Classical Chinese philosophy and stories: Three men make up a tiger (三人成虎)

By | July 11, 2013

Three men make up a tiger
In the ancient state of Wei, a government official Pang Gong and the prince were assigned as hostages to another country in exchange for military assistance. Before departure, Pang Gong raised a conversation with the King of Wei:

“My lord, if someone told you that he has seen a tiger walking in the market, do you believe it?”

“I do not believe it” the King of Wei said.

“What about if two persons told you that they both saw the tiger?”

“I will not believe them either”.

“What about three people?”

“Then it must be real and I have to believe it” the king replied.

Pang Gong sighed and said “I had expected the answer to be like this, which is also the key of the problem! Indeed, My lord can trust an allegation without any investigation; in case I am in another country which is more distant than the market, with more than three people tell you that I am a bad guy, will you agree? Before departure, I am highlighting this to you, My Lord, please don’t trust others’ words easily.”

After Pang Gong had gone, people from the rival party went to speak ill of Pang Gong. When Pang Gong was back, the King of Wei refused to call him in any more.

It can be concluded that rumors confuse people. When gossips are accumulated, it is enough to ruin the image of a person. In case of key matters and making key decisions, what we shall do is to do more researches by ourselves if possible to avoid being blinded by illusion.

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