Chinese Idiom: 不入虎穴,焉得虎子 (no pain, no gain)



Nothing that has worth is easy to achieve. Except sleep. But come to think of it, it is hard to achieve because you have work, housework, and responsibilities. Things were much easier as a kid.


Once again, the Chinese language eloquently phrases this to “No one can ever obtain tiger cubs without entering the tiger’s lair”. Although tiger cubs are rather annoying when they grow up as they CAN rip you to shreds for stepping on their paws or something.


This phrase in Chinese is 不入虎穴,焉得虎子 (bù rù hǔ xué , yān dé hǔ zǐ ), which means you need to work hard for your desired outcome.

During the Han dynasty, a representative of Emperor Mingdi of Western Han called Ban Chao was sent to the state of Charklik whose king welcomed him warmly.

However, after two weeks, the king of Charklik suddenly changed his attitude towards Ban Chao.

It was later discovered by Ban Chao that the main rival of the Western Han, the Hun tribe had also established diplomatic relations with Charklik.

Knowing that an alliance between Charklik the Huns will lead to the end of the Western Han, Ban Chao knew that the only way to win is to defeat the Huns beforehand.

Ban Chao also knew that it is going to be a hard-fought battle to defeat the Huns, but he managed to persuade the Western Han’s generals by saying (the literal translation for the idiom): No one can ever obtain tiger cubs without entering the tiger’s lair himself.

That very night, Ban Chao and his men stormed the camp of the Hun in Charklik, killing the entire envoy.

Seeing the strength of the Western Han army, the Charklik king allied with the Han and entered into friendly relations.

Have you ever done something extremely tough but felt that it was worth it in the end?

Let us know in the comments!

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