List of Old Chinese Proverbs, Idioms (chengyu), and Sayings with Chinese Characters, pin yin, English Translation and Audio

Chinese Idioms – Chinese sayings can be divided into two categories: proverbs (yan yu, see information on proverbs below), and idioms, (cheng yu). Chinese chengyu are very compact, generally consisting of four Chinese characters. Mostly they come from ancient stories, folklore, and history. Much like English idioms, unless you know the context of background and history, they can be difficult to impossible to understand. Students in China are required to study these old Chinese idioms, but find the task overwhelming as Plum Blossom Chinese Proverb ScrollChinese idiom dictionaries list between 5,000 and 20,000 cheng yu. Most Chinese people today don’t know nearly all of the idioms that are listed in the dictionary. In the Chinese idioms list below we have some of the most common Chinese idioms used today.

Chinese calligraphy artists often make use of old Chinese proverbs in their paintings. It is common to see paintings with a beautiful landscape background with mountains, pine trees, bamboo, flowers, or water and a Chinese idiom or proverb in calligraphy in the foreground. This kind of Oriental art is an excellent way to add beauty and wisdom to your home. The words of wisdom can be a reminder to be virtuous, honest, and diligent, and the attractive calligraphy paintings is a way to take this wisdom into your heart. After you study the idioms on this page, be sure to view our calligraphy proverb scrolls. You can choose your favorite proverb from the Chinese proverbs list below for a custom scroll.

Whether you just want to have a look at some of the more famous sayings, or are serious about learning them, you have come to the right place! If you are a foreigner and want to impress your Chinese friends with your language skills, speak a few idioms and they will be awed.

Below we have Chinese idiom characters, pin yin, English translation, and audio of the pronunciation so you can learn how to to speak them yourself! The Chinese symbols were saved in picture format because many computers have not been set to read Chinese.

Chinese Idioms

Chinese Characters Pin Yin Letters English Translation and Explanation Listen to Idiom
1. Chinese Idiom 1 Gong(1) Shi(4) Gong(1) Ban(4) Business is business. Listen to Pronunciation
2.  Hai(3) Di(3) Lao(1) Yue(4)

Get the moon from the bottom of the sea. (This is spoken in a situation when someone wants to do something impossible.)

