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.
To add legs when painting a snake. (To gild the lily)
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)
To hit a dog with a meat-bun. (Using the wrong method to approach a problem)
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).
Three monks have no water to drink. (Too many people involved in a matter gets nothing done)
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)
Nothing is impossible in the world, “the impossible thing” fear only those with perseverance. (Where there’s a will, there’s a way)
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)
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.