Zhao Xixu was a high-ranking general of the Chu State during the Warring States Period. He was well known.
One day, Chu Xuanwang, the King of the Chu State, asked the officials in the imperial court, “I heard that all the nobility from theNorth are very afraid of Zhao Xixu. Is that true?”
No one answered the question except Jiang Yi.
Jiang said, “A tiger likes to catch all kinds of animals for meals. One time, he caught a fox. The fox said, ‘You dare not eat me. The Emperor from Heaven appointed me king of the beasts. If you eat me you will disobey his order. If you don’t believe me, you can follow me and find out for yourself.’
The tiger believed the fox and followed the fox walking around the forest. All the beasts were so frightened at the sight of the tiger that they ran away quickly. The tiger did not know that the animals were afraid of him and thought the animals were afraid of the fox.”
“Now Your Majesty have five thousand square miles of territory and 100,000 soldiers, but you give Zhao Xixu the power to lead the soldiers. Therefore, the nobility from North are not afraid of Zhao Xixu but your armed forces. Just like the animals are afraid of the tiger!”
This is a story stated in the “Zhan Guo Ce” (Intrigues of the Warring States). The idiom that the fox profits from the tiger’s might evolved from this story. It is an analogy referring to people who like to bully or suppress others when they are associated with someone in a powerful position.