The Tiger happens to be one of the most charismatic beasts of Asia. No wonder then that it features prominently in the literature, art and architecture of Asian civilizations. Here’s a collection of Chinese proverbs reflecting the Tiger’s image as a force of nature, a symbol of power and authority:

  1. If you don’t enter the Tiger’s den, how will you ever get the Tiger’s cubs? (No pain, no gain)
  2. To be in the king’s company is tantamount to being in the company of a Tiger. (Being close to the monarch presents its own dangers)
  3. It is in the deepest mountains that Tigers and Leopards hide; it is in turbulent times that heroes emerge. (It is in the most difficult of circumstances that hope appears)
  4. A Tiger father will not beget a puppy. (A brave father is unlikely to have a cowardly son)
  5. The Tigers of East Mountain are man-eaters as are the Tigers of West Mountain. (Cruel people are the same everywhere)
  6. You maybe able to draw a Tiger’s skin but it’s much harder to draw its bones. (It is difficult to know what another person is really thinking)
  7. You try to draw a Tiger but end up drawing a Dog. (Trying to imitate somebody superior but falling laughably short)
  8. A Tiger’s head with a Snake’s tail. (Something that begins grandly but finishes poorly)
  9. Clearly knowing there are Tigers on the mountain; yet headed to the mountain. (Continuing undeterred by danger and difficulty)
  10. Follow a Tiger and you’ll go into the mountains; follow an Eagle and you’ll fly into the sky. (You’ll be influenced by the company you keep)
  11. Even the most vicious Tiger won’t devour its cubs. (Even the worst person won’t harm his children)
  12. Even Tigers take a nap. (Even wise men make mistakes)
  13. When two Tigers tussle, one is bound to get injured. (When two powerful persons clash, one is bound to suffer grievously)
  14. Two Tigers can’t remain on the same mountain. (Two powerful persons in the same place will ultimately clash)
  15. A Tiger and a Leopard, each goes its own way. (To each his own)
  16. To raise a Tiger is to bring trouble to yourself. (Appeasing a powerful person brings trouble later)
  17. Beware of a Tiger with a smiling face. (Do not trust a dangerous person on account of his friendliness)
  18. Even a skinny Tiger has an ambitious heart. (A powerful person will nurse ambitions, even when weak or old)

Image Attribution: The image above is taken from Wikimedia Commons and shows a 10th century, Song era painting. Titled ‘Two Zen Monks Purifying Their Hearts’, it features the Chinese Ch’an poet-monk, Fenggan (literally Big Stick) and a Tiger.  Fenggan along with Hanshan and Shide, two other monks, formed the Tiantai Trio, famed for their poetry and legendary attributes. They were friends and lived during the the 9th century, in Tang era China. The term ‘Tiantai Trio’ is a reference to the famous Guoqing Temple on Mount Tiantai (where the Tiantai School of Mahayana Buddhism was established by Patriarch Zhiyi, in the 6th century CE). From Mount Tiantai on the eastern seaboard of China, the School spread to Japan, Korea and Vietnam. It is said that Fenggan arrived at Guoqing Temple, riding a Tiger. His poetry, along with that of Hanshan and Shide, provide a glimpse into the culture of ancient China and Chinese Buddhism. The painting is preserved in the Tokyo National Museum (Japan).

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