Chinese Idioms - 狐假虎威 hú jiǎ hǔ wēi
The fox borrows the tiger’s authority by walking just ahead of the tiger; this idiom refers to people with limited capabilities who bully others by flaunting their powerful connection.
狐 hú refers to the fox. The fox is an animal associated with slyness and craftiness in the Chinese folk culture.
假 jiǎ means to fake.
虎 hǔ refers to the tiger. The tiger is an animal associated with bravery and strength in the Chinese folk culture.
威 wēi here refers to the kudos given to a valor and courageous person.
Both 狐 hú and 虎 hǔ have the same pronunciation, hu, but with different tones and represent contrasting character in this Chinese idiom. The fox is known to be a politicking animal with limited substance while the tiger is known to be strong and competent. In the idiom, the fox behaved in a bullying and belligerent manner to other animals by walking just behind the tiger and borrowing the tiger’s ferocity for his own use. It refers to people with limited capabilities who bully others by flaunting their powerful connection.
The small country starts to behave in a ~ manner after troops belonging to its powerful ally arrived.
This is an old Chinese idiom first documented in the ancient book “Intrigues of the Warring States” (战国策), written more than 2,000 years ago.
The King of Chu State deployed one of his officials, Zhao, to oversee the northern borders of the country. In time to come, Zhao’s powerful reputation spread and opposing warlords in the north were all terrified of him. The King of Chu called up his officials to enquire whether Zhao’s powerful standing was the reason why the opposing warlords to the north no longer dare invade the State of Chu.
To the King’s question, another official Jiang, a rival of Zhao, provided an analogy in the form of a fictitious story to illustrate that the warlords to the north were actually afraid of the King himself rather than his subordinate Zhao.
In the story, a powerful tiger came across a fox during his hunt. To save himself, the fox lied to the tiger that he (the fox) was the most powerful animal. To prove his point, the fox asked the tiger to walk behind him and see how the other animals react. As they approached, all the other animals scurried away in fear. The tiger became convinced that the fox was indeed the most powerful animal and went away in fear.
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