Chinese Idiom: Riding on the Back of a Tiger and Finding It Hard To Get Off

PureInsight | September 13, 2004

[] Wen Jiao lived in Qi County during the Jin Dynasty. At that time, Emperor Jin Cheng ruled the land. A high-ranking general named Sun Jun rebelled against the emperor and captured the capital city of Jian Kang [today's Nanjing].

Wen Jiao managed to organize an alliance to fight Sun Jun. But General Tao Kan hesitated about whether he should be a part of the alliance when faced with such a strong rebel army. The alliance almost broke up on several occasions. Finally, Wen Jiao visited Tao Kan and told him, "In light of the current situation, there is no other way out. It is like riding on the back of a tiger and finding it hard to get off. The only way out is to kill it." Wen Jiao thus persuaded Tao Kan. The alliance overcame its difficulties and defeated the rebel army.

"Riding on the back of a tiger and finding it hard to get off" has thus come to mean that someone is stuck in a difficult position and has no way out.

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