Listen to Pronunciation
3. Chinese Proverb about contentment Zhi(1) Zu(2) Chang(2) Le(4) Content people are happy all the time. Listen to Pronunciation
4. Chinese Idiom about wise planning Xun(2) Xu(4) Jian(4) Jin(4) Crawl before you walk. Listen to Pronunciation
5. Chinese idiom about relationships Xie(4) Nong(2) Yu(1) Shui(3) Blood is thicker than water. Listen to Pronunciation
6. Chinese Idiom about Perseverance Shui(3) Di(1) Shi(2) Chuan(1) Constant dripping wears away a stone. (If you persevere, even things go slowly you can achieve your goal.) Listen to Pronunciation
7. Chinese Idiom about endurance Sheng(2) Ju(4) Mu(4) Duan(4) If you keep using a small string you can cut down a whole tree. (If you persevere, you can finish a great task.) Listen to Pronunciation
8. Chinese Idiom about love Ai(4) Bu(4) Shi(4) Shou(3) Love and won’t let go. Listen to Pronunciation
9. Chinese Idiom about loving pets Ai(4) Wu(1) Ji(2) Wu(1) If you love me, you have to love my dog too. Listen to Pronunciation
10. Chinese idiom about hating pets Hen(4) Wu(1) Ji(2) Wu(1) If you hate me, you hate my dog. Listen to Pronunciation
11. Chinese idiom about contentment and harmony An(1) Ju(1) Le(4) Ye(4) Live and work in peace and contentment (A good wish given to someone who has moved into a new house) Listen to Pronunciation
12. Chinese good wish for success Bai(2) Shou(3) Qi(3) Jia(1) To build something from nothing. (A good wish given to young people starting out in life) Listen to Pronunciation
13. Chinese Idiom about being outstanding Bai(3) Li(3) Tiao(1) Yi(1) One in a hundred. (Can tell others they are one in a hundred. It means very outstanding.) Listen to Pronunciation
14. Chinese idiom about strength and the indominable spirit Bai(3) Ze(2) Bu(4) Rao(2) Be indomitable. Listen to Pronunciation
15. Chinese Proverb about what makes a good relationship Qu(4) Wei(4) Xiang(1) Tou(2) Similar people will make good friends. Listen to Pronunciation
16. Chinese idiom about one's outlook towards society Zhong(4) Kou(3) Nan(2) Tiao(2) You can’t please everyone. Listen to Pronunciation
17. Chinese idiom about practicing Shu(2) Neng(2) Sheng(1) Qiao(3) Practice makes perfect. Listen to Pronunciation
18. Chinese Idiom about the proper speed Yu(4) Su(4) Bu(4) Da(2) If you rush you will never reach the destination. Listen to Pronunciation
19. Chinese Idiom about War Bing(1) Bu(2) Yan(4) Za(4) All is fair in war. Listen to Pronunciation
20. Chinese Idiom about looks being deceiving Xiao(4) Li(3) Cang(2) Dao(1) A man may smile and smile, but still be a villain. Listen to Pronunciation
21. Chinese Idiom about adjusting to others Ru(4) Xiang(1) Sui(2) Su(2) When in Rome do as the Romans do. Listen to Pronunciation
22. Chinese Idiom about a deceitful person Dian(1) Dao(3) Hei(1) Bai(2) Call black white, white black (Used as an adjective for a dishonest person). Listen to Pronunciation
23. Chinese Idiom about bad reputation lasting Yi(2) Chou(4) Wan(4) Nian(2) A bad reputation lasts for ten thousand years. Listen to Pronunciation
24. Chinese Idiom about a good relationship lasting Liu(2) Fang(1) Bai(3) Shi(4) A good reputation lasts a hundred generations. Listen to Pronunciation
25. Chinese Idiom about the dangers of the tongue Huo(4) Cong(2) Kou(3) Chu(1) A man may dig his grave with his teeth. (One’s words can lead him into disaster.) Listen to Pronunciation
26. Chinese Idiom about adversity Qiong(2) Ze(2) Si(1) Bian(4) Adversity leads to prosperity. Listen to Pronunciation
27. Chinese Idiom about people can't change Ji(1) Xi(2) Nan(2) Gai(3) A leopard cannot change it’s spots. Listen to Pronunciation
28. Chinese Idiom about the Ocean Hai(3) Na(4) Bai(3) Chuan(1) All rivers run into sea. Listen to Pronunciation
29. Chinese Idiom about asking questions Bu(4) Chi(3) Xia(4) Wen(4) It’s not a shame to ask questions. Listen to Pronunciation
30. Chinese Idiom about preparing and being dilligent Ben(4) Niao(3) Xian(1) Fei(1) The slow bird has to start early. Listen to Pronunciation
31. Chinese Idiom about a wise person Bo(2) Gu(3) Tong(1) Jin(1) Has a broad knowledge about the past and present (Can be used to describe someone who is very wise.) Listen to Pronunciation
32. Chinese Idiom about silence Bu(4) Yan(2) Er(2) Yu(4) There is no need to speak out what everyone already knows. Listen to Pronunciation
33. Chinese Idiom about Happiness Bu(4) Yi(4) Le(4) Hu(1) Extremely happy and excited. (Used as an adjective for someone who is feeling especially happy.) Listen to Pronunciation
34. Chinese Idiom about one's dream Chen(1) Xin(1) Ru(2) Yi(4) My dream come true. (Used as an adjective. This is my dream come true house or husband, etc.) Listen to Pronunciation
35. Chinese Idiom about Sincerity Cheng(2) Xin(1) Cheng(2) Yi(4) Do something very sincerely. (Used as an adjective for someone who has pure motives.) Listen to Pronunciation
36. Chinese Idiom about right timing Chen(4) Er(4) Da(3) Tie(3) Strike while the iron is hot Listen to Pronunciation
37. Chinese Idiom about Dilligence Chi(1) Ku(3) Nai(4) Lao(2) Hard-working, diligent Listen to Pronunciation
38. Chinese Idiom about Accuracy Bai(3) Fa(1) Bai(3) Zhong(4) Shoot one hundred shots, hit one hundred bulls eyes. Listen to Pronunciation

Chinese Proverbs – The second category of sayings are proverbs. These are mostly ancient Chinese sayings that date back hundreds or thousands of years, many to the time of Confucius. Some of these old Chinese proverbs were popularized by scholars, but many were born in the rural areas by common farmers or workers. Others came out of China’s classical literature. Often times they are composed of two sentences. As soon as you speak the first sentence, people will know the second. Chinese proverb dictionaries list roughly 4000 proverbs.

