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Proverbs & Idioms
Proverbs Guide
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
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
既來之,則安之。
Simplified Chinese
既来之,则安之。
Transliteration
Jì lái zhī, zé ān zhī
Literally
As they come, the security of it.
Meaning
Take things as they come.
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
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
與君一夕話,勝讀十年書
Simplified Chinese
与君一夕话,胜读十年书
Transliteration
yǔ jūn yī xí huà, shèng dú shí nián shū
Literally
Chatting with you for one night is more profitable than studying for ten years.
Meaning
It contains a high form of praise, the effect that one is deeply impressed and greatly enlightened by someone else's conversation.
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
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
馬好不在鞍,人好不在衫
Simplified Chinese
马好不在鞍,人好不在衫
Transliteration
mǎ hǎo bù zài ān, rén hǎo bù zài shān
Literally
Don't judge a horse by its saddle, and don't judge a person by his cloth.
Meaning
Not to judge a person or thing simply by outward appearances.
Tradition Chinese
早起的鳥兒有蟲吃
Simplified Chinese
早起的鸟儿有虫吃
Transliteration
zǎo qǐ de niǎo er yǒu chóng chī
Literally
Early bird gets the worm.
Meaning
Pioneers will get much.
Tradition Chinese
王婆賣瓜,自賣自誇
Simplified Chinese
王婆卖瓜,自卖自夸
Transliteration
wáng pó mài guā, zì mài zì kuā
Literally
Every potter praises hit pot.
Meaning
This proverbs tell us that people are loath to refer to defects in their possessions or their family members.
Tradition Chinese
天下興亡,匹夫有責
Simplified Chinese
天下兴亡,匹夫有责
Transliteration
tiān xià xīng wáng, pǐ fū yǒu zé
Literally
Everyone is responsible for the rise and fall of his country.
Meaning
Every citizen has the responsibility for caring about state affairs and his responsible for ups and downs of the country.
Tradition Chinese
萬事俱備,只欠東風
Simplified Chinese
万事俱备,只欠东风
Transliteration
wàng shì jù bèi, zhǐ qiàn dōng fēng
Literally
Everything is ready except the east wind.
Meaning
Perived from the above story, means that everything is ready except what is crucial.
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
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
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
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
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
三十年河東,三十年河西
Simplified Chinese
三十年河东,三十年河西
Transliteration
sān shí nián hé dōng, sān shí nián hé xī
Literally
Fortune was in the east of bank thirty years ago, but turns to west when thirty years has passed.
Meaning
The world is changing so fast that it is always beyond our expectation; therefore, we can’t precisely predict how it becomes in the future.
Tradition Chinese
強中更有強中手,能人背後有能人
Simplified Chinese
强中更有强中手,能人背后有能人
Transliteration
qiáng zhōng gèng yǒu qiáng zhōng shǒu, néng rén bèi hòu yǒu néng rén
Literally
However strong you are, there's always someone stronger.
Meaning
This proverb advises us 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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