Chinese Idiom Stories
To Show Off One's Skill With an Axe In Front of Lu Ban's Door
The great Tang dynasty pot, Li Bo, was an outspoken and romantic type of person. He loved a good time, and he often went out drinking with his friends. One time, when he and some friends were out boating, Li Bo got dead drunk, fell into the river, and drowned.
After Li Bo's death, many people who felt themselves to be geniuses would go and inscribe poems in front of his tomb. The scholar Mei Jr-huan felt that these people were highly overrating their own abilities. So, after all of their poems, he added another one, the meaning of which was: "Here lies Li Bo, a poet who will go down in history, Inscribing one's poem in front of his tomb is the same as showing off one's skill with the axe in front of Lu Ban's door."
This "Lu Ban" that Mei Jr-huan mentioned was a famous craftsman of the Spring and Autumn Period who was very skilled with the axe. So, "to show off one's skill with the axe in front of Lu Ban's door" means of flaunt one's ability in front of an expert. Proving that one doesn't know one's own limitations. Sometimes, we can slo use this idiom as a polite expression, indicating that the people to whom we are speaking are much more talented than ourselves.