The story behind "马虎 mǎ hu", how to say careless, slovenly, casual, slack, perfunctory

      It is said that there was a confused painter in ancient times. One day, he just finished drawing the head of a tiger when his friend came by. His friend asked him to draw a horse. The painter was too lazy to start a new one, so he drew a body of a horse right under the tiger head. His friend asked him what he was drawing, a horse or a tiger? The painter said"Oh, it's almost the same."
      After his friend left, the painter hung the painting on the wall. His elder son asked him"What is this ?" The painter told his son it was a horse. Then the next day his little son asked him the same question as his elder son did, and the painter told his little son it was a tiger. So the painter's two boys totally had no idea what was a true horse or a tiger.
      One day, the elder son met a tiger which he thought was a horse, he was trying to ride it, apparently he end up died. The little son met a hard-won horse which he thought was a tiger. He was afraid, so he shot the horse with the bow.
      After those, people gave the painter a nickname"Mr. 马虎(马虎先生mǎ hu xiān sheng).


horse 马 mǎ
tiger 虎hǔ/老虎lǎo hǔ
马虎 mǎ hu,careless; slovenly; casual; slack; perfunctory



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Top Member
Comment by Zhang Wenzhuo on May 4, 2012 at 8:38pm

Hi, melina

I'm glad you like it! :)

Comment by Melina Abarca on May 4, 2012 at 8:42am


Nice story, my teacher told me when I should use 马马虎虎 but when she explain the meaning of it I was very confused x.x too much chinese

Top Member
Comment by Zhang Wenzhuo on March 6, 2012 at 9:34pm

Hi, Thomas

Thank you so much for the correction. I think I do love this site more and more, I can share something interesting about Chinese in English, and the best part is I would get some corrections. :) Thanks again! ^^

Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on March 5, 2012 at 1:46am

Nice story and explanation.  A few sentences near the end show you are not a native English speaker ( or writer ).  (1) One sentence has bad wording that no native speaker would say " .... he was trying to ride it, apparently he end up died.  ...  should be  ... he tried to ride it, apparently he died  ...    or  ...  he tried to ride it, apparently he ended up dead.  (2) .... After those, people gave ....    should be  ... After that, people gave ...  or  ,,, After those events, people gave ....   The rest is fine and I would not know that you were not a native English speaker.

Top Member
Comment by Zhang Wenzhuo on March 2, 2012 at 9:28am

Hi, Adelina, Ma Ji Ya and Shu

Thanks for the support. :)

Comment by Shu on February 29, 2012 at 10:49am

Hi Wen zhuo,

 Even I used the phrase hundreds of times before, It is the first time I saw the story !!!!  Thank you for sharing!

Comment by Ma Ji Ya on February 28, 2012 at 1:49pm

Thank you for this story. I've always mixed up 马马虎虎 and 马虎。 Now I know the difference and it is easy to remember now.

Comment by Adelina Moisoiu on February 27, 2012 at 8:57pm

ahaha:) nice story!:D

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