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Proverbs & Idioms
Proverbs Guide
Tradition Chinese
小時偷針,大時偷金
Simplified Chinese
小时偷针,大时偷金
Transliteration
xiǎo shí tōu zhēn, dà shí tōu jīn
Literally
A child who steals a needle will grow up to steal gold.
Meaning
To the importance of correcting the bad habits of children, not matter how trivial. Otherwise, the bad habits may develop into serious criminal behavior. By then it will be too late.
Tradition Chinese
平生不做虧心事,半夜敲門也不驚
Simplified Chinese
平生不做亏心事,半夜敲门也不惊
Transliteration
píng shēng bú zuò kuī xīn shì, bàn yè qiāo mén yě bù jīng
Literally
A clear conscience sleeps even through thunder.
Meaning
So long as one never harms others, there is no need to fear any attack on one's integrity.
Tradition Chinese
吃一塹,長一智
Simplified Chinese
吃一堑,长一智
Transliteration
chī yī qiàn, zhǎng yī zhì
Literally
A fall into a pit, a gain in your wit.
Meaning
Having gone through a setback, one will have gained experience and wisdom, which will be useful if only one can take warning and learn something from the setback.
Tradition Chinese
差之毫釐,失之千里
Simplified Chinese
差之毫厘,失之千里
Transliteration
chā zhī háo lí, shī zhī qiān lǐ
Literally
A little error may lead to a large discrepancy.
Meaning
When doing something one must make evey effort to be careful and exact, because even a tiny mistake can lead to a great loss.
Tradition Chinese
察其友,知其人
Simplified Chinese
察其友,知其人
Transliteration
chá qí yǒu, zhī qí rén
Literally
A man is known by the company he keeps.
Meaning
People of the same tastes and habits like to be together and influence each other. If one behaves well, his friends are also noble-minded. If a person behaves badly, his friends are not supposed to be honorable. Therefore, a man can be known by the company he keeps. The proverb advises us to make good friends and right decision. A well-behaved friend can benefit you and an immoral friend will lead you to enjoyment and laziness.
Tradition Chinese
人有失足,馬有失蹄
Simplified Chinese
人有失足,马有失蹄
Transliteration
rén yǒu shī zú, mǎ yǒu shī tí
Literally
A man is prone to stumble when walking, and a horse is prone to stumble when galloping.
Meaning
One can’t avoid making mistakes; what is important is to recognize and correct one’s mistakes.
Tradition Chinese
人過留名,雁過留聲
Simplified Chinese
人过留名,雁过留声
Transliteration
rén guò líu míng, yàn guò líu shēng
Literally
A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies.
Meaning
A person leaves a reputation, bad or good, behind wherever he works or stays. So one should try to make sure one preserves a good reputation.
Tradition Chinese
一朝被蛇咬,十年怕草繩
Simplified Chinese
一朝被蛇咬,十年怕草绳
Transliteration
yī zhāo bèi shé yǎo, shí nián pà cǎo shéng
Literally
A man once bitten by a snake will for ten years shy at a rope.
Meaning
We will be frightened of anything that looks like something which has once harmed us.
Tradition Chinese
少壯不努力,老大徒傷悲
Simplified Chinese
少壮不努力,老大徒伤悲
Transliteration
shào zhuàng bù nǔ lì, lǎo dà tú shāng bēi
Literally
A man who does not exert himself in his youth will be sorry he didn’t when he grows old.A man don't work when he is young he will be sadly when he is old.
Meaning
If a person fritters away his youth in idleness, he will regret it when he grows old, but by then it will be too late.
Tradition Chinese
人要臉,樹要皮
Simplified Chinese
人要脸,树要皮
Transliteration
rén yào liǎn, shù yào pí
Literally
A person needs a face; a tree needs bark.
Meaning
A person needs a clean reputation to survive.
