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10 Chinese Proverbs about Life

The wisdom of Chinese traditional culture doesn’t only reflect on the material civilization. The spiritual civilization is also splendid. Inventions and creations change our life and make miracles, and through these practice, the working people of previous generations obtain a lot of experience about life. Then they summarized them as proverbs, which have been widely circulated among people from long long ago. Sometimes we need these wise sayings to guide us in real life. When we get into trouble we can also draw inspiration from the proverbs about life.

So in this article, we will introduce ten Chinese proverbs about life, which are educative for us. I hope that you can gather pleasure, knowledge and experience from them.


1. 路遥知马力,日久见人心。(lù yáo zhī mă lì, rì jiŭ jiàn rén xīn.)


Just as distance tests a horse’s strength, time can reveal a person’s heart.

This proverb tells us that time tries all. So do not give a subjective assertion on anything blindly. Just let your cognition grow as time goes on.


2. 一口吃不成胖子。(yìkŏu chī bù chéng pàngzi.)

One meal won’t make a fat man.

It means that you can’t build up the constitution on one mouthful. Nobody could get instant benefits, and success comes from the regular accumulation.


3. 冰冻三尺,非一日之寒。(bīng dòng sānchĭ, fēi yírì zhī hán.)

It takes more than one cold day for the river to freeze three feet deep.

There is a proverb in English which is universally known: “Rome was not built in a day.” The meaning of these two proverbs is exactly the same. So keep on working hard and be stick to it. Long-term efforts can contribute to achievement.


4. 衣不如新,人不如故。(yī bù rú xīn, rén bù rú gù.)

Clothing is cherishable when new, but relationship when old.

It tells us that we should cherish those people around us. So please be aware that how important the old friends are and if it is possible, try to reconnect with them.


5. 由俭入奢易,由奢入俭难。(yóu jiăn rùshē yì, yóu shē rùjiăn nán.)

It is easy to you to adapt it if your living condition ascends from economical to luxurious; conversely, that becomes hard.

Life contains many ups and downs, no one can go smoothly. So we should keep a gentle attitude to life. No matter in what kind of living condition, developing a good habit of thrift is necessary. Only in this way can you respond to changes in life calmly.


6. 只要功夫深,铁杵磨成针。(zhĭyào gōngfu shēn, tiě chŭ mó chéng zhēn.)

If you work hard enough at it, you can grind even an iron rod down to a needle.

It means that constant dropping will wear away a stone. So be patient with any issue, and persistent efforts can solve any problem.


7. 用人不疑,疑人不用。(yòng rén bù yí, yí rén bú yòng.)

Do not choose the one you don’t trust and trust the one you chose.

If you are suspicious of somebody, do not employ them or make friends with them, for the doubt between you will lead more troubles. But if you have chosen them as working partners or friends, please give them your basic respect and trust, thus you can establish favorable and harmonious interpersonal relationship.


8. 人不可貌相。(rén bù kě mào xiàng.)

Never judge a person by his appearance.

It presents the same meaning as “never judge a book by its cover”.


9. 姜还是老的辣。(jiāng háishì lăo de là.)

Aged ginger is more pungent.

It means that the older, the wiser. So you’d better not close your ears to the elders, or you may be suffer losses.


10. 耳听为虚,眼见为实。(ěr tīng wéi xǖ, yăn jiàn wéi shí.)

What you hear about may be false; what you see is true.

This proverb tells us that we’d better not believe rumors easily. It’s more reliable if we could verify it by ourselves.

These ten Chinese proverbs about life just show us a restricted view of the wisdom of Chinese people. By learning these Chinese old sayings, I believe that you could get resonance. Because these proverbs present not only Chinese culture and view of value, but also life philosophy which could make sense in the whole world. I hope that we could communicate not only by Chinese language, but also interlinked culture.

If you want to learn more proverbs , you can find corresponding articles in our site.

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Spring Zhang

Spring Zhang (张云梦) earned her Master' s Degree from Beijing Language and Culture University in 2016. A 7- year studying experience majoring in Teaching Chinese as an International Language provided her with a solid and professional foundation as a Chinese teacher. During her time as a student, she also had 4-year experience teaching overseas students in universities, which makes her understand her students' difficulties better. She now lives in Singapore and she devotes herself to Chinese Language education.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I taught English in China for several summers. One of my students used an English expression that is Chinese, like Chop-Chop (which I believe is Chinese for hurry). What is the Chinese term for grovel not unlike the expression above. If one ****-**** the emperor he might save your life.

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