What are the most well known Chinese proverbs?


Chinese proverbs have been passed down through the decades and are an essential element of Chinese culture, providing wisdom and insight. These pithy, short proverbs have gained widespread recognition and respect, not just in China but also outside. The most famous Chinese proverbs provide advice on a variety of subjects, including success, love, and personal development.

The wisdom of great thinkers like Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Sun Tzu is frequently incorporated into these proverbs, which have their roots in ancient Chinese philosophy and literature. They provide a glimpse into Chinese society’s values and beliefs, emphasizing the priority put on morality, community, and family.

The best Chinese proverbs for transmitting to future generations are frequently condensed and simple to memorize. These proverbs’ continuing relevance and all-encompassing appeal are evidenced by the fact that many of them have even been translated into other languages.

We will examine some of the most well-known Chinese proverbs and their meanings in this response, looking at how they provide wisdom and direction to people all across the world. The wisdom contained in these sayings will continue to inspire and shape future generations.

Well Known Chinese Proverbs

Chinese proverbs, or (yàn y), are frequently utilized to obtain knowledge or understanding on subjects that could seem confusing. These proverbs from China cover a wide range of subjects and are scattered across the Chinese language.

Proverbs are frequently borrowed from literary works or the sayings of philosophers to convey common wisdom. There is probably a proverb that you can connect to, whether you’re talking about love, life, death, or money.

The saying, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn” is particularly applicable when it comes to learning Chinese proverbs because it highlights the significance of active engagement and participation in the learning process, which is essential to truly understanding and internalizing the wisdom of these well-known sayings.

https://illuminatingfacts.com/tell-me-and-i-forget-teach-me-and-i-remember-involve-me-and-i-will-learn-chinese-proverb/ (use the keyword “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn”)

Learn and share these popular Chinese sayings about love and life with other people especially those who are studying Chinese.

Chinese Proverbs About Love and Romance

Who doesn’t adore the idea of love, according to love proverbs? You can convey your love for someone (or something) simply by using these proverbs.

 1. 一見鍾情/一见钟情 (yī jiàn zhōnɡ qínɡ)

While it’s usual in the English language to use the expression “Love at first sight” when referring to a person, this Chinese saying or idiom can also be used to describe an object. “First sight” and “fall in love,” respectively, are the two definitions of the phrase.

2. 各花入各眼 (gè huā rù gè yǎn)

The English saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is almost equivalent to the Chinese proverb “Different flowers catch different eyes.” For instance, you can tell your friend “各花入各眼” if someone in a crowd catches your attention but you can truly explain why.”各花” stands for “individual flower,” “入” for “enter,” and “各眼” for “individual eye,” respectively.

3. 厮守终身 (sī shǒu zhōng shēn)

This sweet Chinese proverb is the ideal thing to say to the person you care about most in the world. Each part of the statement has a distinct meaning and can be translated as “Stay together for life.” “守” can indicate “guardianship or companionship,” “廝” can mean “mutual or reciprocal,” and “終身” can mean “lifetime or forever.”

4. 有緣千里來相會/有缘千里来相会 (Yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiāng huì)

For the passionate soul, this love proverb indicates that distance cannot separate two souls who are intended to be together: “Fate brings together those that are a thousand miles apart.” Destiny is just one of the many things that might bring two people together.

5. 藕斷絲連/藕断丝连 (Ǒu duàn sī lián)

Breakups do occasionally occur, but that doesn’t imply you weren’t in love! If you’ve ever eaten lotus, you know that there are tiny strings when you bite off a piece, hence this proverb/idiom states “a broken lotus root is connected by its strings.” Similar to this, even after a breakup, two individuals are still inextricably linked by their hearts.

6. 有情飲水飽,無情食飯飢/有情饮水饱,无情食饭饥 (Yǒuqíng yǐnshuǐ bǎo, wúqíng shí fàn jī)

Chinese proverb: “With love, water is enough; without love, food doesn’t satisfy.” Love is satisfying. Even the most challenging scenario can become manageable when you’re in love. Everything can seem meaningless and empty without love.

Chinese Proverb

Chinese Proverbs About Life You Should Know

Unlike tongue twisters, which are just meant to be humorous, we occasionally need a small dose of reality to keep us in mind. Anyone can connect to the topics covered in these proverbs.

1. 路遙知馬力,日久見人心/路遥知马力,日久见人心 (lù yáo zhī mǎlì, rì jiǔ jiàn rénxīn)

According to this saying about life, time can expose the reality of existence. The saying goes, roughly translated, “As distance tests a horse’s strength, time reveals a person’s heart.” Over time, the truth will come to light, so don’t believe or assume things out of the blue. Allow time to guide you to your destination.

