Learn Chinese the Easy Way - Chinese Proverbs

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About these Chinese proverbs:
•The proverb recordings below are in Mandarin. The slang are in Cantonese.
• If you don't see the audio links, or if they're not working, please click here for help.
•If you're interested in learning how to write Chinese, here's a mini-tutorial.
• You may also download a proverbs audio transcript for listening in your car.

A small spark can start a fire that burns the whole prairie:

English: stars of fire can start prairie fire
Pinyin EZ: seeng seeng jih woh kuh ee lee-au yew-en
Listen:
Pinyin 2: xīng xīng zhī huǒ liáo yuán
Characters:

 

When a person has ambition, things will get accomplished:

English: have will person , matter indeed accomplish
Pinyin EZ: yoh jih jih , shih jeeng cheung
Listen:
Pinyin 2: yǒu zhì zhe , shì jìng chéng
Characters:

 

I hear I forget - I see I remember - I do I understand:

English: I hear (listen+see) I forget , I see I remember , I do I understand
Pinyin EZ: woh teeng djee-en woh wahng jee , woh kahn djeen-en woh tchee joh , woh dzoh woh lee-au djee-ay
Listen:
Pinyin 2: tīng jiàn wàng , kàn jiàn zhù , zuò liǎo jiě
Simplified: , ,
Traditional: , ,

 

Water can float your boat; But it can also overturn it:

English: water can carry a boat , water can overturn boat
Pinyin EZ: shway nung dzie joh , shway nung foo joh
Listen:
Pinyin 2: shuǐ néng zài zhōu , shuǐ néng zhōu
Simplified: ,
Traditional: ,

 

One's true nature is revealed in times of emotion/crisis:

English: with difficulty see real situation
Pinyin EZ: wahn nahn djee-en jun teeng
Listen:
Pinyin 2: huàn nán jiàn zhēn qíng
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

A long road reveals the strength of your horse; A long time reveals the heart of your friends:

English: road need go know horse   , day long see people heart
Pinyin EZ: loo yau jih mah lee , rih djee-oh djee-en ren seen
Listen:
Pinyin 2: yáo zhī , jiǔ jiàn) rén xīn
Simplified: ,
Traditional: ,

 

The winner of war becomes king; The loser is put into history books as the bad guy:

English: succeed person to be king , defeat person to be bandit
Pinyin EZ: chung jih way wahng , bie jih way koh
Listen:
Pinyin 2: chéng zhe wéi wáng , bài zhe wéi kòu
Simplified: ,
Traditional: ,

 

You cannot judge a person by their appearance:

English: people not can profile
Pinyin EZ: ren boo kuh(ee) mau shee-ahng
Listen:
Pinyin 2: rén mào xiàng
Characters:

 

Temporary separation makes a couple better than newlyweds:

English: long (time) apart win (better than) newlywed
Pinyin EZ: djee-oh bee-ay shung seen wun
Listen:
Pinyin 2: jiǔ bié shèng xīn hūn
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

For one general to achieve his fame, thousands of people will/have died:

English: one general accomplishment succeed ten thousand bones dry up
Pinyin EZ: ee tchee-ahng gohng cheung wahn goo koo
Listen:
Pinyin 2: jiàng gōng chéng wàn
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

You want your horse to be good, but also want him to not need to eat grass:

English: also want (little) horse good , also want little horse not eat hay
Pinyin EZ: yeh yau mah ar hau , yeh yau mah ar boo chih tchau
Listen:
Pinyin 2: yào ér hǎo , yào ér chī cǎo
Simplified: ,
Traditional: ,

 

The participants perspectives are distorted (the bystanders views are correct):

English: on the spot situation person lost, confused
Pinyin EZ: dahng joo jih mee
Listen:
Pinyin 2: dāng zhě
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

Each flower (beauty) is seen differently by each person (beauty is in the eye of the beholder):

English: each flower enter each eye
Pinyin EZ: guh wah roo guh yen
Listen:
Pinyin 2: huā yǎn
Characters:

 

Age and time wait not for people:

English: years month not stay/wait people
Pinyin EZ: sway yew-eh boo lee-oh ren
Listen:
Pinyin 2: suì yuè liú rén
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

When you always rush, you never get to your desired destination/goal:

English: desire speed (expression of contrast) then not attain
Pinyin EZ: yew soo dzoo boo dah
Listen:
Pinyin 2:
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

If you don't go into the tiger's cave, how will you get the cub?

English: not into tiger cave , where/how obtain tiger son
Pinyin EZ: boo roo woo shway , yen duh woo dzih
Listen:
Pinyin 2: xué , yān
Characters: ,

 

Make yourself an example (lead by example):

English: to use body to make/regard as principle
Pinyin EZ: ee shun dzoh dzih
Listen:
Pinyin 2: shēn zuò
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

Other people's wives (always seem to) look prettier than yours:

English: wife is not compared to people pretty
Pinyin EZ: lau poh shih bee ren duh lee-ahng
Listen:
Pinyin 2: lǎo shì bié rén de liàng
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

If you go up the mountain too often, sooner or later you'll meet the tiger:

English: to climb/go up (particle) mountain often in the end meet with tiger
Pinyin EZ: shang duh shahn doh johng yoo woo
Listen:
Pinyin 2: shàng de shān duō zhōng
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

The person who comes to gossip (judge others) is himself a person to be judged:

English: to come speak right+wrong person , so is right+wrong person
Pinyin EZ: lie shoh shih fay jih , bee-en shih shih fay ren
Listen:
Pinyin 2: lái shuō shì fēi zhě , biàn shì shì fēi rén
Simplified: , 便
Traditional: , 便

 

You cannot push a cow's head down to drink water (one must drink of his own will):

English: cow not drink water , cannot press/push cow head low
Pinyin EZ: new boo yeen shway , boo nung ahn new toh dee
Listen:
Pinyin 2: niú yǐn shuǐ , néng àn niú tóu
Simplified: ,
Traditional: ,

 

Over-confident soldiers will certainly be defeated:

English: arrogant soldier certainly be defeated
Pinyin EZ: tchee-au beeng bee bie
Listen:
Pinyin 2: jiāo bīng bài
Simplified:
Traditional:

 

Sickness enters through the mouth; Troubles come out of it:

English: sickness from mouth enter , disaster from mouth come out
Pinyin EZ: beeng tchohng koh roo , woh tchohng koh choo
Listen:
Pinyin 2: bìng cóng kǒu , huò cóng kǒu chū
Simplified: ,
Traditional: ,