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 to defend itself.
In 273 BC, the Qin army launched another attack upon the State of Wei with a momentum more vigorous 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 the ambition of the king of the State of Qin is insatiably greedy. It will never stop assaulting us until our land is totally given away."
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.