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Chinese Idiom: 对牛弹琴 To Play the Harp to A Cow

Jan. 6, 2016

 

"对牛弹琴 (Duìniútánqín)" is used by Chinese people to describe someone who is explaining something complicated to a fool, or sometimes this idiom is used to describe a person who is trying to tell something to the wrong audience. In English, people sometimes joke around by sarcastically saying "whistle jigs to a milestone" or "cast pearls before swine" to mean "对牛弹琴(duìniútánqín)."

Key Learning Point (Preview):

对牛弹琴 (Duìniútánqín): to play the harp to a cow

 

Zhànguó shídài, yǒu yígè jiào Gōngmíng Yí de yīnyuèjiā, tā hěn huì tánqín.
战国时代,有一个叫公明仪的音乐家,他很会弹琴。
During the Warring States Period, there was a musician named Gongming Yi, who played musical instruments very well.

 

(Enjoy Music? Learn Chinese Through Songs!)

Hěn duō rén dōu xǐhuan tīng tā tánqín, rénmen hěn jìngzhòng tā.
很多人都喜欢听他弹琴, 人们很敬重他。
There were a great number of people fond of listening to him play, and who respected him greatly.

 

Yìtiān, Gōngmíng Yí zài jiāowài yóuwán shí,  kàndàole yìtóu niú. 
一天, 公明仪在郊外游玩时,看到了一头牛。
One day, Gongming Yi saw a cow when he was relaxing in the countryside.

 

Tā xiǎng: dàjiā dōu zànyáng wǒ de qínjì,    bùrú wǒ gěi niú yě tán yìqǔ ba.
他想:大家都赞扬我的琴技,不如我给牛也弹一曲吧!
He thought, "Everybody compliments my music. Why don't I play some music for this cow?"

 

Tā gěi niú tánzòule yìqǔ gǔyǎ de qǔzi,  niú máitóu chī cǎo bù lǐ tā. 
他给牛弹奏了一曲古雅的曲子,牛埋头吃草不理他。
He played a piece of elegant quaint music for the cow, but the cow just kept grazing the grass with its head down.

 

Tā yòu tánzòule yìqǔ huānkuài de qǔzi,   niú yīrán máitóu chī cǎo bù lǐ tā.
他又弹奏了一曲欢快的曲子,牛依然埋头吃草不理他。
He played another piece of joyful music, but the cow still kept its head down to graze the grass and totally ignored him.

 

Gōngmíng Yí náchū zìjǐ de quánbù běnlǐng, jiěguǒ niú háishì bù lǐ tā. 
公明仪拿出自己的全部本领, 结果牛还是不理他。
Gongming Yi showed off all his skills, but the cow still ignored him.

 

Gōngmíng Yí fēicháng shīwàng, kāishǐ huáiyí zìjǐ de qínjì.   
公明仪非常失望, 开始怀疑自己的琴技。
Gongming Yi was disappointed and started to question his ability.

 

Lùrén shuō: "búshì nǐ tán de qín bùhǎo, érshì niú gēnběn tīng bù dǒng a."
路人说: 不是你弹的琴不好, 而是牛根本听不懂啊!
A passerby said to him,"It's not because your ability is bad. It is because the cow can not understand music at all."

 

The cow could not understand the beautiful music like humans. The swanky musician tried his best to play for the cow, but it was just like trying to tell something to somebody who can hardly understand. The idiom "对牛弹琴 (duìniútánqín)" is used to describe this sort of situation, or kind of person.

(Learn Chinese Culture with Our Native Chinese Teachers!)

Key Learning Point:

对牛弹琴 (Duìniútánqín): to play the harp to a cow

 

Examples:

Érzi:  Māma, zhècì kǎoshì wǒ yòu méi jígé.
儿子: 妈妈, 这次考试我又没及格。
Son: Mum, I failed this exam.

 

Māma: Wǒ měitiān dōu zhǔfu nǐ hǎohao xuéxí,  jiǎnzhí shì duìniútánqín a.
妈妈: 我每天都嘱咐你好好学习,简直是对牛弹琴啊。
Mother: I asked you to work hard every day, but it’s just like playing the harp to a cow.

 

Shuōle nàme duō, tā dōu tīng bù dǒng, wǒ zhēn shì duìniútánqín a.
说了那么多,他都听不懂, 我真是对牛弹琴啊。
He cannot understand even when I say it again and again. It seems that I am just playing the harp to a cow.

 

(Don’t Want to Fail the Chinese Exam? Learn Our Test Prep Courses.)

4 Common and Useful Chinese Idioms:

Kids’ Chinese Idiom: 指鹿为马 Deer Or Horse? (Intermediate) 亡羊补牢 It’s Never Too Late to Take Action (Beginner) 老马识途 An Old Horse Knows the Way (Advanced) 守株待兔 To Stand by a Tree Stump Waiting for a Hare (Intermediate)

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Comments

Hi Miss,
Please help me to write one chinese idioms story “To play the harp to a cow” or ” The only one, not two” in chinese words.

THANKS
LIM

Hi Lim,
Thank you for your suggestion. We will work on them later. :)

Thanks for spending time on the computer (writing) so ohters don’t have to.

Now I know who the brnaiy one is, I’ll keep looking for your posts.

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