A collection of widely known and accepted Chinese proverbs, quotes and sayings translated into English.
O eggs, never fight with stones! ~Chinese proverb
If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people. ~Chinese proverb
Man fools himself. He prays for a long life and he fears old age. ~Chinese proverb
Learning is treasure no thief can touch. ~Chinese proverb
Just as tall trees are known by their shadows, so are good men known by their enemies. ~Chinese proverb
If there is a strong general, there will be no weak soldiers. ~Chinese proverb
Failing to plan is planning to fail. ~Chinese proverb
Despise learning and make everyone pay for your ignorance. ~Chinese proverb
Cheap things are not good, good things are not cheap. ~Chinese proverb
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. ~Chinese proverb
A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man perfected without trials. ~Chinese proverb
A day of sorrow is longer than a month of joy. ~Chinese proverb
Patience is a bitter plant, but it has sweet fruit. ~Chinese proverb
It is the beautiful bird which gets caged. ~Chinese proverb
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. ~Chinese proverb
The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth. ~Chinese proverb
One dog barks at something, the rest bark at him. ~Chinese proverb
Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up. ~Chinese proverb
Illness comes in by mouth; ills come out by it. ~Chinese proverb
A hundred men may make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home. ~Chinese proverb
A rat who gnaws at a cat’s tail invites destruction. ~Chinese proverb ~Chinese proverb
A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study. ~Chinese proverb
He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever. ~Chinese proverb
Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still. ~Chinese proverb
He who strikes the first blow admits he’s lost the argument. ~Chinese proverb
A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers. ~Chinese proverb
To know the road ahead, ask those coming back. ~Chinese proverb
Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~Chinese proverb
When you drink the water, remember the spring. ~Chinese proverb
If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. ~Chinese proverb
Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile. ~Chinese proverb
A smile will gain you ten more years of life. ~Chinese proverb
Do good, reap good; do evil, reap evil. ~Chinese proverb
A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. ~Chinese proverb
A book tightly shut is but a block of paper. ~Chinese proverb
A wicked book cannot repent. ~Chinese proverb
A book holds a house of gold. ~Chinese proverb
Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself. ~Chinese proverb
A nation’s treasure is in its scholars. ~Chinese proverb
Looking for fish? Don’t climb a tree. ~Chinese proverb
One cannot manage too many affairs; like pumpkins in water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other. ~Chinese proverb
Do not remove a fly from your friend’s forehead with a hatchet. ~Chinese proverb
Once bitten by a snake, you are even frightened by a rope that resembles a snake. ~Chinese proverb
Man cannot stir one inch without the push of heaven’s finger. ~Chinese proverb
If you are standing upright, don’t worry if your shadow is crooked. ~Chinese proverb
Better go to heaven in rags than to hell in embroidery. ~Chinese proverb
Of a dead leopard we keep the skin, of man his reputation. ~Chinese proverb
Have but few friends though much acquaintance. ~Chinese proverb
A person who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the man doing it. ~Chinese proverb
If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time. ~Chinese proverb
He who is drowned is not troubled by the rain. ~Chinese proverb
A fool judges people by the presents they give him. ~Chinese proverb
Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown. ~Chinese proverb
A young doctor makes a full graveyard. ~Chinese proverb
Grass fears the frost, frost fears the sun. ~Chinese proverb
A filthy mouth will not utter decent language. ~Chinese proverb
Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom. ~Chinese proverb
When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. ~Chinese proverb
If you don’t want anyone to know, don’t do it. ~Chinese proverb
If you want to know your past — look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future — look into your present actions. ~Chinese proverb
What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others. ~Chinese proverb
Life is an echo; what you send out comes back. ~Chinese proverb
If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude. ~Chinese proverb
Man has a thousand plans, heaven but one. ~Chinese proverb
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~Chinese proverb
Govern yourself and you can govern the world. ~Chinese proverb
