The wise prince changes his panther?


Literally: ruler/mister – child – leopard – change

Alternately: Originally: a wise person changes with changing circumstances; a wise person is quick to recognize their errors and change for the better. In modern usage, the phrase has taken on an ironic meaning, suggesting that someone clever would change, or has changed, their actions or professed beliefs to match whatever was convenient, profitable, or popular at the moment, without caring for loyalty, consistency, or scruples. The good meaning, then, is adaptability, while the bad meaning is flip-flopping.

君子 (kunshi) is a wise or virtuous person – possibly originally meaning a highly-ranked person, with the value judgments being attached later as the aristocracy decided that they were just the best. 豹変 (hyouhen) describes the seasonal shedding and coloration change undergone by some species of leopard – at least, the Amur Leopard, with a habitat covering the Korean peninsula and areas of Siberia and China, whose summer coat is described as being brighter and more vivid.


This saying is thought to be derived from the I Ching, and is associated with the (animal hide / revolution) hexagram.

Some non-yojijukugo variations exist, including contraction to just the final two characters, or adding or する (su or suru, “to do”) to the end.

Note that despite a similarity in the image used, this saying stands in no relationship at all – neither synonymous nor opposed – to the English adage “A leopard can’t change its spots.”


A little bit of political commentary from here, implying that after weathering an election, prime minister Abe changed from a dovish to a hawkish stance.

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
This entry was posted in Japanese, Yojijukugo and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The wise prince changes his panther?

  1. Pingback: To an idiot with a hammer, EVERYTHING looks like a nail | landofnudotcom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s