Yà miáo zhù zhǎng
Translation: Pulling up rice shoots to help them grow.
Meaning: Spoil a thing by being over enthusiastic about it.
The proverb stems from a story told in Gongsun Chou shang (Gongsun Chou I) by Mencius (372-289 BCE), the most famous Confucian next only to Confucius himself.
Once, in the state of Song, there was an impatient farmer. After he transplanted rice seedlings in the padded fields, he hoped that they would grow into rice overnight. He came to the fields several times a day to watch the seedlings grow. Of course, the more he watched, the less patient he became. Finally he couldn’t help but jumping into the muddy fields and pulling all the seedlings up an inch. He believed that by doing so, he was helping to hasten their growth. When he returned home, his sons were puzzled to see him so exhausted. When asked what he had been doing, he told them that he had been helping the rice shoots to grow. “How?” they asked, and his answer horrified them. Without hesitation, they dashed to the fields, but it was too late: As they had feared, the rice seedlings had already withered.