Learning is better than house and land. ~Chinese proverb
Hatred corrodes the vessel in which it is stored. ~Chinese proverb
All things at first appear difficult. ~Chinese proverb
He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself. ~Chinese proverb
Four things come not back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity. ~Chinese proverb
Don’t waste too many stones on one bird. ~Chinese proverb
Nature, time and patience are the three great physicians. ~Chinese proverb
To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art. ~Chinese proverb
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. ~Chinese proverb
Manners maketh man. ~Chinese proverb
O man, you who do not live a hundred years, why fret a thousand minutes? ~Chinese proverb
Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand. ~Chinese proverb
Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses. ~Chinese proverb
Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends whom we choose. ~Chinese proverb
A bad workman blames his tools. ~Chinese proverb
Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched. ~Chinese proverb
If you don’t go into the cave of the tiger, how are you going to get its cub? ~Chinese proverb
Past scholars studied to improve themselves; Today’s scholars study to impress others. ~Chinese proverb
An inch of time is an inch of gold, but you can’t buy that inch of time with an inch of gold. ~Chinese proverb
Seeing it once is better than being told 100 times. ~Chinese proverb
A man’s conversation is the mirror of his thoughts. ~Chinese proverb
Mallet strikes chisel; chisel splits wood. ~Chinese proverb
Dogs have so many friends because they wag their tails, not their tongues. ~Chinese proverb
Pick the flower when it is ready to be picked. ~Chinese proverb
A bad worker quarrels with his tools. ~Chinese proverb
No wisdom like silence. ~Chinese proverb
Easy to know men’s faces, not their hearts. ~Chinese proverb
He who sacrifices his conscience to ambition burns a picture to obtain the ashes. ~Chinese proverb
Be not disturbed at being misunderstood; be disturbed at not understanding. ~Chinese proverb
A good neighbor is a found treasure. ~Chinese proverb
If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. ~Chinese proverb
If you always give, you will always have. ~Chinese proverb
A bad word whispered will echo a hundred miles. ~Chinese proverb
Far waters cannot quench near fires. ~Chinese proverb
Learn to handle a writing-brush and you’ll never handle a begging-bowl. ~Chinese proverb
It’s as difficult to be rich without bragging as it is to be poor without complaining. ~Chinese proverb
Rats know the way of rats. ~Chinese proverb
Easy to run downhill, much puffing to run up. ~Chinese proverb
A dog won’t forsake his master because of poverty; a son never deserts his mother because of her homely appearance. ~Chinese proverb
Count not what is lost but what is left. ~Chinese proverb
Habits are cobwebs at first, cables at last. ~Chinese proverb
Deal with the faults of others as gently as with your own. ~Chinese proverb
Flowing water never goes bad; our door hubs never gather termites. ~Chinese proverb
If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world. ~Chinese proverb
Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. ~Chinese proverb
Know thyself to know others, for heart beats like heart. ~Chinese proverb
Just scales and full measure injure no man. ~Chinese proverb
Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come. ~Chinese proverb
It takes little effort to watch a man carry a load. ~Chinese proverb
No matter how tall the mountain, it cannot block out the sun. ~Chinese proverb
One generation plants the trees, another gets the shade. ~Chinese proverb
If you get up one more time than you fall you will make it through. ~Chinese proverb
One step at a time is good walking. ~Chinese proverb
Pleasures are shallow, sorrows deep. ~Chinese proverb
Love is blind. ~Chinese proverb
Pure gold does not fear the smelter. ~Chinese proverb
A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark. ~Chinese proverb
China, with its rich cultural heritage spanning thousands of years, has gifted the world not only with remarkable inventions and artistic treasures but also with profound wisdom encapsulated in its proverbs, quotes, and sayings. In this exploration, we’ll embark on a journey through a collection of widely known and accepted Chinese proverbs, shedding light on their meanings and the valuable life lessons they offer.
Eggs vs. Stones: Choosing Battles Wisely
“O eggs, never fight with stones!” – Chinese Proverb
This humorous and vivid proverb underscores the importance of choosing battles wisely. Just as eggs are fragile and easily broken when pitted against hard stones, it advises against engaging in conflicts that are futile or likely to lead to harm. It encourages individuals to assess the worthiness of a dispute before investing their energy and resources.
