What are you, chicken?

They’re known for their careful scheming.


Literally: female – prostrate – male – fly

Alternately: Following someone else while waiting for a chance to strike out on one’s own. Keeping a low profile while preparing for your time to shine. Playing second fiddle… for now.

Notes: While it’s easy to tie the use of 雌 and 雄 characters to traditional sexist attitudes in East Asia – and while this view isn’t exactly unwarranted – the allusion at work here is a little more subtle. Apparently the images invoked are from the lives of birds, perhaps a specific species, where the nesting female lays low (雌伏) and the males flap their wings and take dramatically to the air (雄飛).

This compound comes to us from the Book of the Later Han (後漢書), in the biography of Zhao Dian (趙典) given in volume 27.


A couple of the image search results suggest the relevant bird is chickens. Behold the glory of the male in flight!

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.
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