When and how do we use the idiom 草船借箭?

I know where the story comes from — 《三国演义》— and I know the meaning. But I'm still not really clear in what situation I'd say this.

  • I have never heard any people use it. It is hard to find an appropriate context to use it.
    – sfy
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 13:26
  • To me, some idioms only act as a summary of a historical event, thus do not have much practical use compared to the others. The only situation I can think of when people use this idiom is something like, I might say, 我们给他来一个草船借箭, meaning that I suggest that we perform such a strategy against someone.
    – pjhades
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 13:53
  • "汉语熟语小词典"[草船借箭]指运用智慧,依靠别人的力量达到自己的目的。据[三国演义]记载:刘备的军师诸葛亮箭答应周瑜,在三天之内造出十万支箭。为此,他从鲁肃那里借了草船和部分军师,利用大雾天气,假装要袭击曹操的营地。最后,满载着曹军射来的箭返回了自己的营地。 企业经营要善于 草船借箭 ,多借用别人的力量来发展自己,你作为公司领导更应该明白这一点的重要性。
    – user6065
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 14:21
  • This might be a situation you can use the idiom to describe with: telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9806921/…
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 19:59

3 Answers 3


It's not a 成语, actually. As a Chinese person who was born and raised in mainland China, I've never ever used it as a 成语, and I've never heard anybody use it as a 成语. When our teacher told the story of 草船借箭 to us in primary school, she didn't say 草船借箭 is a 成语 at all. It's just a famous story. And we rarely talk about this story.

  • Agree. Like 曹冲称象 or 孔融让梨, it's just a famous story after all. And when you say it, you're referring to the story itself.
    – zypA13510
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 11:56

草船借箭 refers to one specific chapter in one specific novel. there's not much chance it comes up in common day to day conversation.

from 汉语熟语小词典

例 企业经营要善于 草船借箭

see comment #4 under the question

This example sound very odd. It is like saying " A man need to go Die Hard (refers to the movie) to stay alive". Someone who watched the movies, would understand 'go Die Hard' means 'be resourceful', because it was what the main character did to stay alive. But it is hardly an common idiom because there are many other things associated with the movies, you could say "go Die Hard" means " Do it all by oneself" or "be extremely violent"

It is the same with 草船借箭. The story can refer to :

  1. be resourceful

  2. able to anticipate other's action

  3. clever use of deception

  4. solve problem creatively

  5. take from the enemy is twice as good as making it yourself (you gain on enemy's lost)

and some other things.

  • why not note that highlighted text 例 企业经营要善于 草船借箭 (which is only part of the whole example) occurs in comment #4 (quotation from 汉语熟语小词典)?
    – user6065
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 2:31
  • re: edit, user seems to be taking comment#4's word for it (from 汉语熟语小词典)
    – user6065
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 3:56
  • what do you want? give comment #4 credit by stating, he came up with the example while it stated clearly that the quote was from a dictionary? People who read the question's comment would know I was referring to it, and I think it is not a good example of how the idiom be used.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 4:17

use internet to find something this is baidu news search engineenter image description here


you can see it ,is usually quote it,not using it, it is same like “空手套白狼”,it meaning is like this joke "空手套白狼"means the ancient time, the empire found white wolf with nothing to loose (white wolf is good blessing in ancient china )

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