Venturing into the tiger’s den to catch cubs 不入虎穴,焉得虎子


This is an example of a borrowed metaphor by using an object, a tiger, to convey a message. This proverb applies to situations where one has to go into enemies’ territories to catch the ringleaders. Animal protectionists probably do not like this proverb, however, tigers in ancient China were symbols of tyrants or villains.

Background

不入虎穴,焉得虎子  (bù rù hǔ xué, yān dé hǔ zǐ) literally means “If you don’t enter the tiger’s den, how will you get the tiger’s cub?”

When the general of Eastern Han dynasty, Chao Ban, opened diplomatic relations with the Western Territory, the kingdom Xionglu also sent an envoy to the Western Territory. General Ban decided to make the first move, and led his army to attack the heavily guarded residence of the Xionglu diplomat. Those who were with him thought that attacking the heavily guarded residence was too dangerous, but Ban said, “If you didn’t enter the tiger’s den, how could you get the tiger cub?  

 Meaning

1. No pain, no gain   2. Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Examples

  • In politics  (1.  Colombia’s armies crossed Ecuador’s border to capture the rebel commander, Raul Reyes 2. US sent troops to Iraq to capture Saddam Hussein)

 

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