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

Jan. 6, 2016

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"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.

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 everyday, but it’s just like playing a 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 a harp to a cow.

 

(Don’t want to fail the Chinese exam? Learn our Test Prep Courses.)

Related post:

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

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

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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