Chinese idioms are priceless legacies deeply rooted in traditional culture, making Chinese language more powerful, more functional and thus, more fascinating. Like Chinese language, English language also has its own treasure—English idioms are vivid, terse and profoundly connotative. Although, there are many differences between the Chinese language and the English language, some Chinese idioms and English idioms are equivalent in either meaning or form. Let’s share the origins of some of these equivalent idioms to appreciate the quintessence of both languages.
Play the lute to a cow
对牛弹琴(duì niú tán qín) is a Chinese idiom which originated from a story with the meaning of “to speak cant to a layman”.
In ancient times, there lived a musician named Gong Mingyi. He was a master of the Zheng, a plucked string instrument. Unfortunately, his rash behavior often led him astray.
One day, he saw a cow grazing in a field near his house. He was inspired by the scene and ran outside to play a tune for the cow. Gong Mingyi played beautifully, finding himself intoxicated by the music. But the cow paid no heed to the elegant sounds, simply focusing its attention on eating the grass. Gong Mingyi was surprised at this and could not comprehend the cow’s flippant indifference. He felt that since his performance had been masterful, this means that the cow neither understood nor appreciated his elegant music!
From that story comes the idiom "To play the lute to a cow", which implies that the speaker or writer has over-estimated his listeners or readers， or someone speaks or writes without considering his audience.
Englishe quivalent idiom
To cast pearls before swine
The idiom originated from the Bible: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you(from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 7.6). Swine and dog were regarded as the unclean animals in Judaism, while the pearl was pure, beautiful and rich. Because the Christianity derived from Judaism, the idiom was widely used in western countries.
She read them Shakespeare, but it was casting pearls before swine.
I won't waste good advice on John anymore because he never listens to it. I won't cast pearls before swine.