掩耳盗铃 - To bury one’s head in the sand.

May 02, 2020

yǎn ěr dào líng

To bury one’s head in the sand.

Every language has idioms, sayings, or set phrases. Chinese is no different. In Chinese, an idiom is called 成语 (chéng yŭ) and is usually composed of four characters.

Today, we want to share the story behind the popular saying "掩耳盗铃” (yǎn ěr dào líng) with you. It is roughly translated as “To cover one’s ear while stealing a bell” in English.This idiom comes from 吕氏春秋 (lǚ shì chūn qiū; Mr. Lu’s Spring and Autumn Annals). We have included both the Chinese and the English versions of the story below.

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

春秋时期,晋国世家赵氏灭掉了范氏。此时,就有人趁机跑到范氏家家里想偷点什么东西,一到门口,就被院子大门前的一口大钟吸引了。

这口大钟是用上等的青铜铸造的,造型和图案都很精美,小偷心里高兴坏了,想把这口精美的大钟搬回家。但是大钟又大又重,怎么也搬不动,他思前想后决定把这口大钟给敲碎,然后再分别搬回家去!

小偷找来一把锤子就开始拼命朝钟砸去,咣当一声巨响,把他吓了一大跳!小偷心里非常害怕!

完了完了,要是被人听到的话不就告诉人们我在这里偷钟吗?他的心里着急得很,身子一下子扑倒在大钟上,张开双手想盖住这钟声,但是又怎么捂得住呢?钟声惶惶的声音一直悠悠地传向远方!

他越听越害怕,不由自主地收回双手,使劲捂住自己的耳朵。咦?钟声好像变小了!好极了,小偷非常高兴,把耳朵给捂住不就听不到钟声了吗?

他立即找来两团布,塞在自己的耳朵里,这下再也听不见钟声了!

于是,小偷便开始放手砸钟,一下又一下,钟声的响亮声音传得很远很远,人们听到了钟声便都蜂拥而至,捉住了这个偷钟的小偷!

During the Spring and Autumn period, there was a battle between the Zhao and Fan clans, two official families in the state of Jin. During this time, someone took the opportunity to burgle the Fan family home. Once he got to the door, he was immediately attracted by the large bell at the front door.

This bell was made of the highest grade of bronze, with an exquisite style and pattern. The burglar was over-joyed and wanted to take this magnificant bell home. But this bell was not only large but also heavy and there was no way to move it. He thought it over and decided to break the bell into little pieces, and carry it home little by little!

He found a hammer, and with all his might started hacking at the bell. The bell rang with a loud dong which startled the burglar! He was terrified!

It’s over, it’s over! What if someone heard that - wouldn’t they just tell everyone I’m here stealing the bell? His heart was racing, he threw himself onto the bell, with both arms wide open trying to cover the bell’s racket, but how could he

really cover the sound? The ringing of the bell lingered and spread everywhere!

The burglar’s fear grew with the sound of the bell. Without realising, he pulled his hands back and covered his own ears. Eh? The sound of the bell has lessened! Great! The burglar was over the moon! If he covered his ears, he made the sound of the bell go away!

Immediately, he found two pieces of cloth to stuff into his ears — now he definitely couldn't hear the bell!

So, the burglar began to hammer into the bell, one blow after the other. The sound of the bell travelled so far that people began swarming over like a hive of bees, apprehending the bell burglar!

 


这个成语比喻自己欺骗自己,明明掩盖不住的事情偏要想法子掩盖。
This idiom is a metaphor for those that lie to themselves and come up with ways to cover up a problem that clearly cannot be covered up.

yǎn

to cover


; to bury

ěr 

ear

耳朵
ěr duo; ear

dào

steal


tōu; steal

líng 

ring

铃铛
líng dang; bell

Example Sentences

这件事早已是家喻户晓了,而你还在掩耳盗铃,岂不是自欺欺人。

Everyone already knows about this problem, and yet you still bury your head in the sand, aren’t you just hurting yourself and others?

无论学习还是工作中,我们都应实事求是,不可掩耳盗铃,自欺欺人。Regardless of whether it is studying or working, we should all be faithful to the facts, and not bury our heads in the sand, hurting ourselves.

How would you use the idiom?

Is there a similar one in your country?

Let us know in the comments below!