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Chinese Proverbs

Learn famous Chinese Proverbs

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Chinese proverbs (諺語, yànyŭ) are famous sayings taken from literature, history, and famous people like philosophers. There are hundreds of Chinese proverbs addressing all aspects of life from education and work to personal goals and relationships.

Chinese Proverbs about Education/Personal Development:

  • After three days without reading, talk becomes flavorless.
  • Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.
  • A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.
  • A book holds a house of gold.
  • A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood.
  • A fall into a ditch makes you wiser.
  • If you do not study hard when young you'll end up bewailing your failures as you grow up.
  • If a son is uneducated, his dad is to blame.
  • A Jade stone is useless before it is processed; a man is good-for-nothing until he is educated.
  • The longer the night lasts, the more our dreams will be.
  • Of all the strategems, to know when to quit is the best.
  • One cannot refuse to eat just because there is a chance of being choked.
  • Chinese Proverbs about Work.
  • Add legs to the snake after you have finished drawing it.
  • An ant may well destroy a whole dam.
  • Behind an able man there are always other able men.
  • Butcher the donkey after it finished his job on the mill.
  • A dish of carrot hastily cooked may still has soil uncleaned off the vegetable.
  • Dismantle the bridge shortly after crossing it.
  • Distant water won't help to put out a fire close at hand.
  • Distant water won't quench your immediate thirst.
  • Do not employ handsome servants.
  • Do not want others to know what you have done? Better not have done it anyways.

Chinese Proverbs about Personal Characteristics/Goals

  • Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.
  • Better do a good deed near at home than go far away to burn incense.
  • Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
  • A camel standing amidst a flock of sheep.
  • Clear conscience never fears midnight knocking.
  • A crane standing amidst a flock of chickens.
  • Crows everywhere are equally black.
  • A dog won't forsake his master because of his poverty; a son never deserts his mother for her homely appearance.
  • Dream different dreams while on the same bed.
  • If you want happiness for an hour; take a nap. If you want happiness for a day; go fishing. If you want happiness for a month; get married. If you want happiness for a year; inherit a fortune.
  • If you want happiness for a lifetime; help someone else.
  • To believe in one's dreams is to spend all of one's life asleep.
  • There is only one pretty child in the world and every mother has it.
  • A good fortune may forbode a bad luck, which may in turn disguise a good fortune.
  • Have a mouth as sharp as a dagger but a heart as soft as tofu.
  • Have one's ears pierced only before the wedding ceremony starts.
  • A horse cannot gain weight if not fed with extra fodder during the night; a man cannot become wealthy without earnings apart from his regular salaries.
  • How can you expect to find ivory in a dog's mouth?
  • If you have never done anything evil, you should not be worrying about devils to knock at your door.
  • An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can't buy that inch of time with an inch of gold.
  • Lift a stone only to drop on your own feet.
  • Once bitten by a snake, he/she is scared all his/her life at the mere sight of a rope.
  • No wind, no waves.
  • An overcrowded chicken farm produce fewer eggs.
  • Pick up a sesame seed but lose sight of a watermelon.
  • Play a harp before a cow.
  • Paper can't wrap up a fire.
  • Reshape one's foot to try to fit into a new shoe.
  • Regular feet can't be affected by irregular shoes.
  • Shed no tears until seeing the coffin.
  • A smile will gain you ten more years of life.
  • A sly rabbit will have three openings to its den.
  • Some prefer carrot while others like cabbage.
  • Three humble shoemakers brainstorming will make a great statesman.
  • You can't catch a cub without going into the tiger's den.
  • You think you lost your horse? Who knows, he may bring a whole herd back to you someday.
  • You won't help shoots grow by pulling them up higher.
  • You can't expect both ends of a sugar cane are as sweet.
  • Your fingers can't be of the same length.
  • Age and time do not wait for people.
  • Attack is the best defense.
  • Bad things never walk alone.

Chinese Proverbs about Relationships:

  • There are always ears on the other side of the wall.
  • A tiger never returns to his prey he did not finish off.
  • Vicious as a tigeress can be, she never eats her own cubs.
  • We are not so much concerned if you are slow as when you come to a halt.
  • A weasel comes to say Happy New Year to the chickens.
  • When you are poor, neighbors close by will not come; once you become rich, you'll be surprised by visits from (alleged) relatives afar.
  • Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook.
  • Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead.
  • With true friends...even water drunk together is sweet enough.
  • To attract good fortune, spend a new coin on an old friend, share an old pleasure with a new friend, and lift up the heart of a true friend by writing his name on the wings of a dragon.
  • Mankind fears an evil man but heaven does not.
  • Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.
  • Not wine...men intoxicate themselves; Not vice...men entice themselves.
  • A dog won't forsake his master because of his poverty; a son never deserts his mother for her homely appearance.
  • Even a hare will bite when it is cornered.
  • Once on a tiger's back, it is hard to alight.
  • Mend the pen only after the sheep are all gone.
  • Public before private and country before family.
  • One monk shoulders water by himself; two can still share the labor among them. When it comes to three, they have to go thirsty.
  • Only when all contribute their firewood can they build up a strong fire.
  • One joy scatters a hundred griefs.
  • Flies never visit an egg that has no crack.
  • How can you put out a fire set on a cart-load of firewood with only a cup of water?
  • It is easy to dodge a spear that comes in front of you but hard to keep harms away from an arrow shot from behind.
  • Kill a chicken before a monkey.
  • Kill one to warn a hundred.

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