35 Chinese Proverbs To Know

Boost Your Chinese Language Skills With These Popular Chinese Proverbs

Young lady reading book in a bookstore
Tang Ming Tung Getty

Chinese proverbs (諺語, yànyŭ) are popular sayings taken from literature, history, and famous people like philosophers often used colloquially. There are hundreds of Chinese proverbs addressing all aspects of life from education and work to personal goals and relationships.  

To find the right Chinese words for each occasion, here is a list of proverbs about a range of topics.

On Books

After three days without reading, talk becomes flavorless.

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

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

Importance of Education

If a son is uneducated, his dad is to blame.

A jade stone is useless before it is processed; a man is good for nothing until he is educated.

Family 

A dog won't forsake his master because of his poverty; a son never deserts his mother for her homely appearance.

Vicious as a tigress can be, she never eats her own cubs.

Fear

One cannot refuse to eat just because there is a chance of being choked.

Clear conscience never fears midnight knocking.

Once bitten by a snake, he/she is scared all his/her life at the mere sight of a rope.

Friendship

With true friends, even water drunk together is sweet enough.

Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead.

Happiness

If you want happiness for an hour; take a nap. If you want happiness for a day; go fishing. If you want happiness for a month; get married. If you want happiness for a year; inherit a fortune.

If you want happiness for a lifetime; help someone else.

A smile will gain you ten more years of life.

One joy scatters a hundred griefs.

Impatience

You won't help shoots grow by pulling them up higher.

A dish of carrot hastily cooked may still have soil uncleaned off the vegetable.

Personal Development

A fall into a ditch makes you wiser.

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

Precautions

Bad things never walk alone.

There are always ears on the other side of the wall.

When you are poor, neighbors close by will not come; once you become rich, you'll be surprised by visits from (alleged) relatives afar.

Teamwork 

An ant may well destroy a whole dam.

Behind an able man there are always other able men.

Three humble shoemakers brainstorming will make a great statesman.

Only when all contribute their firewood can they build up a strong fire.

Time

An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can't buy that inch of time with an inch of gold.

Age and time do not wait for people.

Uniqueness 

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

A camel standing amidst a flock of sheep.

Similar To American Proverbs

Lift a stone only to drop on your own feet. / Shooting yourself in the foot.

No wind, no waves. / There's no fire without smoke.

An overcrowded chicken farm produces fewer eggs. / Too many cooks spoil the broth

Kill a chicken before a monkey. / Warn the many by punishing a few