Chinese Language

Chinese Proverbs

Zhong wen

The Chinese language is well suited to the writing of short and snappy idioms and proverbs. Here is an index of a few examples. Each one links to a page giving its history and similar proverbs in English.

Yu hu mou pi
To negotiate with a tiger for its skin
Tuo mian zi gan
If anyone spits in your face, let it drip dry
Liu de qing shan zai, bu pa mei chai shao
留得青山在 不怕没柴烧
Hold on to the blue mountain, there'll be no shortage of faggots for fire.
Gua yang tou mai gou rou
Hanging out a sheep's head to sell dog meat.
Bu ru hu xue, yan de hu zi
不入虎穴, 焉得虎子
Without entering the tiger's lair, how can one catch the tiger's cub?
Ye chang meng duo
The night is long and dreams are legion
Zui weng zhi yi bu zai jiu
The drinker's heart is not in the drop
Ban jun ru ban hu
Keeping the company of an emperor is like keeping the company of a tiger
Bai wen bu ru yi jian
Hearing a hundred times is not as good as seeing once
You peng zi yuan fang lai, bu yi le hu!
有朋自远访来, 不亦乐乎
To have friends coming in from afar, how delightful!
Tou ji bu cheng shi ba mi
Failing to steal chickens and losing a fistful of rice into the bargain.
Xin you ling xi yi dian tong
Hearts meet on the dot in a unicorn's horn.
Bei jing ya chi shi quan kao tian
Like the feeding of Peking Ducks - all a matter of stuffing.
Chu sheng zhi du bu wei hu
A new-born calf fears no tiger.
Shui zhang chuan gao
When the tide rises, boats float higher.
Yang mao chu zai yang sheng shang
Sheep's wool comes off the sheep's back.
Dao ke dao, fei chang dao. Ming ke ming, fei chang ming
道可道, 非常道; 名可名, 非常名
The Way that can be expressed is not the everlasting way. Names that can be named are not changeless names.
Tong chuang yi meng
Same bed, different dreams.
Jie ling hai xu ji ling ren
Whoever tied the knot on the bell is the one to untie it.
Zhi xu zhou guan fang huo, bu xu bai xing dian deng
只许州官放火, 不许百姓点灯
While a County mandarin is at liberty to set houses on fire, a common man is not allowed to light a lamp (lantern).
Qi bu ru qie, qie bu ru tou, tou bu ru tou bu zhao
妻不如妾, 妾不如偷, 偷不如偷不着
A wife is not as good as a concubine.


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