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Proverbs & Idioms
Proverbs Guide
Tradition Chinese
有緣千里來相會,無緣對面不相逢
Simplified Chinese
有缘千里来相会,无缘对面不相逢
Transliteration
yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiāng huì, wú yuán duì miàn bù xiāng féng
Literally
Fate brings people together no matter how far apart they may be.
Meaning
Human relationships are decreed by Fate.
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
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
遠水不救近火,遠親不如近鄰
Simplified Chinese
远水不救近火,远亲不如近邻
Transliteration
yuǎn shuǐ bù jiù jìn huǒ, yuǎn qīn bù rú jìn lín
Literally
Distant water can't put out a nearby fire, and a distant relative is not as helpful as a close neighbor.
Meaning
A lofty ideal often cannot solve an urgent problem, just as a close relative who lives far away is not as valuable as a neighbor an emergency.
Tradition Chinese
路遙知馬力,日久見人心
Simplified Chinese
路遥知马力,日久见人心
Transliteration
lù yáo zhī mǎ lì, rì jǐu jiàn rén xīn
Literally
As distance tests a horse’s strength, so does time reveal a person’s real character.
Meaning
A long period of testing is needed to understand one’s nature and capabilities.
Tradition Chinese
寧為玉碎,不為瓦全
Simplified Chinese
宁为玉碎,不为瓦全
Transliteration
nìng wéi yù suì, bù wèi wǎ quán
Literally
Better to be a shard of jade than a whole tile.
Meaning
A metaphor extolling the virtue of dying for a noble cause rather than living a shameful life.
Tradition Chinese
當局者迷,旁觀者清
Simplified Chinese
当局者迷,旁观者清
Transliteration
dāng jú zhě mí, páng guān zhě qīng
Literally
The spectators see more of the game than the players.
Meaning
A person involved in a matter usually does not have a comprehensive overview of it due to too much concentration on gains and losses, while the onlookers, who have a calmer and more objective attitude, have a better grasp of what is going on.
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
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
玉不琢,不成器
Simplified Chinese
玉不琢,不成器
Transliteration
yù bù zhuó, bù chéng qì
Literally
Jade must be chiseled before it can be considered a gem.
Meaning
A person needs training and discipline to build character.
Tradition Chinese
一人吃飽,全家不飢
Simplified Chinese
一人吃饱,全家不饥
Transliteration
yī rén chī bǎo, quán jiā bù jī
Literally
If one member of the family eats, the rest of the family will be happy for him or her and won't be hungry.
Meaning
A person who is single. Without other family members to provide for, the person being full is the same as the family being full.
Tradition Chinese
天下無難事,只怕有心人
Simplified Chinese
天下无难事,只怕有心人
Transliteration
tīan xià wú nán shì, zhǐ pà yǒu xīn rén
Literally
Nothing in the world is to hard to do if we set our minds on it.
Meaning
A person with resolution and perseverance can solve the most difficult problem.
Tradition Chinese
江山易改,本性難移
Simplified Chinese
江山易改,本性难移
Transliteration
jiāng shān yì gǎi, běn xìng nán yí
Literally
Rivers and mountains may be changed, but it is hard to alter even a single person’s nature.
Meaning
A person’s temperament and habits developed over many years can hardly be changed in a short period of time.
Tradition Chinese
人為財死,鳥為食亡
Simplified Chinese
人为财死,鸟为食亡
Transliteration
rén wéi cái sǐ, niǎo wéi shí wáng
Literally
Man dies in pursuit of wealth, and birds die in pursuit of food.
Meaning
Against reckless pursuit of wealth. Ruin will befall the greedy sooner or later.
Tradition Chinese
見怪不怪,其怪自敗
Simplified Chinese
见怪不怪,其怪自败
Transliteration
jiàn guài bù guài, qí guài zì bài
Literally
Face odd things fearlessly and their fearsomeness will disappear.
Meaning
Alarming things have a way of developing and then dispersing. So, when faced with queer things, don’t pay too much attention to them, as they will disappear by themselves.
Tradition Chinese
害人之心不可有
Simplified Chinese
害人之心不可有
Transliteration
hài rén zhī xīn bù kě yǒu
Literally
Do not harbour intentions to hurt others.
Meaning
Anything to harm anyone should not be.
Tradition Chinese
留得青山在,不怕沒柴燒
Simplified Chinese
留得青山在,不怕没柴烧
Transliteration
líu dé qīng shān zài, bù pà méi chái shāo
Literally
As long as the green hills remain, there’ll be no shortage of firewood.
Meaning
As long as one preserves one’s integrity the final goal will surely be attained. The proverb is also often quoted to advise people to take care of their health, which is the basic condition for fulfilling their tasks.
Tradition Chinese
人心齊,泰山移
Simplified Chinese
人心齐,泰山移
Transliteration
rén xīn qí, tài shān yí
Literally
When people are of one mind and heart, they can move Mount Tai.
Meaning
As long as we unite as one, we will be strong enough to do anything and overcome any difficulties.
Tradition Chinese
三個臭皮匠,頂個諸葛亮
Simplified Chinese
三个臭皮匠,顶个诸葛亮
Transliteration
sān gè chòu pí jiàng, dǐng gè zhū gě liàng
Literally
Three cobblers with their wits combined equal Zhuge Liang, the master mind.
Meaning
Attention to the wisdom which resides in ordinary people.
Tradition Chinese
防人之心不可無
Simplified Chinese
防人之心不可无
Transliteration
fáng rén zhī xīn bù kě wú.
Literally
Careful with others is a must have.
Meaning
Be cautious of people that may hurt you intentionally.
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