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I have always used 就像 when trying to say "just like" but recently came across 正如 while studying the various ways to use 如. According to the dictionary definition and some of the examples, it seems potentially interchangeable with 就像.

Based on the separate meanings of 正 (just, proper, straight, true) and 如 (as, like), it sounds like it might be a stronger way of saying two things are congruent/identical. My intuition also tells me 正如 is possibly less used in everyday speech. Anyhow, I'm a heritage speaker so my intuition isn't that much better than a 老外.

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True, 正如 and 就像 are interchangeable, although 正如 might appear to many as being more formal.

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There is no difference in definition and usage between the two words. However, they are usually used in different situations. "正如" is a more literal and formal expression that we hardly use in our daily life. "就像" is a more general expression. I will show you some examples to explain this:

  1. A literal example
    人生的悲欢离合,正如电影情节一般。 The joys and sorrows of life are just like the plot of a movie.
    (This is a somewhat philosophical sentence, so it would be kind of embarrassing to say it in a chat. It's OK to replace "正如" with "就像", though not so formal.)

  2. A similar example in English
    You can say "I'm afraid of heights" or "I suffer from acrophobia" to your friend. But if you use the latter term, your friend may reply "What are you talking about? Speak English, please." (This example is exaggerated, but may help you understand.)

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就像 - just like (very similar; almost the same as)

正如 - just as (exactly the same as)

就像 is more metaphorical

Example:

他怕老婆就像老鼠怕貓一般 - He is afraid of his wife like a mouse is afraid of cats

(it is not the same because he is not afraid of his wife might kill him, but his reaction looks similar enough)

人死就像燈滅一般 - Death is just like a light going out (truly a metaphor)

正如 is more analogical

Example:

狐狸怕狼正如老鼠怕貓一般 - Foxes are as afraid of wolves as mice are of cats (it is exactly the same kind of fear, fear of being killed)

巧克力對狗正如毒藥對人類一般有害- Chocolate is as bad for dogs as poison is for humans (clearly an analogy)

Your intuition is correct, 正如 is a stronger suggestion of two things are equal than 就像, and 就像 is more commonly used than 正如 because a similar comparison is easier to find than the exact same comparison

正 has the meaning of 'exactly' e.g. (正)是他 - it is (exactly) him; 箱中(正)是他失去的一萬元 - In the box is (exactly) the 10,000 yuan he lost.

Nonetheless, 就像 and 正如 can be used interchangeably in many instances

Example:

A nation can have only one government (就像 - just like/ 正如- just as) the sky can have only one sun

You can use two things interchangeably doesn't mean they are the same

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