Sān rén chéng hǔ
Translation: Three people can create a tiger.
Meaning: A gossip told repeatedly may be taken as truth.
The King of the State of Wei wanted to befriend the King of the State of Zhao. He decided to send his heir-apparent to Handan, the capital of Zhao, to become a hostage. This was in accordance with the custom of the time to ensure a political deal between two states. The King of Wei asked a favored minister named Pang Cong to accompany his son.
Pang Cong knew that his political enemies might turn against him during his absence. So he asked the king, “Your Majesty, if someone told you there was a tiger prowling in the street, would you believe him?”
“Certainly not,” said the King categorically, “How can a tiger be found in the street?”
“If another person came to tell the same story, would you believe him?”
“Well, I would take it with a grain of salt.”
“What if still another came with the same story?”
“Then,” said the King, “I would definitely think that they were telling the truth.”
Pang Cong said, “Now that I am leaving for the capital of Zhao with the heir-apparent, I’m afraid there could be more than three people trying to stab me in the back. I hope that Your Majesty won’t take their gossip seriously.”
The King of Wei said, “You may rest assured that I won’t be taken in so readily.”
Nevertheless, after Pang Cong left, people began slandering him in front of the King of Wei. The king didn’t believe them at first, but as the number of backstabbers grew, he became more credulous. When Pang Cong returned to the State of Wei, his fear became a reality: The king did not trust him any longer.
This proverb describes a situation in which a rumor told repeatedly could be taken as a truth.
|人||rén||person, people (N)|
|成||chéng||to create (V)|
|成人||chéngrén||to become of age (V), adult (N)|
A rumor will eventually prove false, but it can be very harmful in the short term if many people believe it is true.