The Guizhou Donkey 黔驴技穷

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The Chinese idiom 黔驴技穷 (qian2 lv2 ji4 qiong2) literally means the donkey in Guizhou is out of tricks . It comes from a story about a donkey and tiger in ancient Guizhou (a province in China).

In ancient times, Guizhou had no donkeys. One day, a man had a bright idea and decided to ship a donkey to the region. But he soon discovered the donkey was no use, so he took it into the mountains and left it there.

A tiger living in the mountains saw the donkey and, having never seen one before, thought it was a mysterious beast. He hid himself carefully in the woods and warily observed the donkey from a distance.

One day, the donkey brayed. The tiger thought the donkey was going to bite him, but the donkey did nothing more. The tiger quickly became accustomed to the noise and plucked up the courage to move in to get a closer look at the donkey. At last, he decided to provoke the strange beast. The donkey responded by giving the tiger a kick. However, in hindsight this was a mistake as the kick didn’t hurt the tiger very much at all. As a result, the tiger concluded that the donkey was weak and posed no threat whatsoever. He sprang on the donkey and enjoyed a tasty meal!

People use this Chinese idiom to describe situations wher someone has demonstrated that they lack a certain ability or skill. Todate, I have not been able to think of an English idiom with an equivalent meaning. Please contact me if you think you might know one.

One comment

  1. It also means if someone has very limited skills and can only do one or two things, neither of which in the long run amounts to much.

    The closest we have I think is “one – trick pony.”

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