成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) is an important part of Chinese culture, especially in Chinese literature.
Most 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) are derived from ancient literatures, the earliest 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) was created over 2,500 years ago and many of them are still used today.
Generally, 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) consist of four Chinese characters with a story behind them. There are at least 5,000 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) in the modern Chinese language and about 1,000 to 2,000 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) are often used. However, as a foreigner if you know 10 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) your will suprise a lot of people.
Memorising 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) is not simply a study of Mandarin, but also provides an experience of the Chinese wisdoms in the stories behind it.
Here is one we thought very useful for recent dialogue.
This story is from《战国策 Zhan Guo Ce》(Stratagems of the Warring States) , a book about the stories during the Warring State period (500 – 300 BC).
Here is the story in ancient Chinese:
In modern Chinese:
And here comes the English:
“A Tiger is hunting for prey and caught a fox. The fox said “You dare not eat me! The God appointed me the king of the animals. If you eat me, you’ll be disobeying his orders. If you don’t believe, follow me. You’ll soon see all other animals run away with fear when they see me. ”
The tiger thought it was true and followed the fox. When all the animals saw them coming they run away. Not realising that they were afraid of him, the tiger thought they were afraid of the fox. “
And the result: Not sure. The tiger let the fox go OR The tiger eats the fox. Your imagination.
This story is normally used for the little guy to borrow the power of the big guy to achieve their own purpose in a derogatory term.
American president J.F Kennedy used this “Tiger story” in his inaugural speech in 1961 saying “… sought power by riding the back of the tiger …”.
However, the full sentence is : “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
Now you understand the meaning of “狐假虎威“. Can you make a sentence using this Chinese 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) now?
If you like to learn more 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) or get a free copy of “Best Ten 成语 (Chéng Yǔ, Idiom) “, please contact us.