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Chinese Idioms 成 语

Lesson 4
lan yú chōng shù
【滥 竽 充 数】
No More Tricks, Mr. Nan Guo! (Pretending to Play the Yu to Retain His Position in the Orchestra)

In the period of the Warring States (475-221 BC), there was a state called Qi. The king of Qi was so fond of the yu, a wind instrument, that he had a band of more than 300 musicians play for him every afternoon. The king was most satisfied with the band and the harmonies they performed.

Little did the king know that a member of the band, Nan Guo, was not even a musician. In fact, Nan Guo knew nothing about the yu. But he somehow managed to pass himself off as a yu player by sitting right at the back, pretending to play the instrument. The king was none the wiser.

But Nan Guo's charade came to an end when the king's son succeeded him.

The new king, unlike his father, preferred solos to full orchestral performances. The king would therefore summon musicians to perform individually.

Of course, Nan Guo's tomfoolery was exposed in no time, and he found himself without a band to hide in anymore.

xiāng suí
To observe the local customs of the place one is in. The popular English expression would be "when in Rome, do as the Romans do."
gān jìng luo
Neat and tidy; smart; efficient
bèn qián chéng
Each pursues his own course; each goes his own way
tóu shé wěi
Having a tiger's head and a snake's tail – describes a fine start but a poor finish