Chinese Idiom: The Story Behind「對牛彈琴」
Literally meaning: playing a zither towards a cow
Origin of the Story
In ancient time, there was a musician named Gong Mingyi. He played zither – a traditional Chinese plucked stringed instrument – very well. A lot of people enjoy listening to the music he played.
Once, he went out on the town and saw a cow. He was inspired to play a tune for the cow. Immediately, he set the zither, plucked the strings, and began playing a melodious music for the cow. The cow, however, showed no interest, and just kept on grazing grass. He was surprised, so he switched the song one after another, hoping that the cow would appreciate it. Surprisingly, the cow wandered away without haze after it was well fed.
Gongming Yi was very disappointed. At the time, people consoled him: “It is not because your performance is poor, but just the cow neither understood nor appreciated your beautiful music!”
speaking to the wrong audience.
對 = towards, to face
牛 = cow
彈 = to play (a string instrument)
琴 = zither, musical instrument in general
duì niú tán qín
implies that someone who is explaining something to the wrong audience. This idiom is ironically aimed at the ‘fool’ audience rather than the speaker. It is similar to describe “cast pearls before swine” in English.
Gēn nǐ shuō le bàn tiān, nǐ yī jù dōu bù dǒng, jiǎn zhí shì duì niú tán qín.
I have been talking to you for a long time, you do not even understand a word. It’s like casting pearls before swine.
Read more about Chinese idioms here.
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