Chinese Language

Proverbs | 8

Ban jun ru ban hu : Keeping the company of an emperor is like keeping the company of a tiger

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Zhong wen

Ban jun ru ban hu
伴君如伴虎

In the days of absolute monarchy such as in Imperial China, this aphorism had its particular poignancy. Witness the fatal fall of the mighty courtiers in Chinese history. How the corridors of the Imperial court were littered with the corpses of the Royal favourites! A similar sentiment is reflected in some English proverbs such as 'Nearest the King, nearest the widdie (gallows)', 'Kings and bears oft worry their keepers' and 'Serve a great man, you will know sorrow'.

To a certain extent, this aphorism is still relevant today. After all, human nature being what it is, Emperors never die. They live on in the guise of Presidents, Chairmen, Prime Ministers, industrial and commercial tycoons, party leaders etc. who can be equally capricious and hard to please. Courtiers, beware!

© Copyright Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 2001 reprinted from SACU's China Now 119, Page 40, December 1986

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