Planning for the Future: Rice, Trees, and Education
“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” – Chinese Proverb
This profound proverb imparts a timeless message about the significance of long-term planning and investment. It draws parallels between short-term goals (represented by rice cultivation), medium-term aspirations (symbolized by tree planting), and lifelong endeavors (highlighted by education). It emphasizes the transformative power of education in shaping the future.
The Paradox of Old Age
“Man fools himself. He prays for a long life and he fears old age.” – Chinese Proverb
This thought-provoking proverb touches upon the paradoxical nature of human desires. It highlights how people often pray for longevity but simultaneously dread the challenges and limitations that come with old age. It serves as a reminder that embracing the full spectrum of life’s experiences, including aging, is essential for personal growth and wisdom.
The Inviolable Treasure of Learning
“Learning is treasure no thief can touch.” – Chinese Proverb
Education and knowledge are invaluable assets that remain with an individual throughout their life. This proverb beautifully captures the idea that learning is a treasure that cannot be stolen or diminished by external forces. It encourages the pursuit of knowledge as a path to personal enrichment and empowerment.
Character Revealed in Adversity
“Just as tall trees are known by their shadows, so are good men known by their enemies.” – Chinese Proverb
Adversity has a way of revealing one’s true character. This proverb draws a compelling analogy between tall trees casting distinctive shadows and virtuous individuals standing out in the face of adversaries. It underscores the idea that challenges and opposition can showcase a person’s moral fiber and integrity.
Strength in Leadership
“If there is a strong general, there will be no weak soldiers.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb speaks to the influential role of leadership in a group or organization. It suggests that effective leadership, represented by a strong general, has the power to inspire and uplift the entire team. It highlights the symbiotic relationship between leaders and their followers, emphasizing that strong leadership begets a strong and capable group.
The Importance of Planning
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – Chinese Proverb
Planning is an essential component of success and achievement. This concise proverb succinctly conveys the idea that a lack of planning increases the likelihood of failure. It serves as a reminder of the importance of setting goals, creating strategies, and preparing for the future to attain desired outcomes.
The Cost of Ignorance
“Despise learning and make everyone pay for your ignorance.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb carries a stern warning about the consequences of neglecting education and learning. It suggests that an individual’s disregard for acquiring knowledge not only affects them personally but also imposes a cost on society. It underscores the social and collective value of education.
Quality and Value
“Cheap things are not good, good things are not cheap.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb offers a straightforward perspective on the relationship between quality and cost. It conveys the idea that items of high quality and value are unlikely to come at a low price. It encourages discernment when assessing the worth of products or services and reminds us that investing in quality often pays off in the long run.
Empowering Through Education
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb
This well-known proverb beautifully encapsulates the essence of empowerment through education and skill-building. It emphasizes the enduring impact of teaching someone a valuable skill compared to providing short-term assistance. It underscores the value of self-sufficiency and lifelong learning.
The Polishing of Character
“A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man perfected without trials.” – Chinese Proverb
Life’s challenges and difficulties play a pivotal role in shaping an individual’s character. This metaphorical proverb likens the process of personal growth and refinement to the polishing of a gem through friction and trials. It offers solace to those facing adversity, reminding them that challenges contribute to their ultimate perfection.
The Ebb and Flow of Emotions
“A day of sorrow is longer than a month of joy.” – Chinese Proverb
Emotions have a way of influencing our perception of time. This proverb highlights the idea that periods of sadness and sorrow can feel much longer than times of happiness and joy. It serves as a reminder to cherish moments of happiness and resilience during difficult times.
The Sweet Fruit of Patience
“Patience is a bitter plant, but it has sweet fruit.” – Chinese Proverb
Patience is a virtue that often requires enduring challenging or unpleasant circumstances. This proverb likens patience to a bitter plant that yields sweet fruit over time. It emphasizes the rewards that come from exercising patience and maintaining resilience in the face of difficulties.
“It is the beautiful bird which gets caged.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb poignantly reflects on the paradox of beauty and captivity. It suggests that the allure of beauty can sometimes lead to confinement or restrictions. It prompts us to contemplate the trade-offs and sacrifices associated with societal perceptions of beauty.
