20 Famous and wise Chinese proverbs ( 谚语 yanyu), sayings and quotes: Chinese, pinyin, English translation and Standing still – Jewel (lyrics)

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

鸟儿唱歌不是因为它们有了答案,而是因为它们有歌要唱。
niǎor chànggē bú shì yīnwèi tāmen yǒule dáàn ,érshì yīnwèi tāmen yǒu gē yào chàng 。

鸟(bird)儿(suffix, no meaning)唱(sing)歌(song)不(not)是(is/be)因为(because)它们(they)有(have)了(past tense marker)答案(answer),而是(but)因为(because)它们(they)有(have)歌(song)要(want to)唱(sing)。

2 A book holds a house of gold.

书中自有黄金屋。
shū zhōng zì yǒu huángjīn wū 。

书(book)中(within)自(itself)有(have)黄金(gold)屋(house)

3 A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

书是随身携带的花园。
shū shì suíshēn xiédài de huāyuán 。

书(book)是(is)随身(to (carry) on one’s person)携带(carry/bring)的(connecting particle)花园(garden)。

4 A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.

赠人玫瑰,手有余香。
zèng rén méiguī ,shǒu yǒuyú xiāng 。

赠(give)人(person/people)玫瑰(roses),手(hand)有(have)余(lingering)香(fragrance)。

5 A filthy mouth will not utter decent language.

狗嘴里吐不出象牙。
gǒu zuǐlǐ tǔ bù chū xiàngyá 。

狗(dog)嘴(mouth)里(within)吐不出(not able to utter out/ spit out)象牙(ivory / elephant tusk )。

6 A diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections.

宁做有瑕玉,不做无暇石。
nìng zuò yǒu xiá yù ,bú zuò wúxiá shí 。

宁(rather to)做(be)有(have)瑕(flaw)玉(jade),不(not)做(to be)无(none)暇(flaw)石(stone)。

7 A gem will be polished without carving and polishing, nor a man perfected without trials.

玉不琢、不成器。
yù bù zhuó 、bùchéng qì 。

玉(jade)不(not)琢(cut/refine)、不(not)成(become)器(device / tool / utensil )。

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

不怕慢,就怕停。
bú pà màn ,jiù pà tíng 。

不(not)怕(afraid)慢(slowness),就(just)怕(fear/afraid)停(stop)。

9 Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom.

疑惑深,智慧深;疑惑浅,智慧浅。
yíhuò shēn ,zhìhuì shēn ;yíhuò jiān ,zhìhuì jiān 。

疑惑(doubt)深(deep),智慧(wisdom)深(deep);疑惑(doubt)浅(shallow),智慧(wisdom)浅(shallow)。

10 When you drink the water, remember the spring.

饮水思源。
yǐn shuǐ sī yuán 。

饮(drink)水(water)思(think of)源(source of water)。

11 A thousand cups of wine do not suffice when true friends meet, but half a sentence is too much when there is no meeting of minds.

酒逢知己千杯少,话不投机半句多。
jiǔ féng zhījǐ qiān bēi shǎo ,huà bù tóu jī bàn jù duō 。

酒(wine)逢(meet)知己(person who knows myself)千(thousand)杯(sup)少(few),话(word)不(not)投机(congenial/agreeable)半(half)句(sentence)多(many)。

12 If heaven made him, earth can find some use for him.

天生我材必有用。
tiān shēng wǒ cái bì yǒu yòng 。

天(haven)生(give birth to)我(my)材(ability)必(must)有(have)用(usage)。

13 Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

授人以鱼不如授人以渔。
shòu rén yǐ yú bùrú shòu rén yǐ yú 。

授(give)人(people)以(with)鱼(fish)不如(rather)授(give)人(person/people)以(with)渔(fishing)。

14 Dig the well before you are thirsty.

未雨绸缪。
wèi yǔ chóumóu 。

未(not yet)雨(rain)绸缪(bind around with silk (idiom, from Book of Songs 詩經|诗经); fig. to plan ahead)。

15 Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown.
To enjoy the benefits of the hard work of one’s predecessors.

