Copying a Cat to Paint a Tiger-照猫画虎 (zhào māo huà hǔ)

Friday, October 13, 2023

Long ago, in a small village in China, there lived a young artist named Xiaoming. He had a deep passion for painting, especially animals. One day, he heard a story about a master who could paint a lifelike tiger by looking at a cat. It was said that the tiger would appear incredibly real. Xiaoming was excited by this tale and decided to give it a try.

When Xiaoming returned home, he picked up his brushes and paper and carefully observed his pet cat. He tried to imitate the cat's appearance and paint a tiger, but the result didn't turn out as he had hoped. Despite his efforts, the 涂漆的 (tú qī de) painted tiger lacked the lifelike quality he desired. Xiaoming realized that mere imitation was not enough to create great art; he needed to tap into his own creativity and imagination.

涂漆的 (tú qī de), adj, painted


  1. She enjoys paiZnting her nails with colorful polish. 
    Tā xǐhuān yòng cǎisè zhǐjiǎyóu tú qī tā de zhǐjia.
  2. The carpenter will paint the new bookshelves brown. 
    Mùjiàng jiāng huì bǎ xīn de shūjià tú qī chéng hèsè.


This story teaches us that simply imitating without truly understanding the essence of something cannot lead to genuine creativity and artistic achievement. While "照猫画虎" (zhào māo huà hǔ) "copying a cat to paint a tiger" may yield some results, creating outstanding works requires the expression of one's creativity and imagination. Only by truly comprehending the nature and principles behind something can one produce unique and exceptional creations.

Meaning of the Phrase

"照猫画虎" (zhào māo huà hǔ) "copying a cat to paint a tiger" is a Chinese idiom that literally means painting a tiger based on the appearance of a cat. Figuratively, it implies that simple imitation without a deep understanding of the essence or principles of something is 不太可能的 (bú tài kě néng de) unlikely to achieve authentic results.

不太可能的 (bú tài kě néng de), adj, unlikely


  1. It's unlikely to rain today, so you can go for a picnic.
    Jīntiān bù tài kěnéng xiàyǔ, suǒyǐ nǐ kěyǐ qù yěcān.
  2. Winning the lottery is unlikely, but it's fun to dream about.
    Zhòng cǎipiào de jīhuì bù tài kěnéng, dàn báirìmèng yīxià yě tǐng yǒuqù.

Modern Application

In today's society, the story of "照猫画虎" (zhào māo huà hǔ) remains relevant. It serves as a reminder that in learning and the creative process, reliance solely on imitation is insufficient. Instead, individuals should strive to gain a deep understanding of the essence of a subject and exercise their creativity. This lesson applies across various fields, including art, science, and innovative technologies.

Key Sentences:

  1. Trying to replicate her success is like "Copying a Cat to Paint a Tiger"; it's not easy to recreate.
    Xiǎng yào fùzhì tā de chénggōng jiù xiàng "zhào māo huà hǔ", bù róngyì chóngxīn chuàngzào.
  2. He imitated his older brother's handwriting, but it was just "Copying a Cat to Paint a Tiger”。
    Tā mófǎng gēgē de zìjì, dàn zhǐshì "zhào māo huà hǔ”。
  3. She watched the chef cook on TV and tried to replicate the dish, but it was like "Copying a Cat to Paint a Tiger”。
    Tā kàn diànshì shàng de chúshī pēnrèn, chángshì fùzhì zhè dào cài, dàn jiù xiàng "zhào māo huà hǔ" yīyàng.

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