The Song of the Heart
“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” – Chinese Proverb
This poetic proverb offers a metaphorical perspective on the act of self-expression. It suggests that the impulse to create and share art, music, or any form of expression is not contingent upon having all the answers. Instead, it arises from an innate desire to communicate and connect with others through one’s unique “song.”
The Miraculous in the Mundane
“The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.” – Chinese Proverb
This profound proverb challenges our perception of what constitutes a miracle. It redirects our attention from the extraordinary to the ordinary, emphasizing the miraculous nature of everyday existence. It reminds us that the simple act of walking on solid ground is, in itself, a remarkable gift.
The Uniting Power of Barking
“One dog barks at something, the rest bark at him.” – Chinese Proverb
In the world of canines, the act of one dog barking can trigger a chorus of responses from other dogs. This proverb humorously suggests that individuals who speak out or take a stand may face resistance or criticism from others. It underscores the power of one’s actions or words to influence and elicit reactions.
Resilience in the Face of Failure
“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” – Chinese Proverb
This inspirational proverb reframes our understanding of failure. It suggests that true failure lies not in experiencing setbacks or stumbling but in the refusal to persevere and rise after a fall. It celebrates resilience and the determination to overcome obstacles.
The Link Between Health and Words
“Illness comes in by mouth; ills come out by it.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb highlights the profound connection between oral hygiene and overall health. It suggests that many illnesses and ailments can be traced back to oral habits, such as diet and hygiene. It serves as a reminder of the importance of mindful consumption and oral care.
The Role of Women in Homebuilding
“A hundred men may make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb acknowledges the pivotal role that women play in creating and nurturing a home. It underscores the idea that a home is more than a physical space; it is a place filled with warmth, care, and love—a testament to the contributions of women in building and maintaining harmonious households.
The Consequences of Provocation
“A rat who gnaws at a cat’s tail invites destruction.” – Chinese Proverb
This vivid proverb offers a cautionary tale about the perils of provoking those who hold power or authority. It likens the audacious act of a rat gnawing at a cat’s tail to inviting one’s own downfall. It serves as a reminder to exercise discretion and avoid needlessly provoking others.
The Wisdom of Conversation
“A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.” – Chinese Proverb
The value of meaningful dialogue and interaction cannot be overstated. This proverb suggests that a single conversation with a wise individual can impart more knowledge and wisdom than years of solitary study. It underscores the significance of seeking guidance and learning from those with experience.
The Folly of Silence
“He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb highlights the importance of seeking knowledge and clarification through asking questions. It asserts that the temporary perception of foolishness associated with asking questions is far outweighed by the lasting ignorance that accompanies silence. It encourages a proactive approach to learning and inquiry.
The Journey of Progress
“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb
Progress and personal growth often occur gradually, requiring patience and perseverance. This proverb advises against fearing the slow pace of progress and instead cautions against stagnation. It encourages individuals to keep moving forward, even if the steps are small.
The Art of Conflict Resolution
“He who strikes the first blow admits he’s lost the argument.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb offers a valuable lesson in conflict resolution. It suggests that resorting to physical or verbal aggression as the initial response to a disagreement or argument is a sign of weakness rather than strength. It encourages individuals to seek peaceful and diplomatic solutions to conflicts, emphasizing the importance of rational discourse over confrontation.
The Fragrance of Kindness
“A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.” – Chinese Proverb
Acts of kindness have a lasting impact not only on those who receive them but also on the givers themselves. This poetic proverb likens the benevolent act of giving to the lingering fragrance of flowers that remains on the hand of the giver. It serves as a reminder of the beauty and enduring effects of compassion.
Seeking Guidance from Experience
“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb acknowledges the wisdom that comes from learning from those who have already traveled a particular path. It advises seeking guidance and insight from individuals who have experience in a given field or have faced similar challenges. By doing so, one can navigate their own journey more effectively.
Illuminating Darkness with Light
“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” – Chinese Proverb
This inspirational proverb encourages taking positive action in the face of adversity or challenges. Instead of dwelling on problems or complaining about darkness, it advises lighting a candle—a symbol of hope and illumination. It reminds us that even small acts of positivity and solutions can have a significant impact.
