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No More Tricks, Mr. Nan Guo!

Apr 10, 2010

Mr. Nan Guo in a Yu ensemble

Storyteller: I have a weird habit. When I go to a classical music concert by an orchestra, I like to look at the individual musicians on the stage one after another. See their facial expressions and body gestures, see how they enjoy the music by themselves, how they pause and rest, how they response to the conductor, and try to catch some little things happened on the stage, or see if everyone is fully devoted to the performance.

An orchestra usually has 70+ people, some have 100+ musicians. No offense, if you are not the leader of a section, nobody will notice if you are not playing for a while, since your fellow musicians will be redundant. Well, I am sure this is fraud and very unprofessional. You will probably lose your position if you keep doing  this.

This reminds me a 2000+ years old Chengyu story in China. It was about a fraud musician in a royal music ensemble and how he failed eventually.

No More Tricks, Mr. Nan Guo!

In the Warring States period of China (475-221 B.C.), there was a state called Qi, the king of which was very fond of listening to music, especially the music played on the Yu, a wind instrument. So he convened a band of more than 300 players from his state. Everyday the band was called in to play the Yu for his Majesty at teatime. And the king seemed to be very satisfied with the band and the harmonies performed.

As a matter of fact, one of the players, Nan Guo, knew nothing about the instrument. But he did manage to pass himself off and went on well with his tricks that each time he tried to seat himself behind and pretended to be playing the Yu together with the others. And everything seemed good for him. He had never been exposed.

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No more tricks, Mr. Nan Guo!

Finally, his days were gone when the prince ascended the throne. As the latter would enjoy solo rather than harmony, the players were called each in to play alone before the king. This time, as we have guessed, Nan Guo was embarrassed to find there was no place for him any more. As soon as Nanguo got wind of the news, he sneaked away as fast as he could.

Storyteller: The story describes the case in which the spurious is mixed with the genuine. It also tells us: those fraud people, who managed to muddle for a while, cannot muddle forever; They could not stand the test of time, and eventually their tricks will be uncovered.

[Further Reading] Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings by Burton Watson

[Image source] tp.edu.tw

[Chinese Keywords]
滥竽充数

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