every day, even on the stage. However, when they come into experiencing the real, they will dislike it and fear it, or even oppose it.

Examples in Software Development

In 2020, I worked at a large financial institution. My agent told me that this IT division's director was an excellent IT leader who loved Agile, test automation, DevOps, CI/CD, and wanted to change the industry.

There was an online (due to covid) division Skype meeting (100+ people) in my starting week…



Zhimin Zhan

Test automation & CT coach, author, speaker and award-winning software developer. Help teams succeed with Agile/DevOps by implementing real Continuous Testing.