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Witty and Wise Chinese Proverbs

Updated on November 25, 2016

Here is a delightful collection of Chinese proverbs which gives us a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Chinese people. Their wise sayings are drawn from experience of their daily lives, observation on subjects ranging from friendship to common sense and folk wisdom. The value of Chinese proverbs has increased with the passing of the ages because they ring as true today as they were thousands of years ago.

Reading Pavilion at Chinese Garden of Friendship - Darling Harbour
Reading Pavilion at Chinese Garden of Friendship - Darling Harbour | Source

  • A single spark can set a prairie on fire.
  • Water can both sustain and sink a ship.
  • Count not what is lost, but what is left.
  • If there is a strong general there will be no weak soldiers.
  • To extend your life by a year take one less bite each meal.
  • Peace only comes when reason rules.
  • Even the tallest tower started form the ground.
  • Eloquence provides only persuasion, but truth buys loyalty.
  • Wisdom is attained by learning when to hold one's tongue.
  • A single tree cannot make a forest

2007 Chinese New Year's Parade -Sydney.
2007 Chinese New Year's Parade -Sydney. | Source

  • If one eats less one will taste more.
  • One hand alone cannot clap, it takes two to quarrel.
  • It does not matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.
  • Cowards have dreams, brave men have visions
  • Learning is like the horizon; there is no limit.
  • The old horse will know the way
  • A good friend shields you from the storm
  • Change the skin, wash the heart
  • Sow melon, reap melon; sow beans, reap beans.
  • One sings, all follow.

Chinatown - Melbourne
Chinatown - Melbourne | Source

  • Fortune has a fickle heart and a short memory.
  • Harsh words and poor reasoning never settle anything.
  • Dangerous enemies will meet again in narrow streets.
  • Better to bend in the wind than to break.
  • Do not kill the hen for her eggs.
  • First attain skill; creativity comes later.
  • Make the cap fit the head.
  • A single beam cannot support a great house.
  • Do not be concerned with things outside your door.
  • Wise men may not be learned; learned men may not be wise.

Chinese Round Pavillion- Darling Harbour, Sydney.
Chinese Round Pavillion- Darling Harbour, Sydney. | Source

  • Crows are black the world over.
  • Do not lift a rock only to drop it on your own foot
  • Kill the chicken to frigthen the monkey
  • Wait long, strike fast.
  • Do not wait until you're thirsty to dig a well
  • One who would pick the roses must bear with thorns
  • Failure is the mother of success.
  • Do not climb a tree to look for a fish
  • Only time and effort brings proficiency
  • Distance tests the endurance of a horse; time reveals a man's character.

Chinese Garden of Friendship - Darling Harbour , Sydney
Chinese Garden of Friendship - Darling Harbour , Sydney | Source
  • Man proposes and God disposes.
  • Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.
  • It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
  • Man fools himself. He prays for a long life and he fears old age.
  • A really great man never puts away the simplicity of a child.
  • Only joy scatters a hundred griefs.
  • Drinking the water of a well, one should never forget who dug it.
  • Only he that has traveled the road knows where the holes are deep.
  • Honest advice is unpleasant to the ear.
  • An open book benefits your mind.

  • Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
  • Heaven has a road, but no one travels it, hell has no gate but men will dig to get there.
  • Preserve the old, but know the new.
  • A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.
  • A closed mind is like a closed book, just a block of wood.
  • To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.
  • It is not necessary to light a candle to the sun.
  • Talk doesn't cook rice
  • If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.
  • He who asks is a fool for 5 minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.

More Chinese Proverbs and Sayings

  • Sayings of Confucius
    Sayings from a wise man, born in 551 BCE in a small State of Lu and became one of China's great philosopher.
  • 38 Witty and Wise Chinese Sayings
    Chinese sayings are simple, short and witty but they give a direct message that will reach the heart and mind of the readers, they are condensed truth that are evident in our daily life,



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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Really a great collection of thoughts, love this one "Water can both sustain and sink a ship." Share useful page here famous Chinese sayings

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      here's one:

      "Better a little caution than a big regret."

    • idigwebsites profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      My most favorite: "Do not lift a rock only to drop it on your own foot" :)

    • Tabithar profile image


      6 years ago from KY

      I love inspirational proverbs/quotes. Clicking the follow button! :)

    • profile image

      Ochala Odol Ochala 

      6 years ago

      Very wonderful collection. Thanks to Chinese

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Very enjoyable! This one was one of my favorites: •Do not be concerned with things outside your door. Thanks for compiling this together!

    • profile image

      Kim Jong 

      6 years ago

      "Water can both sustain and sink a ship."

      Never have "non loyal suporter"

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Birds with wet feet, don't fly high at night.

