Some background (feel free to ignore this part): I remember singing this song as a child, and had always been under the impression that it was a Chinese song. However, thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that it's actually set to the tune of Frere Jacques (I have no idea how I never realized this earlier). Now, I'm wondering if the song would have been around during that time period, or if it was actually a more recent creation. The Wikipedia article on Frere Jacques has this tantalizing line, "For example, Barbara Mittler in a conference abstract points out that the melody of Frère Jacques is so thoroughly assimilated into Chinese culture that it might be widely regarded as a Chinese folksong in China" and cites that conference, though when I search for the title of the paper the abstract was based on, I can't find anything helpful. (I also don't have a subscription to that journal to read the article directly.) The other wikipedia articles on Frere Jacques or the Three Tigers song itself had no information about its origin.
(I have searched google with the name of the song in Chinese and English, along with terms such as history and origin, but haven't found anything. I have also searched with 两只老虎 since it's sometimes called that too. I can't read Chinese though, so I can only say the English results were unhelpful. Also, when I search Frere Jacques, Chinese, and history (or other similar searches), I get hits for either the song about the Chinese dynasties or the Chinese song "Revolution of the Citizens," both of which are also set to Frere Jacques.)
Thank you in advance!