瞎子摸象 (xiāzi mō xiàng)
The blind men feel an elephant ─ To take a part for the whole
Long ago, a king of India raised a lot of elephants. One day, when he was riding an elephant to go sight-seeing, he saw some blind men resting on the roadside. He told them to come to him, and said: “Do you know what an elephant looks like?” The blind men shook their heads and replied: “No, we don’t, Your Majesty.” The king laughed, “You can feel it with your hands, and then tell me what shape you think it is.”
So the blind men gathered round the elephant, and began to feel it. After a while, they came back to report to the king.
One of them felt the elephant’s tusk and said, “The elephant is like a thick, long turnip.”
“No,” the one who touched the elephant’s ear said, “The elephant is like a dustpan.”
“You’re both wrong,” said the third man, who felt one of the elephant’s legs, “The elephant is just like a pillar!”
“You’re mistaken, too!” The fourth blind man felt the elephant’s foot. He said, “The elephant is like a stone mortar.”
“You’re not correct, either.” The fifth man confidently said that the elephant is like a bed, because he felt the elephant’s back.
“None of you got it right,” said the last one. Pulling on the elephant’s tail, he said, “Clearly, the elephant is just like a piece of rope!”
Hearing their reports, the king roared with laugher. They had all made a silly mistake because they took the part they felt as the whole elephant.
From that story comes the idiom 瞎子摸象(xiāzi mō xiàng). People use it to describe those who take a one-sided, simplistic approach to problems.