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Chinese Proverbs



These Chinese proverbs are mostly expressed as four-character idioms. Like any idiom, they are expressive, precise and often leave meaningful afterthoughts for listners.



Chinese Proverbs 1:

  1. Add legs to the snake after you have finished drawing it.
  2. A book holds a house of gold.
  3. A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.
  4. A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood
  5. A crane standing amidst a flock of chickens.
  6. A camel standing amidst a flock of sheep.
  7. A fall into a ditch makes you wiser.
  8. A flea on the top of a bald head.
  9. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  10. After three days without reading, talk becomes flavorless.
  11. An ant hole may well destroy a whole dam.
  12. A frog in a well shaft seeing the sky.
  13. An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can't buy that inch of time with an inch of gold.
  14. Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.
  15. Behind an able man there are always other able men.

Chinese Proverbs 2:

  1. Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.
  2. Better do a good deed near home than go far away to burn incense.
  3. Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
  4. Butcher the donkey after he's finished his job on the mill.
  5. A clear conscience never fears midnight knocking.
  6. Crows everywhere are equally black.
  7. A dish of carrots hastily made may still have soil on it.
  8. Dismantle the bridge after crossing it.
  9. Distant water won't help put out a fire close by.
  10. Distant water won't quench your immediate thirst.
  11. Do not employ handsome servants.
  12. Don't want others to know what you have done? Shouldn't have done it.
  13. Donkey's lips do not fit onto a horse's mouth.
  14. A dog won't forsake his master because of his poverty; a son never deserts his mother for her homely appearance.
  15. Dream different dreams while on the same bed.

Chinese Proverbs 3:

  1. Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.
  2. Enough shovels of earth -- a mountain. Enough pails of water -- a river.
  3. Even a hare will bite when it is cornered.
  4. Experience is a comb which nature gives to men when they are bald.
  5. A chicken ate all the bait grain and you still fail to steal it.
  6. Fight a wolf with a flax stalk.
  7. Flowing water never goes bad; moving door hubs never gather termites.
  8. Flies never visit an egg that has no crack.
  9. Forget injuries, never forget kindness.
  10. A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.
  11. A good fortune may forbode bad luck, which may in turn disguise a good fortune.
  12. Govern a family as you would cook a small fish -- very gently.
  13. Great souls have wills; feeble ones have only wishes.
  14. Happiness is like a sunbeam that the least shadow intercepts, while adversity is often as the rain of spring.
  15. Have a mouth as sharp as a dagger but a heart as soft as tofu.

Chinese Proverbs 4:

  1. Have one's ears pierced only before the wedding ceremony starts.
  2. He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
  3. He who hurries can not walk with dignity.
  4. He who sacrifices his conscience to ambition burns a picture to obtain the ashes.
  5. A horse cannot gain weight if not fed extra fodder during the night; a man cannot become wealthy without earnings apart from his regular salaries.
  6. How can you expect to find ivory in a dog's mouth?
  7. How can you put out a fire set on a cart-load of firewood with only a cup of water?
  8. If a son is uneducated, his dad is to blame.
  9. If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.
  10. If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.
  11. If you bow at all, bow low.
  12. If you do not study hard when young, you'll end up bewailing your failures as you grow up.
  13. If you have never done anything evil, you should not be worrying about devils knocking at your door.
  14. If you must play, decide on three things at the beginning: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.
  15. If you see in your wine the reflection of a person not in your range of vision, don't drink it.

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