滥竽充数 Will the Real Pan-Piper, Please Stand Up? – Sue Su, translated by Robert Eversmann

滥竽充数

很久很久以前,齐国的皇帝爱听吹竽,又非常喜欢热闹,所以为他吹竽的就有三百人。他常常叫这三百人一起吹竽给他听。有个南郭先生,完全不会吹竽,但是因为吹芋的人很多,所以他假装和别人一样会吹芋。

后来这位老皇帝死了,新皇帝喜欢听人一个一个地吹芋。南郭先生听到这个,非常害怕,只好逃走,不再假装自己很会吹竽了。

An emperor in the time of Warring states loved listening to panpipes. The emperor loved panpipes best of all intensely loud. And so he rustled up three-hundred pipers, a band he ordered, Pipe! But in this band there was a certain Mr. Bo—a Mr. Bo who could not pipe. However, in a crowd so large, who notices the one bad piper in a chorus of three-hundred?

But as is the way with generations, out with the old emperor, in with the new. This new emperor however did not at all like loudness and ordered the band disband. Instead he lined the pipers up and each one ordered, Pipe! But there was a certain Mr. Bo—a Mr. Bo who could not pipe. However, when it came his turn to solo, he ran from the castle and fled for his life. 


note: This story is based on the four-character phrase, 滥竽充数 (làn yú chōng shù). Four-character phrases, like English idioms, are used in everyday speech. 滥竽充数 is used to mean that it’s easy to get by pretending in a chorus, but if you’re asked to solo you better run.



Sue Su is a Cambridge CELTA-qualified teacher with fluent English and Mandarin currently teaching Mandarin as a modern foreign language in the British School of Nanjing whilst tutoring English and Chinese privately.

Robert Eversmann works for Deep Overstock. His website is roberteversmann.com.

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