前人栽树,后人乘凉。
qián rén zāi shù,hòu rén chéng liáng 。

前(former)人(people)栽(plant)树(trees),后(later)人(people)乘凉(to cool off in the shade)。

16 Do good, reap good; do evil, reap evil.

善有善报,恶有恶报。
shàn yǒu shàn bào,è yǒu è bào 。

善(goodness)有(have)善(good)报(repay),恶(badness)有(have)恶(bad)报(retribution)。

17 If you don’t want anyone to know, don’t do it.

若要人不知,除非己莫为。
ruò yào rén bù zhī,chú fēi jǐ mò wéi 。

若(if)要(want)人(people)不(not)知(know),除非(unless)己(oneself)莫(not)为(do)。

18 Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.

师傅领进门,修行在个人。
shīfu lǐng jìn mén ,xiūxíng zài gèrén 。

师傅(master/ teacher)领(bring)进(enter)门(door),修行(cultivate/

religious practice (Buddhism) )在(depend on)个人(self)。

19 Studying is like rowing upstream: no advance is to drop back.

学如逆水行舟,不进则退。
xué rú nì shuǐ xíng zhōu ,bú bú jìn zé tuì 。

学(study)如(is like)逆(against)水(water)行(row)舟(boat),不(not)进(advance)则( conjunction used to express contrast with a previous sentence or clause/then)退(retreat)。

20 If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.

忍得一时之氣,免得百日之忧。
rěn dé yīì zhī qì,miǎn de bǎi rì zhī yōu。

忍(tolerate)得(particle)一(one)时(time)之(connecting particle)氣(anger),免(save)得(particle)百(hundred)日(day)之(connecting particle)忧(sorrow)。

The proverb, Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still ( 不怕慢,就怕停 bú pà màn, jiù pà tíng ), made me recall this song.

Standing still – Jewel (lyrics)

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40 Responses to 20 Famous and wise Chinese proverbs ( 谚语 yanyu), sayings and quotes: Chinese, pinyin, English translation and Standing still – Jewel (lyrics)

  1. Miguel Angel says:

    Interesting Links for learning Chinese Thanks I would like to have this handy on my list of resourses

  2. Hope says:

    Hello Chinese to Learn,

    My name is Hope and I’m a senior editor at World Trade Press, a publishing and digital media resources company in California. We create educational and travel websites, and are in the process of upgrading our AtoZWorldCulture product. This website offers detailed, country-by-country cultural and social information for schools and colleges. To see the website as it is currently, click here: http://www.atozworldculture.com and enter az as the user name and macau as the password. This password will grant you free access through the end of March.

    One new section we are adding contains proverbs from around the world. We would like to provide this cultural aspect of China on our website by including proverbs in Chinese, along with the English translation and meaning. We found your website to be a valuable resource for Chinese proverbs, and would like to request the use of this information on our site. In exchange, we will link directly to your website, as well as offering you a free one-year subscription to AtoZWorldCulture.

    Thank you for your time and your consideration of our request. Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best,

    Hope Kang
    Senior Editor
    World Trade Press
    Petaluma, CA
    [email protected]

  3. qwerty says:

    NICEEEEEEEE
    I used to live in Shanghai, China and these are correct. Whoever owns this website is realllllllllllyyyyyyyy good at Chinese. I actually learned a lot!

    • Learn Chinese Help says:

      Qwerty,

      I am glad to hear that:) Have good time learning Chinese and have fun!!

  4. lay kun yi says:

    happy mother day

  5. Jeng Siu Choong says:

    Very good presentation, especially appreciate the literal translation of the
    Chinese characters.
    But : it isn’t “growing” slowly — literally, it’s Do not be afraid of slowness,
    Be afraid of stopping. Perhaps you meant “going” slowly ?

