Chinese Idiom Stories for Software Professionals: #24 To Draw a Snake with Feet 画蛇添足

To ruin the effect by adding something unneeded.

Zhimin Zhan
5 min readJul 9, 2022


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

The Story

In ancient China, a group of friends in the state of Chu were leisurely engaged in a drawing competition to win over a pot of good wine. They agreed to use tree branches draw a snake slithering on the ground.

A man finished the drawing first and got hold of the wine. When he noticed that no one else had finished the task, he decided to perfect his drawing while he held the wine pot in one hand. He started to draw some feet to the snake.

Before he finished drawing the snake’s feet, another man had finished drawing the snake. He grabbed the wine pot and said, “The snake has no feet. How can you draw feet for it? ”

The man who was adding the feet to the snake lost the chance of wine drink.

The Meaning

This is a very popular idiom in China. People always refer those who overdo things as adding feet to snakes. It is important that we do things to the right degree and stick to the fact. To add something superfluous or go extreme can only ruin it.

My daughter loved this idiom story when she first heard it at the age of 5.

Examples in Software Development

This kind of situation happened a few times in my test consulting career. My test automation would attract some interest after the team members found automated tests actually useful (This was usually new for them because from their memory, test automation was always associated with failures and useless. It was mostly an activity for them to claim ‘agile’). Then, managers, tech leads or architects invited me into meetings to talk about a bigger scope of test automation implementation.

However, they often suggested wrong and unnecessary processes or practices that made things worse. Here I will list a few.

1. Use Gherkin syntax in automated test scripts.



Zhimin Zhan

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

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