Gratitude for Origins
“When you drink the water, remember the spring.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb beautifully conveys the importance of gratitude and acknowledging one’s origins and sources of support. Just as water sustains life and nourishes, it reminds us to appreciate and remember the origins and influences that have shaped our lives.
The Virtue of Patience
“If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” – Chinese Proverb
Anger is a powerful and often destructive emotion. This proverb imparts the wisdom of patience when confronted with anger or frustration. It suggests that exercising restraint in the heat of the moment can prevent prolonged suffering and regret. It advocates for emotional resilience and self-control.
The Power of a Smile
“Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile.” – Chinese Proverb
Customer service is more than just providing goods or services; it’s about creating a positive and welcoming atmosphere. This proverb underscores the importance of a friendly and approachable demeanor in business interactions. A smile can go a long way in building rapport and fostering customer satisfaction.
Smiles as a Fountain of Youth
“A smile will gain you ten more years of life.” – Chinese Proverb
The health benefits of positivity and happiness are well-documented. This proverb playfully suggests that wearing a smile can contribute to a longer and healthier life. It emphasizes the transformative power of a positive outlook on both physical and emotional well-being.
The Law of Cause and Effect
“Do good, reap good; do evil, reap evil.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb succinctly encapsulates the concept of karma, which transcends cultural boundaries. It conveys the idea that our actions have consequences, and the quality of those consequences is directly linked to the nature of our deeds. It encourages individuals to make choices that align with goodness and virtue.
Books as Gardens of Knowledge
“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” – Chinese Proverb
The metaphor of a book as a portable garden of knowledge beautifully captures the transformative potential of reading. This proverb highlights the accessibility and richness of learning that books offer. It encourages the cultivation of one’s mind through reading and exploration.
Closed Books and Closed Minds
“A book tightly shut is but a block of paper.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb emphasizes the importance of opening oneself to new ideas and perspectives. A closed book, symbolizing a closed mind, offers little opportunity for growth or learning. It serves as a reminder of the value of curiosity and intellectual openness.
The Permanence of Wisdom
“A wicked book cannot repent.” – Chinese Proverb
Wisdom and knowledge are enduring, often outliving the creators of written works. This proverb suggests that once wisdom is shared through a book or other medium, it remains a permanent resource. It underscores the lasting impact that knowledge can have on individuals and societies.
The Cycle of Generosity
“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb beautifully captures the cyclical nature of love and generosity within families. It suggests that the act of giving and receiving between generations is a source of mutual joy and emotional connection. It reflects the profound bond between parents and children.
From Pastime to Hobby
“When a habit begins to cost money, it’s called a hobby.” – Chinese Proverb
Hobbies are enjoyable activities pursued during leisure time. However, when a hobby becomes an expensive pursuit, it can also be seen as an investment in one’s passions. This proverb humorously comments on the transition from a simple pastime to a more financially involved hobby.
Shared Responsibilities in Marriage
“When two divorced people marry, four people get into bed.” – Chinese Proverb
Marriage often involves blending families and sharing responsibilities. This proverb humorously illustrates that when divorced individuals with children remarry, the number of people involved in family life increases. It emphasizes the importance of effective communication and cooperation in blended families.
The Balance of Silence and Speech
“When you open a door, don’t forget to close it. Treat your mouth accordingly.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb offers practical advice on the importance of discretion and thoughtful communication. Just as it’s essential to close a physical door after opening it, it encourages individuals to use their words judiciously and to exercise caution in speech.
The Value of Friendship
“Your friend has a friend, and your friend’s friend has another friend—so know when to keep quiet.” – Chinese Proverb
This proverb underscores the interconnectedness of social relationships. It suggests that maintaining discretion and knowing when to keep certain information private is essential in preserving friendships and trust. It highlights the delicate balance between sharing and safeguarding confidences.
Chinese proverbs, with their depth and wisdom, offer valuable insights into life, relationships, and personal growth. They have endured for centuries because of their universal applicability and timeless relevance. Each proverb weaves a narrative of cultural richness and collective human experience, making them treasures of wisdom for people of all backgrounds and walks of life. Whether we seek guidance on decision-making, relationships, or self-improvement, these proverbs provide a wellspring of knowledge to draw upon as we navigate the complexities of existence.