Chinese Idioms

Chinese proverbs have two “layers”. The superficial message becomes obvious immediately. However, as you read it again, you will discover the deeper meanings from within.

Listed below is my selection of the top 10 Chinese proverbs (歇后语/谚语). They show how creative the Chinese philosophers are and explain why the Chinese philosophers are seen as a source of great wisdom.

  • 画蛇添足
    To add legs when painting a snake. (To gild the lily)
  • 将功成万骨枯
    Tens of thousands of bones will become ashes when one general achieves his fame. (A great person needs others to sacrifice themselves to build his success)
  • 肉包子打狗
    To hit a dog with a meat-bun. (Using the wrong method to approach a problem)
  • 富不过三代
    Wealth can´t past three generations. Meaning: It’s so obvious that the wealth of a family can last for three generation the 2nd may see the value of hard work, the 3rd, forget it).
  • 三个和尚没水喝
    Three monks have no water to drink. (Too many people involved in a matter gets nothing done)
  • 骑驴找马
    Riding a mule while looking for a horse. (Settle for what you have while looking for something better)
  • 冰冻三尺, 非一日之寒
    Three feet of ice is not resulted from one day of freezing weather. (Rome was not built in one day)
  • 世上无难事,只怕有心人
    Nothing is impossible in the world, “the impossible thing” fear only those with perseverance. (Where there’s a will, there’s a way)
  • 滴水之恩当以涌泉相报
    A drop of water shall be returned with a burst of spring. (Even if it was just a little help from others, you should return the favor with all you can when others are in need)
  • 死马当活马医
    Try to rescue the dead horse as if it is still alive. (Do the impossible)

Interested in this topic? Then try this quiz on Chinese idioms.

You might also like: