Ask a tiger for its skin 与虎谋皮


This proverb is an example of a borrowed metaphor, which borrows the object, a tiger, to convey a message. This proverb can be used widely in situations involving power struggle, in politics and businesses.  This applies in situations for asking someone of evil characters for something impossible as tigers in Chinese history represented something evil, fearful or tyrannical.

Background

与虎谋皮 (yǔ hǔ móu pí) literally means persuading a tiger to give up its skin

The history of this proverb dated back to the Spring and Autumn period of the Chinese history of around 400 BC. History has it that the Emperor of the state of Lu wanted to ask the great philosopher, Confucius, to take up certain post under his reign. The emperor consulted his advisor as to whether he should consult another officer, who was of  shady characters, on the matter. The advisor told the emperor that Confucius was a person of virtue, if he were to take up that post, that officer would definitely be let go. The advisor intended to mean that if the emperor were to ask that officer for his opinion,  it was like asking a tiger for its skin.

Meaning

Asking someone of evil characters for a favour, which was against his interest

Examples

  • In current affairs (the French president tried to negotiate with FARC rebels of Colombia for the release of Ingrid Betancourt)
  • In real life (1. a distressed homeowner asked his bank not to foreclose his home 2. an employee asked his mean boss for a raise in salary)
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