Chinese Proverbs and Sayings

A bad word whispered echoes a hundred miles

A book holds a house of gold.

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

A camel standing amidst a flock of sheep.

A careful foot can step anywhere.

A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood.

A crane standing amidst a flock of chickens.

A dish of carrot hastily cooked may still has soil uncleaned off the vegetable.

A dog won’t forsake his master because of his poverty; a son never deserts his mother for her homely appearance.

A fall into a ditch makes you wiser.

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.

A good fortune may forbode a bad luck, which may in turn disguise a good fortune.

A good teacher… better than a barrowful of books.

A great fortune depends on luck, a small one on diligence.

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.

A hundred men may make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home.

A Jade stone is useless before it is processed; a man is good-for-nothing until he is educated.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

A king’s riches cannot buy an extra year.

A maker of idols is never an idolater.

A man grows most tired while standing still.

A man should choose a friend who is better than himself. There are plenty of acquaintances in the world; but very few real friends.

A sharp tongue or pen can kill without a knife.

A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a month’s study of books.

A sly rabbit will have three openings to its den.

A smile will gain you ten more years of life.

A tiger never returns to his prey he did not finish off.

A weasel comes to say Happy New Year to the chickens.

A whitewashed crow soon shows black again.

A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.

Add legs to the snake after you have finished drawing it.

After three days without reading, talk becomes flavorless.

Age and time do not wait for people.

All people are your relatives, therefore expect only trouble from them.

An ant may well destroy a whole dam.

An inch of gold can’t buy an inch of time.

An inch of time cannot be bought with an inch of gold.

An overcrowded chicken farm produce fewer eggs.

At birth we bring our nothing; at death we leave with the same.

Attack is the best defense.

Bad things never walk alone.

Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.

Beat the drum inside the house to spare the neighbors.

Beauty is the wisdom of women. Wisdom is the beauty of men.

Before telling secrets on the road, look in the bushes

Behind an able man there are always other able men.

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 lean and good than fat and evil.

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Biggest profits mean gravest risks.

Blame yourself as you blame others; forgive others as you forgive yourself.

Butcher the donkey after it finished his job on the mill.

Ceremony is the smoke of friendship.

Clear conscience never fears midnight knocking.

Climb mountains to see lowlands.

Crows everywhere are equally black.

Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom.

Determination tempers the sword of your character

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.

Divide an orange – it tastes just as good.

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.

Do not employ handsome servants.

Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.

Do not want others to know what you have done? Better not have done it anyways.

Dogs have no prejudice against the poor

Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile.

Don’t waste your hour – the sun sets soon.

Dream different dreams while on the same bed.

Easier to rule a nation than a child.

Enough shovels of earth – a mountain. Enough pails of water – a river.

Even a hare will bite when it is cornered.

Everyone pushes a falling fence.

Experience is a comb which nature gives to men when they are bald.

Flies never visit an egg that has no crack.

Forget the favors given; remember those received

Govern a family as you would cook a small fish – very gently.

Great doubts deep wisdom. Small doubts little wisdom.

Great souls have wills; feeble ones have only wishes.

Habits are cobwebs at first; cables at last.

Happiness is like a sunbeam, which the least shadow intercepts, while adversity is often as the rain of spring.

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.

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.

He who sacrifices his conscience to ambition burns a picture to obtain the ashes.

His virtues exceed his talents – a superior man.

Honest scales and full measure hurt no one.

How can you expect to find ivory in a dog’s mouth?

How can you put out a fire set on a cart-load of firewood with only a cup of water?

I dreamed a thousand new paths. I woke and walked my old one.

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

I heard is good; ‘I saw’ is better.

If a man fools me once, shame on him. If he fools me twice, shame on me.

If a son is uneducated, his dad is to blame.

If Heaven made someone, earth can find some use for them.

If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.

If the first words fail, ten thousand will then not avail.

If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.

If you always give you will always have.

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.

If you are poor, though you dwell in the busy marketplace, no one will inquire about you; if you are rich, though you dwell in the heart of the mountains, you will have distant relatives.

If you do not study hard when young you’ll end up bewailing your failures as you grow up.

If you have never done anything evil, you should not be worrying about devils to knock at your door.

If you hurry through long days, you will hurry through short years.

If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow.

If you suspect a man, don’t employ him, and if you employ him, don’t suspect him.

If you want 1 year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.

If you want happiness for a lifetime; help someone else.

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 no one to know, don’t do it

If you want your dinner, don’t insult the cook.

If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.

If your strength is small, don’t carry heavy burdens. If your words are worthless, don’t give advice.

In a broken nest there are few whole eggs.

In a flood of words, surely some mistakes.

In bed be wife and husband, in the hall each other’s honored guest.

In the midst of great joy, do not promise anyone anything. In the midst of great anger, do not answer anyone’s letter.

Insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different outcome.

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.

It is later than you think.

Kill a chicken before a monkey.

Kill one to warn a hundred.

Laws control a lesser person; right conduct controls a greater one

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.

Life is a dream walking death is a going home.

