The popular Chinese idiom “三人成虎” (sān rén chéng hǔ) can be roughly translated as "repeated lies become fact” in English.
In this blog, we will share with you both the Chinese and the English versions of the story behind the idiom “三人成虎” (sān rén chéng hǔ), what it means, as well as how to use it in a sentence.
Let’s dive in!
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
三 sān (Three)
人 rén (People, men)
成 chéng （Become, make）
虎 hǔ (Tiger)
例句 （Example Sentences)
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.
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.
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
Inner Mongolia University For Nationalities graduate; 10+ years experience in teaching Chinese. Hou laoshi is loved for her caring and patient teaching style.
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