Chinese Proverbs

Chinese Characters Pin Yin Letters English Translation and Explanation Listen to Idiom
39. Chinese Proverb about initiative Tian(1) Zhu(4) Zi(4) Zhu(4) Zhe(3) God helps those who help themselves. Listen to Pronunciation
40. Chinese Proverb about persevering Shuo(1) Qi(3) Lai(2) Rong(2) Yi(4), Zuo(4) Qi(3) Lai(2) Nan(2) Easier said than done. Listen to Pronunciation
41. Chinese Proverb about being careful Shi(1) Zhi(1) Hao(2) Li(2), Miu(4) Zhi(1) Qian(1) Li(3) One false step could be disastrous. Listen to Pronunciation
42. about steadiness Wen(3) Za(1) Wen(3) Da(3) Wu(2) Wang(3) Er(2) Bu(4) Sheng(4) Slow and steady wins the race. Listen to Pronunciation
43. Chinese Proverb about experience Shi(2) Jian(4) Chu(1) Zhen(1) Zhi(1) Experience is the mother of wisdom. Listen to Pronunciation
44. about learning Huo(2) Dao(4) Lao(3) Xue(2) Dao() Lao(3) It’s never too old to learn Listen to Pronunciation
45. about a long journey Qian(1) Li(3) Zhi(1) Xing(2) Shi(3) Yu(1) Zu(2) Xia(4) A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Listen to Pronunciation
46. Chinese Proverb about carefulness San(1) Si(1) Er(2) Hou(4) Xing(1) Look before you leap. Listen to Pronunciation
47. Chinese Proverb about endurance Wei(3) Ye(4) Fei(1) Yi(1) Ri(4) Zhi(1) Gong(1) Rome was not built in a day. Listen to Pronunciation
48. Chinese Proverb about finishing what you start Ying(1) Xiong(2) Suo(3) Jian(4) Lue(4) Tong(2) Great minds thinks alike. Listen to Pronunciation
49. Chinese Proverb about finishing Hao(3) De(1) Kai(1) Shi(2) Deng(3) Yu(1) Cheng(2) Gong(1) De(1) Well begun half done. Listen to Pronunciation
50. Chinese Proverb about forgetting Yan(3) Bu(2) Jian(4) Xin(1) Bu(2) Nian(4) Out of sight out of mind. Listen to Pronunciation
51. Chinese Proverb about finding out the facts Shi(4) Shi(2) Sheng(4) Yu(1) Xiong(2) Bian(4) Facts speak louder than words. Listen to Pronunciation
52. Chinese Proverb about finishing first things first Fan(2) Shi(4) You(3) Qin(1) Zhong(4) Huan(3) Ji(2) First things first. Listen to Pronunciation
53. Chinese Proverb about bad news Hao(3) Shi(4) Bu(4) Chu(1) Men(2), Hua(4) Shi(4) Chuan(2) Qian(1) Li(3) Good news stays home, ill news travels fast. Listen to Pronunciation
54. Chinese Proverb about friendship Huan(4) Nan(4) Jian(4) Zhen(1) Qing(2) A friend in need is a friend indeed. Listen to Pronunciation
55. Chinese Proverb about home Jing(1) Wo(1) Ying(2) Wo(1) Bu(4) Ru(2) Zi(1) Ji(3) Jia(1) Cao(3) Wo(1) East or west, home is best. Listen to Pronunciation
56. Chinese Proverb about character Jun(1) Zi(1) Zai(4) De(2) Bu(2) Zai(4) Yi(1) It’s not the gay coat that makes the gentleman. Listen to Pronunciation
57. Chinese Proverb about fishing Shou(4) Zhi(1) Yi(3) Yu(2) Bu(4) Ru(2) Shou(4) Zhi(1) Yi(3) Yu(2) Teach him how to fish is better than just giving him a fish. Listen to Pronunciation
58. Chinese Proverb about wisdom coming with age Jiang(1) Shi(4) Lao(3) De(1) La(4) The older you get the wiser you get. Listen to Pronunciation
59. Chinese Proverb about idleness Shao(4) Zhuang(4) Bu(4) Nu(3) Li(4) Lao(3) Da (4) Tu(3) Shang(1) Bei(2) Idle when a youth, needy when an elder. Listen to Pronunciation
