Chinese Proverbs

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Annotation And Connotations
A man of the Zheng State buys his shoes.
(Chinese original: 郑人买履; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhèng-rén-mǎi-lǚ.)
You say someone is like such a man when he is stubbornly dogmatic. There's a story behind: A man of the State of Zheng refused to try a pair of shoes he was to buy with his feet. Instead, he insisted on going back home to pick up the thread he had used to measure his feet.
Not to be attempted even if a beautiful woman sits on one's laps.
(Chinese original: 坐怀不乱; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zuò-huái-bù-luàn.)
To describe a man who is not or refuse to be lustful.
Sit on a mountain to watch tigers fighting among themselves.
(Chinese original: 坐山观虎斗; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zuò shān guān hǔ dòu.)
A situation where you are in a safe position while others are fighting for their survival.
A thief cries "Stop thief!"
(Chinese original: 贼喊捉贼; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zéi-hǎn-zhuō-zéi.)
This is a ploy criminals often use to divert the attention of investigators.
Put one person's hat on another's head.
(Chinese original: 张冠李戴; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhāng-guān-lǐ-dài.)
Confuse one thing with another.
Paper can't wrap up a fire.
(Chinese original: 纸包不住火; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhǐ bāo bù zhù huǒ.)
How true: it will burn it self out as truth will eventually reveals itself despite cover ups.
You will never lose a battle if you know your own situation as well as that of the enemy.
(Chinese original: 知彼知己,百战不殆; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhī jǐ zhí bǐ, bǎi zhàn bú dài.)
Point at the mulberry and abuse the pagoda tree.
(Chinese original: 指桑骂槐; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhǐ-sāng-mà-huái.)
This is very subtle: the abuser tries to make his or her abuse felt by the abused and yet hopes to get away with it by pretending to abuse someone or something else. For instance, when a kid got into a fight with another in the neighborhood, the parent of the kid intervened pretending to scold her own child but the vituperation was actually meant for the neighbor's child.
Making a thousand decisions, even the wise will make a mistake.
(Chinese original: 智者千虑必有一失; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhìzhě qiān lǜ, bì yǒu yī shī.)
Homer sometimes nods.
One‘s son is clever while the neighbor is suspicious.
(Chinese original: 智子疑临; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhì-zǐ-yí-lín.)
Ones judgment is marred by his emotions. The story behind this proverb goes like this. A man of wealth found a wall of his house damaged by a heavy rain. His son warned him against theft if he procrastinated its repair. Meanwhile, a neighbor gave him the same warning. Sure enough, the house was broken in that night. Despite the same warning, the man of wealth thought of his son as intelligent while approached the neighbor as a suspect of the crime.
Content breeds happiness.
(Chinese original: 知足者常乐; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhīzúzhě cháng lè.)
Insatiability is the source of unhappiness as one can never feel satisfied.
Only when all contribute their firewood can they build up a strong fire.
(Chinese original: 众人拾柴火焰高; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhòngrén shí chái huǒyàn gāo.)
Another way of saying "United and we can stand strong."
Trying to pull a garment together by the front only to tear it at the elbow.
(Chinese original: 捉襟见肘;Chinese Pinyin:  Audio Zhuō-jīn-jiàn-zhǒu.) New
This proverb has two meanings, the original being someone is very poor and the extended meaning is that someone has too many difficulties to cope with. Today, we see the North Korea rattling its nuke mussle, the Iranians rioting in the aftermath of an election, Pakistanese tangled in a war with the Talibans, and the Middle Ease being far from peaceful. The world in general, and the West, in particular, now have too many difficulties to cope with.
The father is responsible for his son's conduct. (Chinese original: 子不教父之过; Chinese Pinyin:  Audio Zǐ bù jiào, fù zhī guò.)
Parents are important in their kids' education.
Ones own meat dishes are not as delicious as others vegetarian ones.
(Chinese original: 自家的肉不香,人家的菜有味; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zì jiā de ròu bù xiāng, rénjiá de cài yǒuwèi.)
One is always ungrateful for one already has.
Release a captured tiger back to its mountains.
(Chinese original: 纵虎归山; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zòng-hǔ-guī-shān.)
This may apply to some people's argument against the release of the terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
A governor may commit arson while the governed are not allowed to light a lamp.
(Chinese original: 只许州官放火,不许百姓点灯; Chinese Pinyin: Audio Zhǐ xǔ zhōuguān fànghuǒ, bù xǔ bǎixìng diǎndīng.)
One may steal a horse while another may not look over the hedge. A bully may do whatever he wants but won't bear the sight of others doing a fraction of what he is doing.


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Last updated: October 13, 2014