Chinese Proverbs

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Proverbs
Annotation And Connotations
Harmony makes both a family and a nation prosperous.
(Chinese original: 家和日子旺,国和万事兴; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiā hé rìzi wàng; guó hé wàn shì xīng.)
 
Aged ginger is more pungent.
(Chinese original: 姜是老的辣; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiāng shì lǎo de là.)
Elderly people are more experienced.
Pick up a sesame seed only to lose a watermelon.
(Chinese original: 捡了芝麻丢了西瓜; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiǎn le zhīmá, diū le xīguā.)
Concentrate on small matters to the expense of more important ones.
A friend made is a road paved; an enemy created is a wall built.
(Chinese original: 交个朋友多条路,树个敌人多堵墙; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiāo gè péngyou duō tiáo lù, shù gè dírén duō dǔ qiáng.)
How true: friends help while people you offend may turn out to be your liability. We should make more friends than enemies.
A sly rabbit has three burrows.
(Chinese original: 狡兔三窟; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiǎo-tù-sān-kū.)
To succeed one must have several alternatives.
Regular feet can't be affected by irregular shoes.
(Chinese original: 脚正不怕鞋(邪)歪; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiǎo zhèng bù pà xié wāi.)
Same as "If you have not done anything evil, you should not worry too much": the good/regular always overwhelms the bad/irregular though in real life it is not necessarily
An overcrowded chicken farm produce fewer eggs.
(Chinese original: 鸡多不下蛋,人多打瞎乱; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jī duō bù xià dàn, rén duō dǎ xiā luàn.)
Scientifically, it may not be true. But the connotation of this proverb is that when too many people try to do one thing, it proves less efficient. A similar English proverb goes: "The more the eggs, the worse the hatch."
Please restrain your grief and adapt to the mishap.
(Chinese original: 节哀顺变; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jié-āi-shùn-biàn.)
When someone passed away, this is the most appropriate expression of condolence you would say to his or her loved ones.
Present Buddha with borrowed flowers.
(Chinese original: 借花献佛; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiè-huā-xiàn-fó.)
You say "I am presenting Buddha with borrowed flowers" to someone with whom you present a gift that someone else has given to you. It is a humorous way of mitigating the awkwardness. You get away easily as you compare the receiver of the gift to Buddha, which shows a lot of respect albeit its lack of seriousness.
A frog in a well shaft
(Chinese original: 井底之蛙; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jǐng-dǐ-zhī-wā.)
A frog who lived in a well all his life never knew what the real body of waters was until a sea turtle told him about it. This proverb refers to somebody who has a very narrow-minded view of what they see or think.

For a complete story, please read my book Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales of the Han Chinese, to be published in spring 2006 by Libraries Unlimited.

Add a flower to a bouquet.
(Chinese original: 锦上添花; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jǐn-shàng-tiān-huā.)
Make improvements upon something good with an attempt at perfection.
Living at a river, one comes to know the nature of the fish therein; Dwelling by a mountain, one learns to recognize the language of the birds thereupon.
(Chinese original: 近水知鱼性,近山识鸟音; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jìn shuǐ zhī yú xìng, jìn shān shí niǎo yīn.)
Familiarity and vicinity breed more understanding.
He who stays near vermilion gets stained red; he who stays near ink gets stained black.
(Chinese original: 近朱者赤,近墨者黑; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jìn zhū zhě chì, jìn mò zhě hēi.)
One takes on the color of his company.
Don't do unto others as you wouldn't have them do unto you.
(Chinese original: 己所不欲勿施于人; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiǔ féng zhījǐ qiān bēi shǎo, huà bù tóujī bàn jù duō.) New
The opposite to the English proverb: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Drinking with a bosom friend, a thousand shots are too few; Talking with a disagreeable person, half a sentence is too many.
(Chinese original: 酒逢知己千杯少,话不投机半句多; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiǔ féng zhījǐ qiān bēi shǎo, huà bù tóujī bàn jù duō.)
 
Help the needy instead of the poor.
(Chinese original: 救急不救穷; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiù jí bù jiù qióng.)
There are too many poor people to help. Those who are in dire need are the ones that need your help the most.
It doesn't matter if your tavern sits in a remote location so long as the smell of your wine is appealing.
(Chinese original: 酒香不怕巷子深; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jiǔ xiāng bù pà xiàngzi shēn.)
Superb quality of your product or service may compensate for lack of publicity. But this argument may be outdated when people today can't wait to Tweet their products.
Fragments of fox fur, sewn together, will make a robe.
(Chinese original: 集腋成裘; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jí-yè-chéng-qiú.)
"Many a mickle makes a muckle."
Fearing laws makes one happy every day; withholding truth from heaven worries one all the time.
(Chinese original: 惧法天天乐,欺天日日忧; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Jù fǎ tiān tiān lè, qī tiān rì rì yōu.)
 
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Last updated: May 29, 2009