60. Chinese Proverb about sowing and reaping Zhong(4) Gua(1) De(2) Gua(1) Zhong(4) Dou(4) De(2) Dou(4) You reap what you sow. Listen to Pronunciation
61. Chinese Proverb about cats Hei(1) Mao(1) Bai(2) Mao(1) Zhua(1) Dao(4) Lao(2) Shu(3) Jiu(4) Shi(4) Hao(3) Mao(1) No matter black or white cat, whoever can catch mice is good cat. Listen to Pronunciation
62.Chinese Proverb about being careful with words Yi(4) Yan(2) Ji(4) Chu(1) Si(4) Ma(3) Nan(2) Zui(1) Once you’ve said something, you can’t take it back. Listen to Pronunciation
63. Chinese Proverb about relationships Cha(2) Qi(2) You(3) Zhi(1) Qi(2) Ren(2) A man is known by the company he keeps. Listen to Pronunciation
64. Chinese Proverb about respect Lao(3) Wu(2) Lao(3) Yi(3) Ji(2) Ren(2) Zhi(1) Lao(3) While we respect and take care of our older members, don’t forget to do the same to the olds of others’. Listen to Pronunciation
65. Chinese Proverb about the young You(4) Wu(2) You(4) Yi(3) Ji(2) Ren(2) Zhi(1) You(4) While we teach and take care of our young members, don’t forget to do the same to young of others. Listen to Pronunciation
66. Chinese Proverb about fishing Yi (1)Xin(1) Bu(4) Neng(2) Er(4) Yong(4) A man can not spin and reel at the same time. Listen to Pronunciation
67. Chinese Proverb about about serving two masters Yi(1) Pu(2) Bu(4) Neng(2) Shi(4) Er(4) Zhu(3) A man can not serve two masters. Listen to Pronunciation
68. Chinese Proverb about good things Tian(1) Xia(4) Mei(2) You(3) Bu(4) San(4) De(1) Yan(2) Xi(2) All good things come to an end. Listen to Pronunciation
69. Chinese Proverb about planning Tiao(3) Tiao(3) Da(4) Lu(4) Tong(1) Luo(2) Ma(3) All roads lead to Rome. Listen to Pronunciation
70. Chinese Proverb about directions Yi(1) Ri(2) Zhi(1) Ji(4) Zai(4) Yu(1) Chen(2) A day’s plan starts with the morning. Listen to Pronunciation
71. Chinese Proverb about wise planning for the day Yi(1) Nian(2) Zhi(1) Ji(4) Zai(4) Yu(1) Chun(1) A year’s plan starts with spring. Listen to Pronunciation
72. Chinese Proverb about planning for the year Qing(2) Ren(2) Yan(3) Li(3) Chu(1) Xi(1) Shi(1) Beauty lies in the love’s eyes. Listen to Pronunciation
73. Chinese Proverb about beauty and love Xiao(3) Xin(1) Shi(3) De(2) Wan(4) Nian(2) Chuan(2) Caution can help you to drive for ten thousandyears. Listen to Pronunciation
74. Chinese Proverb about caution Lai(2) Er(2) Bu(4) Wang(3) Fei(2) Li(3) Ye(1) It’s not polite just receive gifts but not return any. Listen to Pronunciation
75. Chinese Proverb about gift giving Qiang(2) Zhong(1) Zi(4) You(3) Qiang(2) Zhong(1) Shou(3) There is always someone better than the good. Listen to Pronunciation
76. Chinese Proverb about doing good to others Zi(2) Suo(3) Bu(2) Yu(4) Wu(4) Shi(1) Yu(1) Ren(2) Listen to Pronunciation
77. Chinese Proverb about doing things quickly Ji(1) Bu(4) Ke(3) Shi(1) Shi(2) Bu(4) Zai(4) Lai(2) Do it now, or you would lose the good chance. Listen to Pronunciation
78. Chinese Proverb about solving problems Che(1) Dao(4) Shan(1) Qian(2) Zi(4) You(3) Lu(4) There is always a solution for the problem. Listen to Pronunciation