    Reminds me of another proverb, “There is no shame in falling down,
    There is only shame in not getting up.” But I do not know the
    Chinese words. Perhaps you do?
    Thanks for your enjoyable page.

    • Learn Chinese Help says:

      Hi Jeng Siu,

      It means it is OK to do it slow, as long as the action is still occurring. But, it is not good to stop (never do it again). Thank you for visiting:)

  6. Liam says:

    Hi I was just wondering the quote “be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still” in Chinese would it be the same characters writing vertically

    • Learn Chinese Help says:

      Please complete your question, thank you:)

      • Liam says:

        Would the Chinese writing still say the same thing written vertical or would it say something completely different

        • Learn Chinese Help says:

          You can write Chinese sentence from left to right or from top to bottom. However, if you upside down a character or change it from horizontal to vertical, then it is not quite right. Characters’ placement has its own certain way, change it randomly will make it difficult to read and to understand. Hope that answers your question:)

  7. Liam says:

    Could you write “be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still” in chinese top to bottom for me please. If you can.
    Thanks

  8. Liam says:

    Thank you

  9. Chloe says:

    Thank you for both the pinyin, the 字母and the translations. This helps me study my Chinese better, and helps my calligraphy a lot. I’m making paintings done in traditional style to send back to my family in America, since I’ve been studying over here in China. I’m glad you did it so accurately as well.

    • Learn Chinese Help says:

      Hi Chloe,
      You are very welcome:) Have good time learning Chinese every time:)

  10. Sophia says:

    Thank you very much for putting this page online, I learned so much from it.

  11. John says:

    Very informative, however it is becoming a bit tiresome to have to inspect the page source in order to copy the characters. Is there any way you could remove the mouse guard? (Ctrl + Shift + C then copy/paste) Thanks.

    • Learn Chinese Help says:

      Hi John,

      You can print the page out. It is what I did for my students. Thank you for visiting.

  12. Gabrielle says:

    can you write the quote, “To conquer oneself is greater task than conquering others,” in Chinese top to bottom for me? Please and thank you!

  13. tuzla says:

    Thank you. I have learn a lot.

  14. Mai says:

    I am teaching the English language to Chinese kids and these quotes, sayings, and proverbs would help me a lot. Now, I have new things to talk about with them. Xie xie! 🙂

  15. Han Sye Ming says:

    Interest is in Chinese proverbs.

  16. Artiewhitfox says:

    Number five could be in the bible itself. James 1:21 “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Proverbs 6:12 “A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.”
    KJV Cambridge editon 1611. 16 is, whatever a man sows that shall they also reap. 20 , patients is one of the fruits of the spirit.

  17. Chee Siong says:

    Great quotes

  18. alpha says:

    good work. keep it up. thanks.

  19. Ayietim says:

    These are great stuff. Very, very inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Laura says:

    This page is wonderful, thank you so much. I learn Chinese myself and these are quite handy.
    I was wondering, a friend of mine approached me the other day asking how to translate “I want you to be everything you are deep at the center of your being” as supposedly is a Confucius quote.
    My first guess would have been “我想让你成为你在你的中心深处的一切”.
    Is that correct?

    Would appreciate a comment as she considers to get this tattooed 😀

    • Learn Chinese Help says:

      Hi Laura,
      Your modern Chinese translation makes sense. Or it can be 我希望你成为你灵魂深处的一切。 I am not sure what is the exact sentence (classic Chinese) in Analect though. You can do a Google search on it and good luck:)

  21. Ekta says:

    Would be very kind of you if you Could you right
    “Do not go gentle into that good night, Rage rage against the dying of the light”
    in Chinese top to bottom for me please.
    Thank you.

  22. Chloe says:

    Hello, this page has taught me tremendously ! And I trust your knowledge and input. I was wondering if you could translate for me “She is an angel capable of raising hell” for me. It would be greatly appreciated thank you so much 🙂

Comments are closed.