qí hǔ nán xià
To have a bear by the tail
Every language has idioms, sayings, or set phrases. Chinese is no different. In Chinese, an idiom is called 成语 (chéng yŭ) and is usually composed of four characters.
Today, we want to share the story behind the popular idiom “骑虎难下" (qí hǔ nán xià) with you. This idiom comes from the Book of Jin, in the Biography of Wen Jiao, and the following story is a retelling of the original story. It is roughly translated as “it’s hard to get off when riding a tiger” 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…
Once upon of time, there was a hunter who often went up to the mountain to go hunting. Once when he was out hunting, he came across a vicious tiger. With its domineering attitude and ferocious features, it seemed as if it was ready to eat the hunter with one bite. Under pressure, the hunter immediately climbed a tree nearby. But the tiger seemed especially hungry and kept waiting at the tree for the hunter.
The hunter was frightened out of his wits and he was at a loss. In his state of frenzy, the branch under him snapped off, and he landed straight on the back of the tiger. Panicking, the hunter grabbed the tiger’s neck with a firm grip. This made the tiger jump in fear, frantically choosing any direction, heading east at one point, then heading west at another, desperately trying to get rid of the man on his back.
The tiger ran like the wind towards a market town nearby. Many of the townspeople saw and were in awe saying: “This man sure is brave, willing to ride a tiger!” Who would have guessed, the hunter timidly said: “You guys do not understand the predicament I am in! I can’t get off!"
(qí zhe; Riding)
(lǎo hǔ; Tiger)
(hěn nán; very difficult)
(xià lai; to come down)
The project is halfway through in operation, and yet he wants to withdraw his funding and leave us as if we have a bear by the tail.他其实没有能力做好这件事，但因为话已出口，只得硬着头皮干下去，真是骑虎难下。
He actually can’t do this properly, but since he already said he would, he can only buckle down and get it done, there’s no way to stop now.
How would you use the idiom?
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