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Proverbs & Idioms
Proverbs Guide
Tradition Chinese
在家不會迎賓客,出外方知少主人
Simplified Chinese
在家不会迎宾客,出外方知少主人
Transliteration
zài jiā bù huì yíng bīn kè, chū wài fāng zhī shǎo zhǔ rén
Literally
If a person does not treat guests properly when athome, few will wish to entertain him when he is away from home.
Meaning
Relations between people are reciprocal; others will treat you in the way you treat them.
Tradition Chinese
一分耕耘,一分收穫
Simplified Chinese
一分耕耘,一分收获
Transliteration
yī fēn gēng yún, yī fēn shōu huò
Literally
If one does not plow, there will be no harvest.
Meaning
No pain, no gain.
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
斬草不除根,春風吹又生
Simplified Chinese
斩草不除根,春风吹又生
Transliteration
zhǎn cǎo bù chú gēn, chūn fēng chuī yoù shēng
Literally
If the roots are not removed during weeding, the weeds will grow again when the winds of Spring blows.
Meaning
We should finish a task entirely, or the effort might be wasted.
Tradition Chinese
上樑不正下樑歪
Simplified Chinese
上梁不正下梁歪
Transliteration
shàng liáng bù zhèng xià liáng wāi
Literally
If the upper beam is not straight, the lower ones will go aslant.
Meaning
If a leader sets a bad example, it will be followed by his subordinates.; When those above behave unworthily, those below will do the same.
Tradition Chinese
空穴來風,未必無因
Simplified Chinese
空穴来风,未必无因
Transliteration
kōng xué lái fēng, wèi bì wú yīn
Literally
If the wind comes from an empty cave, it's not without a reason.
Meaning
Things don't happen for no reason; everything has a cause.
Tradition Chinese
若要人不知,除非己莫為
Simplified Chinese
若要人不知,除非己莫为
Transliteration
ruò yào rén bù zhī, chú fēi jǐ mò wéi
Literally
If you don’t want people to find out, you’d better not do it.
Meaning
Wrong doing will be revealed, sooner or later.
Tradition Chinese
酒逢知己千杯少,話不投機半句多
Simplified Chinese
酒逢知己千杯少,话不投机半句多
Transliteration
jiǔ féng zhī jǐ qiān bēi shǎo, huà bù tóu jī bàn jù duō
Literally
If you drink with a bosom friend, a thousand cups are not enough; if you argue with someone, half a sentence is too much.
Meaning
Mutual understanding is very important in human relationships.
Tradition Chinese
有錢能使鬼推磨
Simplified Chinese
有钱能使鬼推磨
Transliteration
yǒu qián néng shǐ guǐ tuī mó
Literally
If you have money you can make the devil push your grind stone.
Meaning
Money makes the world go round.Money is power.
Tradition Chinese
畫虎畫皮難畫骨,知人知面不知心
Simplified Chinese
画虎画皮难画骨,知人知面不知心
Transliteration
huà hǔ huà pí nán huà gǔ, zhī rén zhī miàn bù zhī xīn
Literally
In drawing a tiger, you show its skin, but not its bones; in knowing a man, you may know his face, but not his heart.
Meaning
It is difficult to get to know waht a person is really like.
Tradition Chinese
天有不測風雲,人有旦夕禍福
Simplified Chinese
天有不测风云,人有旦夕祸福
Transliteration
tiān yǒu bù cè fēng yún, rén yǒu dàn xī huò fú
Literally
In nature there are unexpected storms, and in life unpredictable vicissitudes.
Meaning
This proverb instructs us that human disasters and fortunes are as unpredictable as the clouds and winds. Hence, don’t worry about temporary calamities, nor be complacent about temporary joys.
Tradition Chinese
人無完人,金無足赤
Simplified Chinese
人无完人,金无足赤
Transliteration
rén wú wán rén, jīn wú zú chì
Literally
It is as impossible to find a perfect man as it is to find 100 percent pure gold.
Meaning
It is foolish to demand perfection. What we should do is concentrate on developing our merits and overcoming out shortcomings.
Tradition Chinese
千軍易得,一將難求
Simplified Chinese
千军易得,一将难求
Transliteration
qiān jūn yì dé, yí jiàng nán qiú
Literally
It is easy to find a thousand soldiers, but hard to find a good general.
Meaning
The difficulty of finding an outstanding leader.
Tradition Chinese
書到用時方恨少
Simplified Chinese
书到用时方恨少
Transliteration
shū dào yòng shí fāng hèn shǎo
Literally
It is when you are using what you have learned from books that you wish you had read more.
Meaning
We can never read widely enough.
Tradition Chinese
良藥苦口利於病,忠言逆耳利於行
Simplified Chinese
良药苦口利于病,忠言逆耳利于行
Transliteration
liáng yào kǔ kǒu lì yú bìng, zhōng yán nì ěr lì yú xíng
Literally
It takes bitter medicine to cure a disease properly, and it takes blunt advice to put us on the right track.
Meaning
Honest advice and candidi criticisim, dispite being unwelcome, are what we need if we are t identify our shortcomings.
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
十年樹木,百年樹人
Simplified Chinese
十年树木,百年树人
Transliteration
shí nián shù mù, bǎi nían shù rén
Literally
It takes ten years to grow a tree, but a hundred years to bring up a generation of good men.
Meaning
Cultivating talent is hard work which needs long and patient effort.
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
一個籬笆三個樁,一個好漢三個幫
Simplified Chinese
一个篱笆三个桩,一个好汉三个帮
Transliteration
yī gè lí bā sān gè zhuāng, yī gè hǎo hàn sān gè bāng
Literally
Just as a fence needs the support of three stakes, an able fellow needs the help of three other people.
Meaning
To fulfill any task, the support of others is necessary. Regardless how capable one is, one still needs the help of others.
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.
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