Chinese Idiom: 三人成虎- Repeated Lies Become Fact

November 18, 2022

Today, we want to share the story behind the popular idiom “三人成虎” (sān rén chéng hǔ).

It is roughly translated as "Repeated lies become fact” in English. We have included both the Chinese and the English versions of the story below. Now, let's find out what it really means…

Chinese idiom 三人成虎 sān rén chéng 1

战国时期,魏国的大臣庞葱陪太子去赵国做人质,在他们出发前,他问魏王:“如果现在有一个人说市区的人群中有一只老虎,您相信吗?”魏王回答:“怎么可能有这样的事情,我当然不信。”庞葱又问:“如果现在有两个人说现在市区的人群中有一只老虎,您相信吗?”魏王说:“那我也不相信。”

During the Warring States period, Páng Cōng, a Wei state court minister, accompanied the King of Wei to the Zhao state to surrender as a hostage. When they left, Páng Cōng asked the king of Wei: “If someone in town told you that there was a tiger amongst the crowd, would you believe them?” The Wei King answered: “How could that be? Of course, I wouldn’t believe them. Páng Cōng asked again: “If two people from town told you there was a tiger in the crowd, would you believe them?” The Wei King replied: “I wouldn’t even believe it then.”

庞葱接着说:“如果又出现了第三个人说市区里真的有一只老虎,您会相信吗?”魏王回答:“既然这么多人说,那可能真的有老虎,所以我会相信。”庞葱又说:“大家都知道,老虎是根本不可能闯入市区中的,可是经过这三个人的传播,好像市区里真的就有老虎了。同样的道理,等我到了赵国以后,对我不满意的人很多,他们可能也会跟大王说我的坏话,希望您能仔细分析,深入调查,不要轻易相信别人的话。”魏王说:“这个我心里有数,你放心吧!”

Páng Cōng pressed on with his question: “If there was a third person in town who said there was a tiger, would you believe it then?” The Wei King responded: “Well, if that many people said it, then there might really be a tiger, I might believe it then.” Páng Cōng asked: “Everyone knows that there is no way a tiger would storm into the town centre, but because these three people said it, it really seems as if there is a tiger in the town centre. Using the same logic, when I arrive in the Zhao state, there will be many people there who aren’t happy with me. They might be bad mouthing me to you. I wish you would think carefully and know your facts. Please don’t blindly listen to those around you. “ The Wei King reassured him: “This I’m clear on, don’t worry.”

果然,庞葱刚陪着太子离开,就有一些人在魏王面前说他的坏话。刚开始时,魏王还会为庞葱辩解,但是时间长了,说的人多了魏王竟然真的相信了。等庞葱和太子回国后,魏王再也没有召见过他。

As expected, as soon as Páng Cōng and the prince left, everyone gossiped to the king. In the beginning, the Wei King defended Páng Cōng. But after a while, listening to all that was said about Páng Cōng, the King started to believe them. When Páng Cōng and the king returned to the Kingdom, the Wei King never summoned Páng Cōng again. Chinese idiom 三人成虎 sān rén chéng hǔ 2

这个故事也告诉人们,判断一件事情的真假,必须要经过细心的分析和深入的调查,不能轻易相信他人,否则会误把谣言当成。

This idiom tells us that when we tell people something, we should be factually correct. You have to research carefully and analyse what you know. You can’t easily believe those around you; otherwise, you’ll make a rumour come true.

sān (Three)

三 sān in 三人成虎 sān rén chéng hǔ

rén (People, men)

人 rén in 三人成虎 sān rén chéng hǔ

chéng (Become, make)

成 chéng in 三人成虎 sān rén chéng hǔ

(Tiger)

虎 hǔ in 三人成虎 sān rén chéng hǔ

例句 (Example Sentences)

网络上经常看到一些假消息,但是三人成虎,当许多网站都转载的时候,很多人都相信了。
Wǎngluò shàng jīngcháng kàn dào yīxiē jiǎ xiāoxī, dànshì sān rén chéng hǔ, dāng xǔduō wǎngzhàn dōu zhuǎnzài de shíhòu, hěnduō rén dōu xiāngxìnle.
You often see false news online, but repeated often enough and shared multiple times, everyone will start to believe it.

谣言的可怕就在于三人成虎,说的人多了,会使人们分不清真假。
Yáoyán de kěpà jiù zàiyú sān rén chéng hǔ, shuō de rén duōle, huì shǐ rénmen fēn bù qīng zhēn jiǎ.
The scary thing about rumours is that they become fact if they are repeated enough. If enough people are repeating it, most people can’t distinguish between facts and lies.

虽然谣言止于智者,但是三人成虎,五人成章,有时候谣言也能掩盖真相。
Suīrán yáoyán zhǐ yú zhìzhě, dànshì sān rén chéng hǔ, wǔ rén chéngzhāng, yǒu shíhòu yáoyán yě néng yǎngài zhēnxiàng.
Even though rumours can’t fool the wise, as more people repeat it, three men can make a tiger, five can make a stamp; sometimes rumours can masquerade as the truth

About the Writer

Hou Laoshi

Inner Mongolia University For Nationalities graduate; 10+ years experience in teaching Chinese. Hou laoshi is loved for her caring and patient teaching style.

HOU LAOSHI CY


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