2. 冰凍三尺,非一日之寒/冰冻三尺,非一日之寒 (bīngdòng sān chǐ, fēi yī rì zhī hán)

This is the Chinese equivalent of the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” which is used in English. Keeping this in mind, wonderful things take time. You can accomplish everything you set out to do with a little willpower, determination, and hope. It is possible to translate this saying as “It takes more than one cold day for the river to freeze three feet deep.”

3. 人不可貌相 (rén bùkě màoxiàng)

Another proverb that you’ve probably heard in English is this one. This proverb, which translates to “People aren’t their appearance,” is the Chinese equivalent of the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” If you ever find yourself making a snap judgment based on someone’s appearance, keep this proverb in mind to help keep you grounded.

4. 耳聽為虛,眼見為實/耳听为虚,眼见为实 (Ěr tīng wèi xū, yǎnjiàn wéi shí)

It’s better to verify anything for yourself because sometimes what we hear may not be real (i.e. hearsay), according to the adage “seeing is believing.” Knowing the facts directly is more trustworthy than learning them through rumors.

5. 身正不怕影子斜 (shēn zhèng bùpà yǐngzi xié)

Anyone who is goodhearted isn’t terrified of appearing wicked, according to the saying “A straight man isn’t afraid of a crooked shadow.” In essence, if you are confident that you are doing morally, you won’t be afraid to hear or see evidence of the opposite.

6. 廣交友,無深交/广交友,无深交 (guǎng jiāoyǒu, wú shēnjiāo)

Some people in life might be content with a small group of people. According to this Chinese proverb, people who have many friends don’t have any close relationships with any of them. Spreading yourself too thin might make it difficult to build meaningful relationships with other people. This is similar to the English proverb “A friend to all is a friend to none.”

Picture worth 1000

Collections and Sources

Wesleyan missionary William Scarborough noted that there had previously been very few European-language works on the subject, citing Justus Doolittle’s 1872 Vocabulary and Handbook of the Chinese Language, Paul Hubert Perny’s 1869 Proverbes Chinois, and John Francis Davis’ 1823 Chinese Moral Maxims as the most comprehensive works on the topic to that point. He also noted that there weren’t many collections available in Chinese. He gave the titles Chien-pên-hsien-wen (“A Book of Selected Virtuous Lore”), also known as Tsêng-Huang (“Great Collection”), and Ming-hsin-pao-chien (“A Precious Mirror to Throw Light on the Mind”) to two such collections.

He noted that the proverbs themselves are numerous, with all of China likely having access to around 20,000 of them, a number that contemporary researchers concur with. His sources for these sayings included the Yu-hsio (“Youth’s Instructor”), the 1859 Chieh-jen-i, the 1707 Chia-pao-chulan-ci (“Complete Collection of Family Treasures”), the Sheng-yu (“Sacred Edict”), the Kan-ying p’ien (“Book of Rewards and Punishments”), and the Chutzu-chia-yen (“The Household Rules of the Philosopher Chu”).

In the middle to late 20th century, there were an unprecedented number of dictionaries, glossaries, and academic studies of Chinese proverbs due to their contemporary popularity in Chinese literature.

Modern Popularity

Contrasted with the declining use of proverbs in Western cultures, Chinese proverbs are frequently used in everyday speech even in the twenty-first century. The political events of the 20th century in China can be used to explain their prolonged presence in an era of more widespread literacy and written communication. As was previously noted, they have traditionally been a part of a long-standing oral culture among the Chinese people.

The May 4th Movement encouraged the use of common speech over literary Chinese while also incorporating proverbs into modern Chinese literature, as demonstrated by Cheng Wangdao’s inclusion of proverbs in the chapter on quotations in his 1932 Introduction to Rhetoric and by Hu Shih’s 1917 Tentative Suggestions for Literary Reform’s parting advice to writers: “Do not avoid popular expressions.” The Potato School of writing even required the use of proverbs.

Another reason was the deliberate employment of proverbs by political figures like Mao Zedong, who spoke largely to rural audiences, as a rhetorical device. In his 1942 Talks on Literature and Art at the Yan’an Forum, Mao encouraged others to follow his example by emphasizing to writers the significance of using folk idioms and proverbs to make their writing understandable to the majority of their audience.


Chinese proverbs are rich and reflect Chinese values, beliefs, and ways of life. The list mentioned above includes some of the most well-known Chinese proverbs. People from all across the world continue to be inspired by and gain wisdom from these proverbs.