Chengyu, also called ‘Chinese idiom’or‘set phrases’.In this Chengyu, ‘对duì’ means ‘to;for’; ‘牛niú’ is ox; ‘弹tán’ means ‘play (musical instrument)’; ‘琴qín’ here is a Chinese zither, called ‘古琴gǔqín’, which is a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family with a history of more than 3000 years. This Chengyu literally means ‘to play the Chinese zither for an ox’. It seems to be a foolish idea to play the Guqinfor an ox. However, it is heard that this really happened in ancient time. Here is the story.
There lived a musician named Gongming Yi during the Warring States periods of China. He was very good at playing the Guqin. The music he played was pleasant to listen to. Many people loved to hear him play and respected him a lot.
Gongming Yi not only liked to play the Guqin indoors but also enjoyed playing in the countryside when there was a good weather. One day, the weather was very good with spring breeze. He went to the countryside and saw an ox eating grass in the field. He was inspired by the scene and play a tune to the ox on a whim. It was the most sublime tune at that time. But the ox paid no heed to this tune and still focused on eating grass. Gongming Yi thought this tune may be too sublime so he played his famous tune. Still the same, the ox was indifferent to his performance.
Gongming Yi didn’t give up, instead, he played another tune.Finally, the ox had some responses. It wagged its tail, wandered, pricked up its ears and listened carefully.The reason why the ox had responds is that the tune Gongming Yi played sounds like gadflies and a lonely calf. The ox thought there was a calf and some gadflies nearby because of the tune, so it was trying to beat off the non-existent gadflies and looking for the non-existent calf.
Then Gongming Yi understood why the ox paid no heed to his performance at the beginning. It wasn’t because the tunes at the beginning was not pleasant to hear but it was because the ox can’t understand and appreciate the sublime tunes.
From this story comes the Chengyu‘对牛弹琴duìniútánqín’, which implies that someone has or chooses the wrong audience and also over-estimate them. It is similar to the English idiom ‘casting pearls before swine’ and the oral expression ‘talking to a brick wall’.
Now, with knowing the story and the meaning of this Chengyu, let’s learn how to use it.Here are some examples.
Hé tā jiǎng xiàohuà jiùshì duìniútánqín。
(Jokes are lost on him.)
Miànduì zhège kèrén, wǒ juéde zìjǐ shì zài duìniútánqín。
(With this customer, I felt myself, as it was casting pearls before swine.)
Wǒ shuō le yīge xiǎoshí, dànshì tā shéme dōu méi tīngdǒng ,jiǎnzhí jiùshì duìniútánqín。
(I had talked for an hour, but he didn’t understand anything; it was to talk to a brick wall.)
Kindly mind you, this Chengyu is a derogatory term, which is used to mock those who can’t understand what the speakers say or the speakers without considering the audience. So please be careful when you use it. I know you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feeling.
So do you have a general impression of 对牛弹琴? We hope this article could help you some. Would you like to know more about Cheng Yu? Welcome to book a free trial lesson and let our teachers help in your Chinese right now!.