Mandarin Characters: 扮猪吃老虎
Literal Translation: Pretending to be a pig to trap the tiger.
Context: The informant begins by saying that the proverb has been said to her by her parents and grandparents since she was a literal girl. There is no set time to use the phrase, as the proverb has been mentioned to her a couple of times a year, it simply depends on the situation or context of the prior conversation. For example, if one is going through hardships or periods in life that require encouragement, then it is appropriate for a family member or friend to use the proverb towards that individual. The proverb literally translates to “pretending to be a pig to trap the tiger,” which elicits the message of never fully revealing your cards until the moment is right. It’s a proverb that encourages individuals to remain clever and to always map out strategies that can help them attain success. V.S. also mentions that it encourages Chinese people to remain humble and never be boisterous, similar to the pig who pretended to be weak in order to conquer their enemy/obstacle, the tiger.
Analysis: The Chinese are fond of incorporating mythical creatures and or animals into their folk, simply because they have a stronger connection to natural truths. Animals are primal, and thus act on instinct and learned behavior, a trait that allows them to be wise in a sense that humans could never be. There is also the presence of the zodiac within Chinese culture, which depicts a system that assigns you a certain animal based on your birth year. Each animal has a certain set of traits that sets them apart from others and all of its interpersonal relationships with the other zodiacs. The proverb also reminds me of the American proverb “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” which elicits the same idea of concealing one’s true power and nature until the time is right, although the American version is more villainized. The wolf in sheep’s clothing seems to be concealing itself for malevolent intent, while the pig does so to remain humble.