Chinese Proverbs

Enjoy dozens of witty and insightful Chinese proverbs and idioms that have been passed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of years!

  • Things that are done, it is needless to speak about; things that are past, it is needless to blame.
  • Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom.
  • Flies never visit an egg that has no crack.
  • Looking for the ass on its very back.
  • A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.
  • Speak the truth, do not yield to anger; give, if thou art asked for little; by these three steps thou wilt go near the gods.
  • Never do anything standing that you can do sitting, or anything sitting that you can do lying down.
  • Not the cry but the flight of the wild duck leads the flock to fly and follow.
  • Insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different outcome.
  • Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
  • Three humble shoemakers brainstorming will make a great statesman.
  • A tiger never returns to his prey he did not finish off.
  • If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.
  • Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile.
  • When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals: adjust the action steps.
  • And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
  • An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger.
  • Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.
  • He who learns but does not think is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.
  • In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.
  • A crane standing amidst a flock of chickens.
  • A good fortune may forbode a bad luck, which may in turn disguise a good fortune.
  • Everyone pushes a falling fence.
  • Mend the pen only after the sheep are all gone.
  • There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.
  • To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.
  • To climb a tree to catch a fish is talking much and doing nothing.
  • A fall into a ditch makes you wiser.
  • The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
  • Once you pour the water out of the bucket, it’s hard to get it back in it.
  • Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
  • No wind, no waves.
  • Fight a wolf with a flex stalk.
  • If you have never done anything evil, you should not be worrying about devils to knock at your door.
  • Beauty is the wisdom of women. Wisdom is the beauty of men.
  • It is not possible for one to teach others who cannot teach his own family.
  • The real fault is to have faults and not amend them.
  • The saving man becomes the free man.
  • When prosperity comes, do not use all of it.
  • Worry not that no one knows of you; seek to be worth knowing.
  • Govern a family as you would cook a small fish—very gently.
  • To attract good fortune, spend a new coin on an old friend, share an old pleasure with a new friend, and lift up the heart of a true friend by writing his name on the wings of a dragon.
  • He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.
  • If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow.
  • Public before private, and country before family.
  • Sow much, reap much; sow little, reap little.
  • Happiness is like a sunbeam, which the least shadow intercepts, while adversity is often as the rain of spring.
  • One dog barks at something, the rest bark at him.
  • An inch of time is an inch of gold, but you can’t buy that inch of time with an inch of gold.
  • Of neighborhoods, benevolence is the most beautiful. How can the man be considered wise who, when he had the choice, does not settle in benevolence?
  • With true friends … even water drunk together is sweet enough.
  • I do not want a friend who smiles when I smile, who weeps when I weep, for my shadow in the pool can do better than that.
  • The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue.
  • In a broken nest, there are few whole eggs.
  • Acquire new knowledge while thinking over the old, and you may become a teacher of others.
  • I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.
  • One never needs their humor as much as when they argue with a fool.
  • Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?
  • It is later than you think.
  • The palest ink lasts longer than the most retentive memory.
  • The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his action.
  • The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.
  • A dog won’t forsake his master because of his poverty; a son never deserts his mother for her homely appearance.
  • Kill a chicken before a monkey.
  • The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.
  • There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.
  • The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.
  • Great doubts deep wisdom. Small doubts little wisdom.
  • Those who have free seats at a play hiss first.
  • Vicious as a tigress can be, she never eats her own cubs.
  • Reshape one’s foot to try to fit into a new shoe.
  • Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
  • To understand your parents’ love, you must raise children yourself.
  • If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?
  • When we have nothing to worry about, we are not doing much, and not doing much may supply us with plenty of future worries.
  • Dismantle the bridge shortly after crossing it.
  • He who has really set his mind on virtue will do no evil.
  • Learning without thought is labor lost.
  • Donkey’s lips do not fit onto a horse’s mouth.
  • He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
  • Steal a bell with one’s ears covered.
  • You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.
  • Distant water won’t quench your immediate thirst.
  • A bird in your hand is worth more than 100 in the forest.
  • The superior man is distressed by the limitations of his ability; he is not distressed by the fact that men do not recognize the ability that he has.
  • Your friend has a friend; don’t tell him.
  • Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.
  • A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.
  • A man grows most tired while standing still.
  • The faults of a superior person are like the sun and moon. They have their faults, and everyone sees them; they change and everyone looks up to them.
  • If you do not study hard when young, you’ll end up bewailing your failures as you grow up.
  • They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
  • With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bent arm for a pillow—I have still joy in the midst of all these things.
  • The superior man will watch over himself when he is alone. He examines his heart that there may be nothing wrong there, and that he may have no cause of dissatisfaction with himself.
  • No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.
  • When you see a worthy person, endeavor to emulate him. When you see an unworthy person, then examine your inner self.
  • There are always ears on the other side of the wall.
  • He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.
  • A jade stone is useless before it is processed; a man is good-for-nothing until he is educated.
  • If you lead the people with correctness, who will dare not be correct?

For thousands more proverbs and words of wisdom, collected from over 40 countries, check out Proverbs from Around the World!

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