Lift a stone only to drop on your own feet.

Man is the head of the family, woman the neck that turns the head.

Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time.

Mankind fears an evil man but heaven does not.

Many a good face under a ragged hat.

Mend the pen only after the sheep are all gone.

My life – a candle in the wind… frost on the leaves.

Neither fortunes nor flowers last forever.

Never do anything standing that you can do sitting, or anything sitting that you can do lying down.

No guests at home, no hosts abroad.

No horse can wear two saddles.

No wind, no waves.

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.

Nurture the plant one year – ten days of flowers.

O eggs, don’t fight with rocks.

Of all the strategems, to know when to quit is the best.

Of all the thirty-six alternatives, running away is best.

Once bitten by a snake, he/she is scared all his/her life at the mere sight of a rope.

Once on a tiger’s back, it is hard to alight.

One cannot refuse to eat just because there is a chance of being choked.

One dog barks at something, the rest bark at him.

One joy scatters a hundred grieves.

One monk shoulders water by himself; two can still share the labor among them. When it comes to three, they have to go thirsty.

One never needs their humor as much a when they argue with a fool.

One step at a time is good walking.

Only when all contribute their firewood can they build up a strong fire.

Paper can’t wrap up a fire.

Patience is power; with time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.

Pick up a sesame seed but lose sight of a watermelon.

Play a harp before a cow.

Pleasure for one hour, a bottle of wine. Pleasure for one year a marriage; but pleasure for a lifetime, a garden.

Public before private and country before family.

Regular feet can’t be affected by irregular shoes.

Reshape one’s foot to try to fit into a new shoe.

Respect for ones parents is the highest duty of civil life.

Riches: A dream in the night. Fame: A gull floating on water.

Shed no tears until seeing the coffin.

Simple to open a shop; another thing to keep it open.

Slow work – fine work.

Some prefer carrot while others like cabbage.

Sow much, reap much; sow little, reap little.

Stare at the profit and step in the pitfall.

Stout men, not stout walls, make the stout city.

Talk doesn’t cook rice.

Teachers open the door but you must walk through it yourself.

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.

The fire you kindle for your enemy often burns yourself more than him.

The great question is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure.

The greatest conqueror is he who overcomes the enemy without a blow.

The journey is the reward.

The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

The judge with seven reasons states only one in court.

The longer the night lasts, the more our dreams will be.

The palest ink lasts longer than the most retentive memory.

The pine stays green in winter… wisdom in hardship.

The ripest fruit falls by itself

The saving man becomes the free man.

The superior doctor prevents sickness; The mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness; The inferior doctor treats actual sickness;

The swiftest horse can’t overtake a word once spoken.

The tongue can paint what the eye can’t see.

The wise listens to her mind, the foolish to the mob.

The woman who tells her age is either too young to have anything to lose or too old to have anything to gain.

There are always ears on the other side of the wall.

There are two perfectly good men, one dead, and the other unborn.

There is only one pretty child in the world and every mother has it.

Think of your own faults the first part of the night when you are awake, and of the faults of others the latter part of the night when you are asleep.

Those who do not study are only cattle dressed up in men’s clothes.

Those who have free seats at a play hiss first.

Three feet of ice were not frozen in a day.

Three humble shoemakers brainstorming will make a great statesman.

Tile tossed over the wall… who knows where it will fall?

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.

To be heard afar, bang your gong on a hilltop.

To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous.

To believe in one’s dreams is to spend all of one’s life asleep.

To build it took one hundred years; to destroy it one day.

To climb a tree to catch a fish is talking much and doing nothing.

To have principles first have courage.

To know others, know yourself first.

To know the road ahead, ask those returning.

To stop drinking, study a drunkard while you are sober

To succeed, consult three old people.

To talk goodness is not good… only to do it is.

To understand your parents’ love you must raise children yourself.

Touch black paint, have black fingers.

Vicious as a tigeress can be, she never eats her own cubs.

Watch over workers at their labors, not their meals.

Watching chess games in silence… a superior person.

We are not so much concerned if you are slow as when you come to a halt.

We can study until old age… and still not finish.

What is told into the ear of a man is often heard a hundred miles away.

What you don’t see, you don’t desire.

When men speak of the future, the Gods laugh.

When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people.

When the waters drop, the rocks appear.

When we have nothing to worry about we are not doing much, and not doing much may supply us with plenty of future worries.

When you are poor, neighbors close by will not come; once you become rich, you’ll be surprised by visits from (alleged) relatives afar.

When you cease to strive to understand, then you will know without understanding.

While you are bargaining, conceal your coin.

Who is not satisfied with himself will grow; who is not sure of his own correctness will learn many things.

With true friends… even water drunk together is sweet enough.

With virtue you can’t be completely poor; without it you can’t be truly rich.

Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook.

Without sorrows no one becomes a saint.

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.

You can’t catch a cub without going into the tiger’s den.

You can’t expect both ends of a sugar cane are as sweet.

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.

Your fingers can’t be of the same length.

Your friend has a friend; don’t tell him.