    • Tracywang profile image


      7 years ago from Guilin,China

      Good proverbs, love this one "Water can both sustain and sink a ship." Share useful page here famous Chinese sayings

    • louromano profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nice pictures and proverbs! Thank you. Great hub.

    • profile image

      kezang choden 

      7 years ago

      Really, really loved them.Thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Not only a nice, but a very wise collection of wise and witty proverbs. Origin:Chinese. Usage:Universal. Thanks a lot.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      this are awesome proverbs

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      very nice indeed it makes u think .:))

    • profile image

      seeshma snnazzler 

      8 years ago

      really a great collection of thoughts

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      • Do not climb a tree to look for a fish

      sound fun, n true

      but i don't get the mean?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome proverbs. Thanks for collecting and sharing them. I'll also share them.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Those were great! thanks!

    • profile image

      Minh Anh 

      8 years ago

      thank you for putting proverbs on the internet.

    • profile image

      Corey Joyce 

      8 years ago

      You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however I to find this topic to be actually one thing that I feel I might by no means understand. It seems too complicated and very large for me. I'm having a look forward for your next publish, I'll try to get the cling of it!

    • pennyofheaven profile image


      9 years ago from New Zealand

      Excellent Collection! Thanks!

    • days leaper profile image

      days leaper 

      9 years ago from england

      It is very true that these fellows were and are a clever people. I feel I've learned something here. Thank You.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very nice pictures and proverbs! Thank you! ^^

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      truth makes you stronger,wisdom makes things valuabe,knowledge gives the true value of power

    • profile image 

      9 years ago

      an excellent collection and a painstaking effort thanks a lot

    • MM Del Rosario profile imageAUTHOR

      MM Del Rosario 

      9 years ago from NSW, Australia

      I enjoy making this hub and I am continuosly adding more quotes to it .... thanks for all your inspiring comments..


    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Peace comes when reason rules is my favorite. Great collectin of quotes.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      "Distance tests the endurance of a horse; time reveals a man's character."

      My favorite quote, but this is not entirely accurate.

      "??????????" originally, I believe (if I'm translating correctly) it's more like, "On a distant road you know a horse's strength; through long days you see a person's heart."

      Then again, I'm not a professional translator, and I'm still learning Chinese! :]

      Thank you for your efforts! I enjoyed reading.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow. What a beauty they are, fantastic delightful colorful, other too..... the give some impression upon once life. It make to diversify my knowledge too...

    • profile image

      proverbs man 

      9 years ago

      i know, those are nice pictures.

    • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image


      9 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      Great hub! I love the pictures!

    • Moulik Mistry profile image

      Moulik Mistry 

      9 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

      Very nice collection - loved the proverbs...

    • profile image

      Skylar C. 

      9 years ago

      Nice quotes and pics, thanks for sharing.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      10 years ago from south Florida

      "Learning is like the horizon - there is no limit" - that's my favorite of the Chinese proverbs. And I plan to use it when soliciting new executive coaching clients. Thank you for expanding my horizon.

    • Sean Leong profile image

      Sean Leong 

      10 years ago from Malaysia


      What the proverb means is, a person uses the wrong method to accomplish a task.

    • Sean Leong profile image

      Sean Leong 

      10 years ago from Malaysia


      I think "A single spark can set a prairie on fire" is a quotation by Mao Zedong,a Chinese revolutionary, political theorist and former Communist leader of the People's Republic of China and "It does not matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice" is a quotation by Deng Xiaoping, a prominent Chinese politician, statesman, theorist, diplomat and former leader of the Communist Party of China.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What if you cant see the fish from the waters edge. :)

      climb the tree?

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very to-the-point and practical collection!

    • tdarby profile image


      10 years ago

      Loved them. Thanks

    • trish1048 profile image


      10 years ago

      I especially like 'count not what is lost, but what is left'. I too share your love of quotes.

    • profile image

      Se├ín Mc Mahon. 

      10 years ago

      Long and thin may fit in, but short and thick did the the thrick.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      that s really interesting... i would like to read more those things.

    • jbackus7 profile image


      10 years ago

      These are great quotes. Nice Hub

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Chinese sayings are catchy and true! Great work with the compalation.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Amazing compalation of chinese Genius through your choice.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      A lot of wisdom here. Enjoyed reading these old Chinese proverbs. Nice photos, too.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Wonderful!! And the one I took for my company motto:

      When you reach the top of the Mountain, climb higher!

    • MM Del Rosario profile imageAUTHOR

      MM Del Rosario 

      12 years ago from NSW, Australia

      Thanks for dropping by i am glad you enjoy the proverbs and the photos.

    • jstankevicz profile image


      12 years ago from Cave Creek

      Very nice collection of proverbs and photos.


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