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Kids’ Chinese Idiom: 指鹿为马 Deer or Horse? (Intermediate)

Dec. 17, 2010

Key Learning Points (Preview):

千里马 (qiānlǐmǎ): n. a swift horse

 

明明 (míngmíng): adv. obviously; undoubtedly

 

Listen to the whole story:

 

Zhège chéngyǔ gùshì de míngzi jiào zuò: zhǐlùwéimǎ.
这个     成语      故事    的 名字    叫    做:指鹿为马。

 

The name of this idiomatic story is "Deer or Horse?"

Zài Qíncháo, yǒu gè hěn déshì de jiānchén jiào Zhào Gāo.
在   秦朝,    有   个    很   得势 的   奸臣       叫      赵    高。

 

In Qin dynasty, there was a powerful and evil counselor named Zhao Gao.

Zhào Gāo xiǎng zàofǎn,
赵      高    想       造反,
dànshì yòu bù zhīdào qún chén zhōng yǒu duōshǎo rén huì zhīchí tā.
但是    又    不  知道     群 臣        中     有     多少      人   会   支持 他。

 

Zhao Gao wanted to rebel, but he didn't know how many people in the court would stand by his side.

Yúshì tā xiǎngle gè bànfǎ lái cèshì.
于是   他 想了    个 办法  来  测试。

 

So he worked out a way to test the people.

Tā zài qún chén miànqián sòngle yì  tóu lù gěi huángshàng,
他 在 群   臣       面前        送了   一 头  鹿 给     皇上,     
bìng shuō zhè shì yì  pǐ qiānlǐmǎ.
并        说    这 是  一  匹 千里马。

 

He presented a deer as a tribute to the emperor in front of the court, and said that it was a swift horse.

Huángshàng bú xìn, shuō, "Zhè míngmíng shì lù a."
皇上              不   信,说,“这     明明        是 鹿啊。”

 

The emperor not accepting his statement said, "This is obviously a deer."

Ránhòu Zhào Gāo jièjī wèn gè wèi dàchén, "Zhè shì lù háishì mǎ?"
然后       赵     高    借机 问  各   位     大臣,“这  是  鹿  还是 马?”

 

Then, Zhao Gao took this opportunity to ask the court, "Is this a deer or a horse?"

Zài dàchén zhōng, búgǎn fǎnkàng Zhào Gāo de dōu zàntóng shuō shì mǎ,
在   大臣        中,    不敢   反抗          赵高     的   都     赞同     说     是   马,
gǎnyú fǎnduì Zhào Gāo de shuō shì lù.
敢于    反对         赵高    的    说 是  鹿。

 

In the court, those who didn't dare to go against Zhao Gao agreed with him and said that it was a horse, those who dared to go against Zhao Gao said that it was a deer.

Hòu lái, Zhào Gāo jìzhù le zhèxiē fǎnduì tā de rén bìng jiāyǐ pòhài, yǐ gǒnggù zì jǐ de shìlì.
后    来,   赵高      记住了 这些   反对   他的 人   并    加以 迫害,以 巩固  自己 的 势力。

 

Later, Zhao Gao remembered the counselors who didn't agree with him and persecuted them to solidify his power.

Zhè gè gùshì liúchuán zhì jīn,
这    个 故事 流传      至 今,
rénmen yòng zhège chéngyǔ lái xíngróng yí gè rén diāndǎo hēibái.
人们       用       这个      成语   来    形容     一 个 人   颠倒      黑白。

 

This story is still popular even today. People use this idiom to describe someone who calls white black.

Key Learning Points:

千里马 (qiānlǐmǎ) n. a swift horse

 

"千" means "thousand," "里" means "mile," and "马" means "horse." "千里马" refers to a horse that can run one thousand miles in a single day. A thousand miles was a long distance in the eyes of the ancients, so we can see that "千里马" is the best kind of horses.

Example:

Jíshǐ shì qiānlǐmǎ, yě bú rú xiànzài de qìchē kuài.
即使   是 千里马,也 不 如 现在 的 汽车   快。

 

Even though a horse can run a thousand miles in a day, it's still not as fast as cars in nowadays.

明明 (míngmíng) adv. obviously; undoubtedly

 

Example:

Zhè nǎlǐ shì shǒujī? Míngmíng shì gè wánjù.
这   哪里是   手机?明明          是 个     玩具。

 

How can this be a mobile phone? It's obviously a toy.

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Comments

This is very helpful.

Thank you for giving me such a good story to learn Mandarin online. I really loved it.

I have to say, Zhao Gao was a clever guy. But he would not have been able to imagine his story being used for an online Mandarin learning lesson!

This story about Christmas reindeers is very interesting. I love to learn Mandarin online.

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