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Proverbs & Idioms
Proverbs Guide
Tradition Chinese
八字衙門朝南開,有理無錢莫進來
Simplified Chinese
八字衙门朝南开,有理无钱莫进来
Transliteration
bā zì yá men cháo nán kāi, yǒu lǐ wú qián mò jìn lái
Literally
The yamen gate is wide open, yet with only right on your side but no money, do not go inside.
Meaning
Dating from feudal times, warns the unwary not to seek justice from the corrupt and freedy officials of those days.
Tradition Chinese
冰凍三尺,非一日之寒
Simplified Chinese
冰冻三尺,非一日之寒
Transliteration
bīng dòng sān chǐ, fēi yī rì zhī hán
Literally
It takes more than one cold day for the river to freeze three-chi deep—the trouble has been brewing for quite some time; Rome was not built in a day.
Meaning
It takes a long time to create something complicated or impressive.
Tradition Chinese
兵馬未動,糧草先行
Simplified Chinese
兵马未动,粮草先行
Transliteration
bīng mǎ wèi dòng, liáng cǎo xiān xíng
Literally
Food and fodder should be prepared before soldiers and horses —proper preparations should be made ahead of time.
Meaning
Whatever we do, proper preparations should be made in advance to ensure success.
Tradition Chinese
不入虎穴,焉得虎子
Simplified Chinese
不入虎穴,焉得虎子
Transliteration
bù rù hǔ xué, yān dé hǔ zǐ
Literally
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You don't get into the cave of tiger ,you can't catch the tiger baby.
Meaning
One cannot expect to achieve success without experiencing difficulties and risks; only those who are bold in exploring and not afraid of hardships and dangers can achieve success.
Tradition Chinese
不善始者不善終。
Simplified Chinese
不善始者不善终。
Transliteration
bù shàn shǐ zhě bù shàn zhōng
Literally
The bad beginning makes a bad ending.
Meaning
If you do some mischies,the god will retributive you in the end.
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
長江後浪推前浪
Simplified Chinese
长江后浪推前浪
Transliteration
cháng jiāng hòu làng tuī qián làng
Literally
The Changjiang River waves behind drive the waves ahead.
Meaning
Each new generation excels the last one.
Tradition Chinese
成者為王,敗者為寇
Simplified Chinese
成者为王,败者为寇
Transliteration
chéng zhě wéi wáng, bài zhě wéi kòu
Literally
Losers are always in the wrong.
Meaning
That one will become a king or an outlaw depends on whether he is successful or not. Legitimacy belongs to the victor. This proverb indicates that the winner takes complete control of authority that no one can challenge; the loser finds it hard to vindicate himself.
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
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
道高一尺,魔高一丈
Simplified Chinese
道高一尺,魔高一丈
Transliteration
dào gāo yī chǐ, mó gāo yī zhàng
Literally
The law is strong, but the outlaws are ten times stronger.
Meaning
It stresses that it is difficult to achieve goodness, which is easy to lose when the devil tempts us. The extended effort to become a good man, but one can easily learn to be a bad one.
Tradition Chinese
讀萬卷書不如行萬里路
Simplified Chinese
读万卷书不如行万里路
Transliteration
dú wàn juǎn shū bù rú xíng wàn lǐ lù.
Literally
Reading ten thousands of books is not as useful as travelling ten thousand miles.
Meaning
Practical experience is more useful than theory.
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
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.
Tradition Chinese
放下屠刀,立地成佛
Simplified Chinese
放下屠刀,立地成佛
Transliteration
fàng xià tú dāo, lì dì chéng fó
Literally
The butcher who lays down his knife, at once becomes a Buddha.
Meaning
Even an evildoer can become a good person as long as he sincerely repents and earnestly reforms himself.
Tradition Chinese
逢人只說三分話,未可全拋一片心
Simplified Chinese
逢人只说三分话,未可全抛一片心
Transliteration
féng rén zhǐ shuō sān fēn huà, weì kě quán pāo yī piàn xīn
Literally
When talking to a stranger, it is wise to be somewhat reserved.
Meaning
To be careful not to reveal our inner thoughts to a person before we know him or her properly. Being incautious, one is liable to be cheared.
Tradition Chinese
福無重至,禍不單行
Simplified Chinese
福无重至,祸不单行
Transliteration
fú wú chòng zhì, huò bù dān xíng
Literally
Fortune does not come twice. Misfortune does not come alone.
Meaning
The emphasis is on "misfortune doesn't come alone". It's often used as an opener or exclamation, when people talk about coincidental events of misfortune.
Tradition Chinese
父債子還
Simplified Chinese
父债子还
Transliteration
fù zhài zǐ huán
Literally
Father's debt, son to give back.
Meaning
Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown.
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.
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