Chinese Proverbs

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Proverbs
Annotation And Connotations
Pass oneself off as one of the Yu pipe players in an ensemble.
(Chinese original: 滥竽充数; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Làn-yú-chōng-shù.)

Hold a post without adequate qualifications.

For a complete story, please read my book Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales from the Han Chinese.

A tiger never returns to his prey he did not finish off.
(Chinese original: 老虎不吃回头食 Chinese Pinyin: Audio Lǎohǔ bù chī huítóushí.)
For fear that he may have exposed his trace, he will not take the risk of being caught in making the same trip a second time. A clever thief would not show up in the same spot soon again.
An aged steed confined to the stable still aspires after the glory of galloping a thousand miles.
(Chinese original: 老骥伏枥,志在千里; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Lǎo jì fú lì, zhì zài qiān lǐ.)
Ambition survives even in senior age.
Thunder is louder than the little rain warrants.
(Chinese original: 雷声大,雨点小; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Léi shēng dà, yǔ diǎn xiǎo.)
More words than action.
The wound caused by a sword can eventually be healed; the hurt resulted from vicious remarks can never be undone.
(Chinese original: 利剑伤人犹可愈,恶语伤人恨难消; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Lìjiàn shāng rén yóu kě yù, èyǔ shāng rén hèn nán xiāo.)
Avoid hurting people with vicious remarks when in anger or you will regret it.
Begin to dig a well only when one feels thirsty.
(Chinese original: 临渴掘井; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Lín-kě-jué-jǐng.)
Begin to take measures when it is too late.
Have one's ears pierced only before the wedding ceremony starts.
(Chinese original: 临上轿现扎耳朵眼儿;Chinese Pinyin: Audio Lín shàngjiào xiàn zhā ěrduo yǎnr.)
It is a criticism of procrastination. Like a bride who waited till the last minute to get things done that should have been done earlier. It also has the connotation that it might be too late to wait till the last minute.
It is better to start weaving your fishing nets than merely coveting fish at the water.
(Chinese original: 临渊慕鱼, 不如退而结网;Chinese Pinyin: Audio Lín yuān mù yú, bù rú tuì ěr jié wǎng.)
One should act than daydream.
So long as the green mountains are preserved, there will be no shortage of firewood supply.
(Chinese original: 留得青山在,
不怕没柴烧;Chinese Pinyin: Audio Liú dé qīng shān zài, bù pà méi chái shāo.)
Used to encourage a person not to give up in face of great disaster or despair. The "green mountain" refers to the person himself. So long as he is ok, he can rebuild everything.
Flowing water never goes bad; door hubs never gather termites.
(Chinese original: 流水不腐,户枢不蠹; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Liú shuǐ bù fǔ, hùshū bù dù.)
It means that people got to renew their knowledge not to stay behind. The English "Rolling stone gathers no moss" has a different meaning.
A dragon will be teased by a shrimp in a shoal water; a tiger will be bullied by a dog on a treeless plain.
(Chinese original: 龙游浅水遭虾戏,虎落平阳被犬欺;Chinese Pinyin: Audio Lóng yóu qiǎn shuǐ zāo xiā xì, hǔ luò píngyáng bèi quǎn qī.)
(A similar proverb: A mighty dragon cannot subdue a local snake. 强龙不按地头蛇: Audio Qiáng lóng bù àn dìtóushé.)
One thrives in his or her own territory. An able person in an adverse environment cannot bring his talent into full play. Instead, he or she may become an underdog of a less able person who has been in that environment for a long time with a lot of connections.
Some prefer carrot while others like cabbage.
(Chinese original: 萝卜白菜,各有所爱; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Luóbo báicài, gè yǒu suǒ ài.)
"One man's meat is another's poison". People's preferences differ.
A dish of carrot hastily cooked may still has uncleaned soil on the vegetable.
(Chinese original: 萝卜快了不洗泥; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Luóbo kuài le bù xǐ ní.)
When hurry through a job it is impossible to attend to the minute details.
Throw a rock in a well to finish someone drowning in it.
(Chinese original: 落井下石; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Luò-jǐng-xià-shí.)
Attack someone while he is already in trouble or difficulty. It is like "hitting one when he is down."
Fallen leaves return to the root.
(Chinese original: 落叶归根; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Luò-yè-guī-gèn.)
Wherever they are, Chinese would like to return to their motherland in their senior ages.
Donkey's lips do not fit in with a horse's mouth.
(Chinese original: 驴唇不对马嘴; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Lǘchún bù duì mǎzuǐ.)
It refers to something totally irrelevant.
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Last updated: May 29, 2009