Read our selection of the best known and inspiring Chinese proverbs below.

What’s a proverb?

A proverb is a brief, simple, traditional saying that gives advice based on practical experience, often in the form of a metaphor or allegory Proverbs are popular in spoken language, and form part of the folklore of a culture, passing down the generations.

Most Chinese proverbs originate from famous Chinese writers and philosophers, such as Confucius and Lao Tzu. Although most Chinese proverbs were penned hundreds ‚Äď or indeed thousands ‚Äď of years ago, there are many hundreds of Chinese proverbs still in popular usage across the country today. Below we‚Äôve pulled together the very best and most popular Chinese proverbs.

“A bad beginning makes a bad ending.”

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“A bad word worshipped will echo a hundred miles.¬†“

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“A bird can roost but on one branch, a mouse can drink not more than its fill from a river.”

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“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”

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“A candle lights others and consumes itself.”

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“A clear conscience never¬†fears¬†midnight knocking.”

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“A clever person turns great troubles into little ones, and little ones into none at all.”

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“A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood”

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“A crisis is an¬†opportunity¬†riding the dangerous wind.”

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“A fall into a ditch makes you¬†wiser.”

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“A good book is like a good friend.”

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“A good memory can’t beat a bad pen.”

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“A good name is better than a good face.”

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“A hundred no’s are less agonizing than one insincere yes.”

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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

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“A little impatience will spoil great plans.”

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“A man grows most tired while standing still.”

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“A man who cannot¬†tolerate¬†small misfortunes can never accomplish great things.”

Chinese proverbs on river and mountain background

“A man without a¬†smiling¬†face must not open shop.”

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“A needle is not sharp at both ends.”

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“A person of high principles is one who can watch an entire chess game without making a comment.”

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“A single conversation with a wise man is worth a month‚Äôs study of books.¬†“

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“A smile dispels many worries.”

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“A smile will gain you ten more years of¬†life.”

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“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.¬†“

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“A¬†book¬†holds a house of gold.”

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“A¬†wise¬†man makes his own decisions, but an ignorant man mindlessly follows the crowd.”

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“All things are difficult before they are easy.¬†“

Chinese proverbs on red tag background

“All things¬†change, and we change with them.”

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“An inch of time is worth an inch of gold, but an inch of gold may not buy an inch of time.”

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“An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet.¬†“

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“As distance tests a horse’s strength, time reveals a person’s character.”

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“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

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“Before preparing to improve the world, first look around your own¬†home¬†three times.”

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“Behave toward everyone as if receiving a guest.”

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“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.”

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“Better the cottage where one is merry than the palace where one weeps.”

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“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

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“Blessings come in disguise.”

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“By falling we learn to go safely”

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“Control your emotions or they will control you.¬†“

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“Dig the well before you are thirsty.¬†“

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“Distant water does not put out a nearby fire.”

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“Do everything at the right time, and one day will seem like three.”

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“Do not believe that you will reach your destination without leaving the shore.”

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“Don‚Äôt listen to what they say. Go see.¬†“

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“Enduring deepening pain is how man ascends.”

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“Even a dragon struggles to control a snake in its native haunt.”

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“Even a hare will bite when it is cornered.”

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“Even an upright official finds it hard to settle a family quarrel.”

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“Every child born has innate goodness.¬†“

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“Every step makes a footprint.”

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“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

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“Experience¬†is a comb which nature gives us when we are bald.”

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“Failure is the mother of success.”

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“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

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“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.¬†“

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“Gold and silver nests can’t beat one’s family kennel.”

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“Govern a¬†family¬†as you would cook a small fish – very gently.”

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“Guessing is cheap, but guessing wrong can be expensive.”

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“Habits¬†are cobwebs at first; cables at last.”

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“Happiness is the best cosmetic.”

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“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.¬†“

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“He who cheats the earth will be cheated by the earth.”

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“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.¬†“

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“He who sacrifices his conscience to ambition burns a picture¬†to obtain the ashes.¬†“

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“He who thinks too much about every step he takes will always stay on one leg.”

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“I was angered, for I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.”

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“If small holes aren’t fixed, then big holes will bring hardship.”

