Chinese Idiom: 滥竽充数- To masquerade as someone talented

August 01, 2022

Today, we want to share the story behind the popular idiom “滥竽充数" (làn yú chōng shù) with you. It is roughly understood as “masquerading” in English.

The story below is written to help boost your Chinese reading skill (HSK 4+) while telling you the moral behind the idiom.

Now, let's dive in…

滥竽充数 5050

很久以前,有位国君特别喜欢听吹竽,手下有300个善于吹竽的乐师。他喜欢热闹,每次听吹竽的时候,总是叫这300个人在一起吹给他听。

有个名叫南郭的人听说了,觉得是个赚钱的好机会,就跟国君说:“我吹竽的技术好极了,我希望把我的绝技献给您。” 国君听了很高兴,不加考察,就录取了他。

Once upon a time, there was a monarch who loved listening to the flute. The monarch even employed 300 musicians to play for him. He loved a lively atmosphere and often called on his 300 musicians to perform.

There was a man named Nan Guo who heard about the monarch’s musicians and thought it was an excellent chance to earn money. He approached the monarch and said: ‘I can play the flute really well; I wish to share my unique talent with you.’ The monarch was so happy to hear this and hired him on the spot, without an audition.

其实南郭根本就不会吹竽。每次吹的时候,他就捧着竽混在队伍中,模仿着别人的动作,脸上装出很陶醉的样子。他就这样靠着蒙骗混过了一天又一天,白拿着丰厚的工资,心里特别得意。

但是好景不长,过了几年,国君死了,他的儿子继承了王位。儿子也爱听吹竽,但喜欢听独奏。于是要求这300个人轮流来吹竽给他听。南郭心急如焚,想来想去,觉得这次再也混不过去了,只好连夜收拾行李逃走了。

In fact, Nan Guo did not know how to play the flute. Whenever he performed with the other musicians, he just held the flute up and mimicked the others' actions and acted as if the music enthralled him. He relied on deceit to get by, getting paid good money for nothing, and was quite pleased with himself.

But his success was short-lived. After a few years, the monarch passed away, and his son took the throne. The son also loved the flute, but he only liked to hear soloists. He invited all the 300 musicians to come and play individually. Nan Guo heard this and panicked. He thought about it and realized the charade was over. In the dead of the night, he packed up his things and sneaked away.

滥竽充数 5050

这个故事告诉人们: 没有真本领,靠弄虚作假终会露出马脚。 This story tells us: If you rely on deceit and lies to get ahead, you’ll eventually get found out.

làn (Inconsistent with facts; a fake)

滥

(A traditional Chinese instrument)

竽

chōng(To fill)/ 冒充 mào chōng(Pretending to be)

充

shù (Number)

数

滥竽充数的意思是比喻没有本领的人冒充有本领,占着位置,或拿次的东西混在好的里面充数。有时也用作自谦的话。

This idiom describes the type of person who pretends to have talent just to get ahead or who takes advantage of others. Sometimes they even boast about themselves.

例句 (Example Sentences)

上音乐课时,小明不会唱这首歌,还跟着大家滥竽充数。
Shàng yīnyuè kèshí, xiǎomíng bù huì chàng zhè shǒu gē, hái gēnzhe dàjiā lànyúchōngshù.
In music class, Xiao Ming doesn’t know the song but still pretends that he does.

买了一箱橘子,回家却发现里面有好多坏橘子。真是滥竽充数!(指以次充好)
Mǎile yī xiāng júzi, huí jiā què fāxiàn lǐmiàn yǒu hǎoduō huài júzi. Zhēnshi lànyúchōngshù! (Zhǐ yǐ cì chōng hǎo)
I bought a whole case of oranges, but I realized there was a rotten one when I got home. This one fooled me! (meaning – throwing in a bad product to make up a whole)

每当媒体夸火箭队没有姚明不行时,他总说自己不过是滥竽充数罢了。(指谦虚)
Měi dāng méitǐ kuā huǒjiàn duì méiyǒu yáomíng bùxíng shí, tā zǒng shuō zìjǐ bùguò shì lànyúchōngshù bàle. (Zhǐ qiānxū)
Every time the media praises The Houston Rockets, saying that they would be nowhere without Yaoming, he always says that he is bolstered by his team. (meaning – modesty)

滥竽充数 5050

How would you use the idiom? Do you have an idiom you'd like us to explain?


About the Author

Zhao Laoshi

Hainan Normal University graduate; Previously taught Chinese in Indonesia. Zhao laoshi is loved for her friendly attitude in class.
ZHAO LAOSHI CY AUTHOR