[FOUNTAIN]Change like a tiger rather than a leopardAccording to the Chinese classic “Book of Changes,” a virtuous man changes himself as promptly and swiftly as a leopard changes fur in the fall. Just as a leopard would shed its hair to grow fresh, more beautiful fur, the “Book of Changes” emphasizes that a virtuous man should renovate the world and fix wrongs. Through fundamental reform, the man of virtues must respond to the changes of the time.
The Chinese classic also introduces an expression regarding a tiger, which the ancient Chinese considered stronger than a leopard. “A virtuous man changes like a leopard, and a great man changes like a tiger.” The saying reflects the thinking of the Chinese who thought a great man was above a virtuous man just as a tiger was stronger than a leopard.
However, Koreans came to use the expression, “change like a leopard,” with a negative connotation, suggesting an about-face of attitude or behavior. It is uncertain how the expression earned such a meaning. But the dominant Confucian sentiment, which views a change of mind as deserting the original belief, must have contributed to the negative meaning. The betrayals of the politicians, both in speech and conduct, have been condemned as leopard-like changes.
The Japanese also use the expression with a negative meaning, but in China, “change like a leopard” has never been used to refer to a disgraceful act. Instead, it was also used to refer to “becoming successful and famous despite a poor and humble background” during the Tang Dynasty.
The more intense a conflict becomes, we come across more cases of leopard-like changes. Politicians often justify about-faces but criticize others who change. Even regarding the economy, people still make about-faces.
The government would say that the economy is not in trouble, but soon announce a boost measure or a low growth forecast. Financial authorities would be determined not to lower the interest rate, but suddenly change its position.
However, why don’t we make a change like a leopard as the “Book of Changes” originally intended? Let’s change the confrontations and feuds into dialogues for mutual benefit. Just as the president has said, it would be great if we can stop the unnecessary debate. Who knows? Someday, 2005 might be remembered as a year when the country changed like a tiger.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is head of the family affairs team at the JoongAng Ilbo.