Chinese Idiom: 指鹿为马 - Making A Deer Out To Be A Horse

September 09, 2022

Today, we want to share the story behind the popular idiom “指鹿为马” (zhǐ lù wéi mǎ).

It is roughly translated as "misrepresenting facts” in English. We have included both the Chinese and the English versions of the story below.

Now, let's find out what it really means…

zhi lu wei ma illustration

很久很久以前,赵高想要篡夺皇位。但他不知道朝中有多少人能支持他,有多少人反对他。于是,他想了一个办法,准备试一试自己的威信,同时也可以摸清敢于反对他的人。

Long, long ago, Zhao Gao wanted to overthrow the throne. But he wasn’t sure how many people in Chao Zhong supported the king and how many would oppose him. So, he came up with a plan that will show off his prestige and make the opposition think twice.

一天上朝时,赵高让人牵来一只鹿,对皇上说:“陛下,我献给您一匹好马。”皇上一看,笑着对赵高说:“你搞错了,这里一只鹿,你怎么说是马呢?”

One day at the royal court, Zhao Gao asked someone to bring in a deer. He said to the king: “Your majesty, I present to you a fine horse.” The king took one look and laughed, saying to Zhao Gao: “I think you are mistaken; this is a deer. How did you think this was a horse?”

赵高坚持说:“请陛下看清楚,这的确是一匹千里马。”皇上又看了看那只鹿,疑惑地说:“马的头上怎么会长角呢?”

赵高一转身,用手指着众大臣,大声说:“陛下如果不信我的话,可以问问众位大臣。”

Zhao Gao insisted, saying: “Your majesty, please have a closer look. It definitely is a valiant horse.” The king looked at the deer again and asked hesitantly: “Then why does this horse have antlers?”

Zhao Gao turned around and pointed at all the members of the course, shouting: “Your majesty, if you don’t believe me, then ask your court officials.”

zhi lu wei ma chinese idiom

大臣们都被赵高弄糊涂了,心想:是鹿是马这不是很明显嘛。但当看到赵高脸上露出阴险的笑容时,大臣们忽然明白了他的用意。

The court officials were confused by Zhao Gao’s words and thought to themselves, Isn’t the difference between a deer and a horse obvious? But when they saw the menacing smile on Zhao Gao’s face, the officials suddenly understood his true intentions.

一些胆小又有正义感的人都低下头,不敢说话,因为说假话,对不起自己的良心,说真话又怕日后被赵高杀害。有些正直的人,坚持说是鹿不是马。还有一些拥护赵高的小人立刻说,“这确是一匹千里马!”

Those who were cowardly and with a strong conscience bowed their heads and were too frightened to speak. If they lied, they would be letting themselves down, but if they spoke the truth, they might end up being killed by Zhao Gao. Some headstrong, honest officials insisted that it was a deer, and not a horse. Some who supported Zhao Gao immediately said, “That definitely is a horse!”

后来,赵高通过各种手段把那些不顺从自己的正直大臣都杀了.

In the end, Zhao Gao noted those who objected him, and killed them through various ways.

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指鹿为马的意思是:指着鹿,说是马。 This idiom literally means someone who points to a deer, calling it a horse.

比喻故意颠倒黑白,混淆是非. It is a metaphor for when people intentionally confuse things and insist that something is correct when it is not.

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zhǐ (to point)

to point- zhi- for the chinese idiom zhiluweima

鹿 (deer)

deer- lv- for the chinese idiom zhiluweima

wéi (as)

as wei- for the chinese idiom zhiluweima

(horse)

ma horse- for the chinese idiom zhiluweima

例句 (Example Sentences)

在正义与真理面前,指鹿为马,颠倒黑白的人终究会受到惩罚。
Zài zhèngyì yǔ zhēnlǐ miànqián, zhǐlùwéimǎ, diāndǎo hēibái de rén zhōngjiù huì shòudào chéngfá.
In the face of justice, you cannot misrepresent the facts. Those who confuse right with wrong will always be punished.

老板为了掩饰自己的错误,不惜指鹿为马,我还有什么好说的。
Lǎobǎn wèile yǎnshì zìjǐ de cuòwù, bùxī zhǐlùwéimǎ, wǒ hái yǒu shé me hǎoshuō de.
To hide his mistakes, he did not hesitate to mislead everyone. There’s nothing more I can say.

在如今的社会中,为了保住自己的工作,员工们只能阿谀奉承,即使领导指鹿为马,他们也得随声附和。
Zài rújīn de shèhuì zhōng, wèile bǎozhù zìjǐ de gōngzuò, yuángōngmen zhǐ néng ēyú fèngchéng, jíshǐ lǐngdǎo zhǐlùwéimǎ, tāmen yě dé suíshēngfùhè.
In today’s society, employees must stay on the good side of their superiors to protect their job. Even if the boss is being misleading, they should still conform to their ways.

About the Writer

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


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