Chinese Proverbs

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Proverbs
Annotation And Connotations
A mantis stalking a cicada is unaware of an oriole behind.
(Chinese original: 螳螂捕蝉,黄雀在后; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tángláng bǔ chán, huángquè zài hòu.)
While coveting gains ahead, one should be aware of the danger behind.
You looked high and low till your iron shoes were worn out but still to no avail. Then you chanced upon it without ever looking.
(Chinese original: 踏破铁鞋无觅处,得来全不费功夫; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tà pò tiěxié wú mì chù, délái quán bù fèi gōngfu.)
You looked for something everywhere but could not find it. All of a sudden you chanced upon it. Have you had this experience? I bet you have
No banquet in the world that never ends.
(Chinese original: 天下没有不散的宴席; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tiānxià méiyǒu bù sàn de yànxí.)
Nothing in the world is eternal. Friendship, relations and a good time are no exceptions
Crows everywhere are equally black.
(Chinese original: 天下乌鸦一般黑; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tiānxià wūyā yībān hēi.)
It is a metaphorical statement of "Bad people are bad no matter where you find them because human nature never changes".
Perseverance can reduce an iron rod to a sewing needle.
(Chinese original: 铁杵磨成针; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tiěchǔ mó chéng zhēn.)
See the story in my book The Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales from the Han Chinese.
Dream different dreams on the same bed.
(Chinese original: 同床异梦; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tóng-chuáng-yì-mèng.)
Hide different purposes behind the semblance of accord.
Fail to steal a chicken, which instead ate up your bait.
(Chinese original: 偷鸡不成反蚀一把米; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tōu jī bùchéng fǎn shī yī bǎ mǐ.)
Kind of like "Shoot Your Own Feet". Starting out to hurt others but ending up in being hurt.
Steal beams and replace them with poles.
(Chinese original: 偷梁换柱; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tōu-liáng-huàn-zhù.)
In so doing, the devious contractors are perpetrating a fraud. The proverb is also extended to any deception involving the replacement of one thing with another.
An unfolded map reveals a dagger.
(Chinese original: 图穷匕见; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tú-qióng-bì-xiàn.)
See the story in my book The Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales from the Han Chinese.
A Fox grieves over the death of a rabbit.
(Chinese original: 兔死狐悲; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tù-sǐ-hú-bēi.)
The proverb is used derogatorily to refer to the forlornness that bad people feel upon learning the misfortune of their like.
Rabbits do not eat the grass around their burrows.
(Chinese original: 兔子不吃窝边草; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tùzi bù chī wō biān cǎo.)
The proverb is used derogatorily. It is believed that a villain usually does not harm his neighbors.
Even a rabbit may bite when cornered.
(Chinese original: 兔子急了也咬人; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tùzi jí le yě yǎo rén.)
One who is cornered can do anything.
A flea on the top of a bald head - it is only too apparent.
(Chinese original: 秃子头上的虱子—明摆着的事; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Tūzi tóu shàng de shīzi - míngbǎi zhe de shì.)
A crane is too obvious when it stands among a flock of chickens and looks very awkward. It is also true with a camel amidst a flock of sheep and a flea when it stands on top of a hairless head. They all carry a pejorative tone: the thing that out stands others is something awkward if not necessarily bad.
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Last updated: May 29, 2009