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10 Famous Chinese Proverbs To Live By

China’s long history, culture, and traditions have birthed some of the world’s more notable philosophers and leaders. From that many famous proverbs and expressions have been passed down through generations and have now spread throughout the world. Here are 10 of the most famous proverbs we can all learn from.


1) 忍得一时之氣,免得百日之忧。

PiYin: rěn dé yīì zhī qì,miǎn de bǎi rì zhī yōu。

This proverb translates to “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” Meaning that in a situation when you're angry, you should choose to take a step back, be patient, and look at the situation, and you might save yourself from making decisions that can negatively impact your future.

2) 学如逆水行舟,不进则退。

PiYin: xué rú nì shuǐ xíng zhōu ,bú bú jìn zé tuì

This proverb translates to “Studying is like rowing upstream: no advance is to drop back.” This saying not only applies to studying, but to life in general. It's literally saying that if you don’t study you’re not just stagnant, but being pushed backward as others and time move forward. Looking at it in life’s perspective the same concept can be thought of as if you don’t move forward in life and only stand still you will end up being pushed backward as well.

3) 若要人不知,除非己莫为。

PiYin: ruò yào rén bù zhī,chú fēi jǐ mò wéi

This proverb translates to “If you don’t want anyone to know, don’t do it.” This saying means don’t do anything you wouldn’t want people to know. If something is too shameful for people to know, then it shouldn’t be done.


4) 未雨绸缪。

PiYin: wèi yǔ chóumóu

This proverb translates to “Dig the well before you are thirsty.” Meaning to plan ahead of time. Prepare for what you might need in the future.

5) 授人以鱼不如授人以渔。

PiYin: shòu rén yǐ yú bùrú shòu rén yǐ yú

This proverb translates to “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This proverb is trying to say that instead of just giving someone all the answers, it helps them more to teach someone how to find the answers themselves.


6) 饮水思源。

PiYin: yǐn shuǐ sī yuan

This proverb translates to “When you drink the water, remember the spring.” This proverb is a reminder to people to remember the roots of everything. To appreciate everything you receive and that the origin shouldn’t be forgotten.

7) 不怕慢,就怕停。

PiYin: bú pà màn, jiù pà tíng

This proverb translates to “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” To remind people that they shouldn’t worry or stress about not being able to do or learn something fast enough, but just appreciate that they're moving forward and not stagnant.

8) 玉不琢、不成器

PiYin: yù bù zhuó 、bùchéng qì

This proverb translates to “A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man perfected without trials.” Meaning that even if you have great talent, it won’t shine unless you go through difficulties to hone it. Just like how a gem in a rock wouldn’t shine unless someone works to polish it.


9) 宁做有瑕玉,不做无暇石

PiYin: nìng zuò yǒu xiá yù ,bú zuò wúxiá shí

This proverb translates to “A diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections.” This proverb is trying to say that you shouldn’t try to perfect every little flaw about yourself, but hone something that can be great and it won’t matter that you have other small flaws. 

10) 天生我材必有用

PiYin: tiān shēng wǒ cái bì yǒu yòng

This proverb translates to “If heaven made him, earth can find some use for him.” Meaning that everyone in the world has a purpose and reason for being here, and you just have to keep going and find your purpose in the world.

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About the author

Monica is a Canadian-Chinese travel blogger and marketer that has spent time in Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou,and Xitang, Shanghai. When she isn't watching YouTube videos, you can find her writing or creating videos.


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