Ban Chao was a famous general during the Eastern Han Dynasty. He originally worked as a petty official, but later, to realize his ambition, he joined the army.

In 73 A.D, Ban Chao and 36 subordinates were on a diplomatic mission to a small country named Shan Shan to build alliances against Xiong Nu. At first, the king of Shan Shan wined and dined him well; when Ban Chao told him the purpose of the visit, the king was very happy, promising to sign the treaty in ten days. However, the king’s promise did not make Ban Chao rest easy, on the contrary, he began to worry that the king might change his mind, especially after he heard that a large Xiong Nu delegation had also arrived.

Unfortunately, what he worried about happened: the king’s attitude suddenly changed; he not only treated Ban Chao in a cold manner but also refused meet him when the time of signing treaty came. Aware that the situation was taking a turn for the worse, Ban Chao immediately called in his men, saying:” Gentlemen, we are in terrible danger. The delegation of Xiong Nu has arrived and the King has become so indifferent to us. He is very likely to bind us up and send us to the Hun’s king as a gift in a few days. What should we do?”

All his subordinates said they would like to know his opinion. Ban Chao said: ” The best way out now is to attack the Xiong Nu’s delegation tonight and kill them. Only in this way would the King pay allegiance to our country.”

Some people worried that they were too few in number. To it, Ban Chao replied:” I heard ‘One cannot capture the tiger’s cub unless he enters the tiger’s den’. Let’s do it! I will live and die with you together.”

Moved by his determination, all his subordinates agreed with his plan. That night, Ban Chao and his men ambushed outside the the camp of the Xiong Nu delegation. They set a fire around the camp and then shouted and stroke drums at the same time. Waken up by the fire and noise, the Xiong Nu thought they were being attacked by a large Han army. As a result, they soon fell into great panic and were unable to fight back.

Over 30 of them were killed in the ambush, including the leader of the delegation, and the other were burnt to death. The next day, Ban Chao met the king of Shan Shan with the head of the Xiong Nu leader. The king was so astonished that he decided to ally with the Eastern Han at once.


This Chinese idiom story is from “the Book of the Later Han”.

Later people derived the idioms of “One Cannot Capture The Tiger’s Cub Unless He Enters The Tiger’s.” from this story. It is similar with the English phrase of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.


story source: One cannot capture the tiger’s cub unless he enters the tiger’s den


have a tiger of a day