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“If you always give, you will always have.¬†“

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“If you are patient in one moment of¬†anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”

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“If you bow at all, bow low.”

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“If you don’t do stupid things you won’t end up in tragedy.”

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“If you plan for one year, plant rice. If you plan for ten years, plant trees. If you plan for 100 years, educate mankind.¬†“

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“If you want to find out about the road ahead, then ask about it from those coming back.”

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“If you want your¬†children¬†to have a peaceful life, let them suffer a little hunger and a little coldness.”

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“If your face is ugly, you can‚Äôt blame the mirror.¬†“

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“If your mind is strong, all difficult things will become easy; if your mind is weak, all easy things will become difficult.¬†“

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“In hardship we see true friendship.”

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“It is easy to find a thousand soldiers, but hard to find a good general.”

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“It is easy to open a store – the hard part is keeping it open.”

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“It is not the knowing that is¬†difficult, but the doing.”

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“It takes more than one cold day for a river to freeze a meter deep.”

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“It’s better to be without a book than to believe a book entirely.”

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“It’s better to walk thousands of miles than to read thousands of books.”

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“Learning is a treasure¬†that will follow its owner everywhere.¬†“

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“Learning without thought is deceptive; thought without learning is perilous.”

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“Learning¬†is a weightless treasure you can always carry easily.”

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“Like sitting on a carpet of needles.”

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“Listening¬†well is as powerful as talking well, and is also as essential to true conversation.”

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“Live till you’re old, and study till you’re old.”

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“Love deep, chastise deep.”

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“Love isn’t about having, it’s about enjoying what you have.”

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“Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.¬†“

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“Man cannot be judged by looks; seas cannot be measured by cup.”

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“Man‚Äôs schemes are inferior to those made by heaven.¬†“

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“Married couples tell each other a thousand things without speech.”

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“Men trip not on mountains, they trip on molehills.”

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“No matter how tall the¬†mountain¬†is, it cannot block the sun.”

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“Numerous friends means no deep friendship.”

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“Often one finds one‚Äôs destiny just where one hides to avoid it.¬†“

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“One beam, no matter how big, cannot support an entire house on its own.”

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“One who stands straight doesn’t fear a crooked shadow.”

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“Opportunity knocks at the door only once”

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“Outside noisy, inside empty.¬†“

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“Patience¬†is a bitter plant, but its fruit is sweet.”

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“Pearls don‚Äôt lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.¬†“

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“Radishes and greens, each have those who love them.”

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“Ripe fruit falls by itself – but it doesn’t fall in your mouth.”

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“Small as it is, the sparrow has all the vital organs.”

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“Small men think they are small; great men never know they are¬†great.”

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“Solve one¬†problem, and you keep a hundred others away.”

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“Talk does not cook rice.”

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“Teachers¬†open the door. You enter by yourself.”

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“Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand. “

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“Tenacity and¬†adversity¬†are old foes.”

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“Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are.¬†“

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“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

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“The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.¬†“

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“The people who talk the best are not the only ones who can tell you the most interesting things.”

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“The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere. “

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“The person who is his own master cannot tolerate another boss.”

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“There are two kinds of perfect people: those who are dead, and those who have not been born yet.”

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“Think about your own faults during the first half of the night, and the faults of others during the second half.”

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“Those who just want speed don’t succeed.”

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“Timely return of a loan makes it easier to borrow a second time.”

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“To be totally at leisure for one day is to be immortal for one day.”

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“To know another is not to know the person’s face, but to know the person’s heart.”

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“To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish.¬†“

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“To understand your parents love you must raise children yourself.¬†“

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“True knowledge is when one knows the limitations of one‚Äôs knowledge.¬†“

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“Two good talkers are not worth one good listener.”

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“Want a thing long enough and you don’t.”

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“Water flows in only to flow out.”

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“We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought.¬†“

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“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”

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“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.¬†“

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“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.¬†“

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“With love water is enough; without love food doesn’t satisfy.”

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“With truth on your side, you can go anywhere; without truth, you can’t take a tiny step.”

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“You can’t get fat with one mouthful.”

That’s your lot for Chinese proverbs. What do you think – any great ones that we’re missing? Drop us a line in the comments section below.


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