Skip to main content

Witty and Wise Chinese Proverbs

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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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,



jojo on April 25, 2014:

here's one:

Scroll to Continue

"Better a little caution than a big regret."

idigwebsites from United States on October 23, 2013:

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

Tabithar from KY on October 10, 2013:

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

Ochala Odol Ochala on October 01, 2013:

Very wonderful collection. Thanks to Chinese

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on July 09, 2013:

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

Kim Jong on April 24, 2013:

"Water can both sustain and sink a ship."

Never have "non loyal suporter"

newjerseybt on April 01, 2013:

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

Tracywang from Guilin,China on June 03, 2012:

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

louromano on March 24, 2012:

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

kezang choden on February 26, 2012:

Really, really loved them.Thanks for sharing

subbuthalavai on February 05, 2012:

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

Dimsiya on December 29, 2011:

this are awesome proverbs

jwilla on December 21, 2011:

very nice indeed it makes u think .:))

seeshma snnazzler on December 05, 2011:

really a great collection of thoughts

shalom on October 28, 2011:

• Do not climb a tree to look for a fish

sound fun, n true

but i don't get the mean?

coriwbaker on October 23, 2011:

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

Xaheen on October 06, 2011:

Those were great! thanks!

Minh Anh on August 25, 2011:

thank you for putting proverbs on the internet.

Corey Joyce on June 14, 2011:

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 from New Zealand on December 05, 2010:

Excellent Collection! Thanks!

days leaper from england on October 29, 2010:

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

Jason on October 17, 2010:

Very nice pictures and proverbs! Thank you! ^^

Zion on October 13, 2010:

truth makes you stronger,wisdom makes things valuabe,knowledge gives the true value of power on September 23, 2010:

an excellent collection and a painstaking effort thanks a lot

MM Del Rosario (author) from NSW, Australia on August 06, 2010:

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


Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on July 28, 2010:

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

Amy on May 22, 2010:

"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.

Abenezer on April 26, 2010:

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...

proverbs man on April 10, 2010:

i know, those are nice pictures.

GojiJuiceGoodness from Roanoke, Virginia on March 30, 2010:

Great hub! I love the pictures!

Moulik Mistry from Burdwan, West Bengal, India on February 18, 2010:

Very nice collection - loved the proverbs...

Skylar C. on January 26, 2010:

Nice quotes and pics, thanks for sharing.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on January 16, 2010:

"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 from Malaysia on January 14, 2010:


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

Sean Leong from Malaysia on January 14, 2010:


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.

Todd on November 27, 2009:

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

climb the tree?

Ankush on November 26, 2009:

Very to-the-point and practical collection!

tdarby on September 02, 2009:

Loved them. Thanks

trish1048 on June 13, 2009:

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

Seán Mc Mahon. on March 29, 2009:

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

heaven on February 18, 2009:

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

jbackus7 on January 25, 2009:

These are great quotes. Nice Hub

Randomized on January 21, 2009:

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

M.D.R on October 30, 2008:

Amazing compalation of chinese Genius through your choice.

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on March 22, 2008:

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

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 09, 2007:

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

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

MM Del Rosario (author) from NSW, Australia on September 25, 2007:

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

jstankevicz from Cave Creek on September 24, 2007:

Very nice collection of proverbs and photos.

Related Articles