Tradition Chinese
明人不用細說,響鼓不用重錘
Simplified Chinese
明人不用细说,响鼓不用重锤
Transliteration
míng rén bú yòng xì shuō, xiǎng gǔ bù yòng zhòng chuí
Literally
A person of good sense needs no detailed explanation; a resonant drum needs no heavy beating.
Meaning
People of good sense or expertise need only a hint to understand any matter. One has to consider one’s audience when speaking.
Tradition Chinese
兒不嫌母醜,狗不嫌家貧
Simplified Chinese
儿不嫌母丑,狗不嫌家贫
Transliteration
ér bù xián mǔ chǒu, gǒu bù xián jiā pín
Literally
A son never thinks his mother ugly, and a dog never shuns its owner’s home however shabby it is.
Meaning
Never to despise those nearest and dearest to us , no matter how plain and insignificant they are.
Tradition Chinese
一粒老鼠屎,壞了一鍋粥
Simplified Chinese
一粒老鼠屎,坏了一锅粥
Transliteration
yī lì lǎo shǔ shǐ, huài lè yī guō zhōu
Literally
A speck of mouse dung will spoil a whole pot of porridge.
Meaning
Even a little bit of something bad of harmful will destroy the whole of the thing it touches. So, a bad man or a bad influence, if not curbed in time, will bring about catastrophe.
Tradition Chinese
人善被人欺,馬善被人騎
Simplified Chinese
人善被人欺,马善被人骑
Transliteration
rén shàn bèi rén qī, mǎ shàn bèi rén qí
Literally
A weak person is liable to be bullied; a tamed horse is often ridden.
Meaning
Weakness is a disadvantage. Especially when confronting evil, a person must be tough, otherwise he will be bullied.
Tradition Chinese
一言既出,駟馬難追
Simplified Chinese
一言既出,驷马难追
Transliteration
yì yán jì chū, sì mǎ nán zhuī
Literally
A word spoken is an arrow let fly. A word spoken is past recalling.
Meaning
What is said cannot be unsaid. One must be careful what one says and be cautious about making promises.
Tradition Chinese
明知山有虎,偏向虎山行
Simplified Chinese
明知山有虎,偏向虎山行
Transliteration
míng zhī shān yǒu hǔ, piān xiàng hǔ shān xíng
Literally
Although knowing that tigers reside in the mountain, one still insists on walking up there.
Meaning
The more difficult and dangerous the place is, the more one wants to go there. It indicates a spirit of fearing nothing. Or it can mean that one knows well the dangers but insists on taking the risk away.
Tradition Chinese
心正不怕影斜,腳正不怕鞋歪
Simplified Chinese
心正不怕影斜,脚正不怕鞋歪
Transliteration
xīn zhèng bú pà yǐng xié, jiǎo zhèng bú pà xié wāi
Literally
An upright man is not afraid of an oblique shadow; a straight foot is not afraid of a crooked shoe.
Meaning
This proverb tells us that an upright man fears no gossip or slander.
Tradition Chinese
養兵千日,用在一時
Simplified Chinese
养兵千日,用在一时
Transliteration
yǎng bīng qiān rì, yòng zài yī shí
Literally
Armies are to be maintained in the course of long years, but to be used in the nick of time.
Meaning
Training and preparation ini normal times will enabled one to cope with emergencies.
Tradition Chinese
人不可貌相,海水不可斗量
Simplified Chinese
人不可貌相,海水不可斗量
Transliteration
rén bù kě mào xiàng, hǎi shuǐ bù kě dǒu liáng
Literally
As a man cannot be known by his looks, neither can the sea be fathomed by a gourd.
Meaning
Judging by appearance may lead to serious makes.
Tradition Chinese
天外有天,人外有人
Simplified Chinese
天外有天,人外有人
Transliteration
tiān wài yǒu tiān, rén wài yǒu rén
Literally
As capable as you are, there is always someone more capable, just as there is another heaven beyond heaven.
Meaning
To be modest and prudent no matter how talented we are, because there is always someone better than we are at something.
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