Chinese ProverbsRating Mail
Not only can water float a boat, it can sink it also.
Meaning - Nature can help and harm you. The people(water) can raise someone(boat) to power, but can also take it away(sink).
Note : The knife cuts both ways.
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(2 Votes)
Fortune does not come twice. Misfortune does not come alone.
Meaning - The emphasis is on "misfortune doesn't come alone". It's often used as an opener or exclamation, when people talk about coincidental events of misfortune.
2.5
(2 Votes)
"The absence of proof is not the proof of absence."
Meaning - Just because there is no proof of something, this does not mean that it does not exist.
Note : It is quoted in Michael Crichton's Book,The Lost World.
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(1 Votes)
"The mountains are high and the emperor is far away."
Meaning - The people is out of government/origination's control, because the people are too far away.
Note : Used as in carefree (lawless)
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(1 Votes)
When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter.
Note : Usage: When a leader loses power, his followers become disorganized. This proverb is often used to describe fair-weather friends.
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(1 Votes)
A drop of water shall be returned with a burst of spring.
Meaning - Even if it was just a little help from others, you should return the favor with all you can when others are in need.
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(1 Votes)
"Early bird gets the worm."
Meaning - "Those who are quick seize opportunities."
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(1 Votes)
"Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come."
Meaning - It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Note : Confucius: near De Yue, far from making. (The Analects of Confucius)
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(1 Votes)
A single day of sub-zero temperature is not enough to create three feet of ice.
Meaning - Great things cannot be accomplished in a short period of time.
Note : Compare: Rome was not built in a day (Italian proverb).
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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.
Note : Compare: Where there's smoke, there's fire.
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The old horse in the stable still yearns to run 1000 miles 1.
Meaning - Everybody, no matter the inexperience, yearns to achieve great deeds. Another one is "The older the ginger the hotter the spice".
Note : "stable" and "li" rhyme in Mandarin. 1 li: a Chinese unit of linear measure, corresponds to about 500 meters.
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(0 Votes)
All crows in the world are black.
Meaning - A natural interpretation: Some rules, like those natural forces of the Universe, are unbendable, regardless how much you may want it to change.
Note : A stereotypical interpretation: something or someone (bad) is no different from all the others.
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Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know what's in a person's heart.
Meaning - Character can be revealed by time.
Note : Usage: This can be used positively to praise a true friend, or negatively to criticize friends who could not stand a test.
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(0 Votes)
Barber one side hot (old time, one side hot water...)
Meaning - If only one partner is willing while the other isn't, it will not work.
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To hit a dog with a meat-bun.
Meaning - Don't use the wrong method to approach a problem.
Note : Compare: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
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You must persevere to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.
Meaning - Everything can be done with enough perseverance.
Note : Compare: Where there's a will, there's a way.
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Try to save the dead horse as if it is still alive.
Meaning - Do the impossible, for it may truly be possible.
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See the wind, turn the rudder.
Meaning - Has no self - personality so they follow the most powerful one.
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Enthusiastic, but unable to.
Meaning - The person wants to do it, but is unable to.
Note : Compare: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
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Wealth does not pass three generations.
Meaning - It's rare that the wealth of a family can last for three generations.
Note : Explanation: In business, the first generation works extremely hard, so that the second generation reaps the benefits. By the time the third generation arrives, the wealth is squandered.
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(0 Votes)
Thirty years the east bank, thirty years the west bank.
Meaning - One's luck and one's destiny will change over time.
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Luck will change in 10 years.
Meaning - Luck will turn around every ten years.
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If you're poor, change and you'll succeed.
Meaning - When out of means, seek change. Then opportunities will come.
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One mouse dropping ruins the whole pot of rice porridge.
Meaning - One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
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Careful with others is a must have.
Meaning - Be cautious of people that may hurt you intentionally.
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Do not harbour intentions to hurt others.
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Beat the bell one day as long as you are still a monk one day.
Meaning - Do your duties as long as you are still in the role.
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Joke about the present by referring to the past.
Meaning - The past may be better than the present.
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Riding a mule while looking for a horse.
Meaning - Settle for what you have while looking for something better.
Note : Usually for job hunting.
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Three monks have no water to drink.
Meaning - Too many cooks spoil the broth.
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A spark can start a fire that burns the entire prairie.
Meaning - Don't underestimate the potential destructive power that a seemingly minor problem can cause.
Note : Compare: A butterfly beating it wings in America can start a hurricane in China.
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Blind bear picks corn, picks one and drops one.
Meaning - You will lose what you already have if you keep seeking for more.
Note : Compare: A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. (Benjamin Franklin - Poor Richard's Almanac)
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Wants the horse to be good and at the same time want the horse not to eat hay.
Meaning - Nothing is perfect.
Note : Usage: someone has an unrealistic expectation.
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If a person has ambition, things will be accomplished.
Meaning - Where there is a will, there is a way.
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Jade must be chiseled before it can be considered a gem.
Meaning - A person needs training and discipline to build character.
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If the roots are not removed during weeding, the weeds will grow again when the winds of Spring blows.
Meaning - It is essential to finish a task thoroughly or the effort would be wasted (or)
To solve any problems, the source of the problem must also be dealt with.

Note : Compare: A stitch in time saves nine.
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(0 Votes)
No one knows a son better than the father.
Meaning - Having spent decades with each other, family members know what type of persons each other are like. "Sons" and "fathers" also apply to the female equivalents.
Note : Usage: Character witness in a trial. Despite his/her denial, an honest parent can tell if their children are capable of heinous crimes, like murder.
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I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.
Meaning - You can only understand something by trying it yourself.
Note : Originally by Xun Zi.
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A tiger father has no canine sons.
Meaning - People who are closely related are similar.
Note : A chip off the old block.
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Man's schemes are inferior to those made by heaven.
Meaning - Man proposes and God disposes.
Note : Compare: The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.
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If you have money you can make the devil push your grind stone.
Meaning - Money is power.
Note : Money makes the world go round.
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Like the Eight Immortals crossing the sea, each one displaying his/her special feats.
Meaning - Everyone has his/her own powers.
Note : In terms of talents
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When something has been said, a team of four horses cannot overtake it.(Horses cannot chase back the words you have said.)
Four horse-drawn wagon, fastest land transportation at ancient time.
Meaning - People have to be responsible for what they say. Only speak after careful thought; do not speak without thinking of the consequences.
Note : Once you have made a promise or said something, you cannot take it back.
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(0 Votes)
The character "eight" does not consist of one stroke.
Meaning - A particular thing hasn't even taken shape.
Note : In Chinese, It takes two strokes to write the character "eight".
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Not having arrived at the Yellow River, the heart is not dead.
Meaning - Only when there is no road left does one finally feel despair.
Note : Feeling despair only when one arrives at the Yellow River., Feeling despair only when one arrives at the Yellow River.
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Tens of thousands of bones will become ashes when one general achieves his fame.
Meaning - A great person needs others to sacrifice themselves to build his success. (or)
Before admiring someone's achievement, remember to look at the negative effects that he has delivered.

Note : Compare: To make an omlette you have to break eggs.
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(0 Votes)
Grow a tree for ten years; grow men for a hundred.
Meaning - Nurturing and educating human talent is the key to prosperity.
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If one does not plow, there will be no harvest.
Meaning - No pain, no gain.
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If you say too much, you have to have made an error.
Meaning - He who talks too much errors often.
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(0 Votes)
Reading ten thousands of books is not as useful as travelling ten thousand miles.
Meaning - Practical experience is more useful than theory.
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(0 Votes)


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