A newborn calf 初生之犊


The Chinese metaphor

初生之犊不畏虎  (chū shēng zhī dú bù wèi hǔ)


A new born calf is not afraid of a tiger

This straight forward metaphor is to mean that a young person is full of rigour and courage and is not afraid to challenge an experienced person.


  • In National Basket Association, Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornet, a 2nd year  player in the league, is not afraid to take up the challenge against the veteran player, Tim Duncan of. the San Antonio Spurs. a veteram basletba;; tea,. Chris Paul and his team now has a chance to advance to the West Coast Final if it beats the Spur in the upcoming final game in best of seven series.



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.


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.


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


  • 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)

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.


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?  


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


  • 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)


A tyrannical government is more fierce than a tiger 苛政猛于虎

This is a borrowed metaphor, which uses the object, a tiger, to convey a message. This differs from the standard Chinese proverbs is that it is made up of five words.  This proverb is to criticise tyrannical politicians and leaders. It is a straight forward proverb. However, It was originated from the sayings of Confucius, (770-476 B.C.), who is the most respected philosopher of the China history, which makes it more important.

Background苛政猛于虎 (kē zhèng měng yú hǔ) which literal means a tyrannical government is more fierce than a tiger.

At the time known as Spring and Autumn Era, China was under the reign of a tyrannical government. The livelihood of the people was threatened by harsh taxations imposed by the government. Some of the families had to live in the mountain. There was one family, the grandfather, the father and the son were killed by tigers at different times while working or searching for foods in the mountain. One day, Confucius passed by the  cemetery while the mother of the family was weeping for the loss of her son. Confucius asked the woman why she was weeping and the woman told the whole story to Confucius who then asked her why did she not leave the mountain and found a safer place. The woman said the people in the area would rather face the threat of tigers than be suppressed by the tyrannical government. Confucius then turned to his students, who were with him, and taught them that “A tyrannical government is more fierce than a tiger”


A tyrannical government is more fierce  than a tiger


  • In politics (Some North Koreans, under the rule of the tyrant, Kim Chun il,  would rather risk their lives by sneaking into foreign consulates of other countries with a view to seeking asylums in foreign countries than living in their own country)
  • Again in politics (the Mynamar junta ruler’s consistent negliect of the livelihood of its people caused the loss of 20,000 lives to the killer cyclone in the beginning of May 2008)