Chinese Proverbs

Aug 23, 2013

Chinese and English are two radically different languages, each with a long and rich history. Both languages evolved independently from each other, which makes any similarities all the more interesting. Today we will discuss some Chinese proverbs (諺語 yànyŭ) and idioms (成語 chéngyŭ) that have—almost exact—English equivalents. Does this mean that these expressions are universal truths; identical ideas that have developed on opposite ends of the world? Maybe, let us know what you think.

1.各花入各眼ru hua ru ge yan

Literal translation: Different flowers (花) look good to different eyes (眼).

English equivalent: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

2. 以毒攻毒 yi du gong du

Literal translation: Use poison to fight poison.

English equivalent: Fight fire with fire.

3. 花开堪折直需折 hua kai kan zhe zhi xu zhe

Literal translation: Pick the flowers when they are ready to be picked.

English equivalent: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

4. 岁月不留人 sui yue bu liu ren

Literal translation: Years don’t wait for people.

English equivalent: Time and tide wait for no man.

5. 无风不起浪 wu feng bu qi lang

Literal translation: Without wind there are no waves.

English equivalent: There is no smoke without fire.

6. 入乡随俗 ru xiang sui su

Literal translation: Follow the local custom [when you go to a foreign place].

English equivalent: When in Rome do as the Romans do.

7. 老婆是别人的靓 lao po shi bier en de liang

Literal translation: Other people’s wives always look more beautiful than your own.

English equivalent: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

8. 女人心海底针nv ren xin hai di zhen

Literal translation: A woman’s heart is like a needle at the bottom of the ocean.

English equivalent: A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.

9. 以攻为守 yi gong wei shou

Literal translation: Use offense as defense.

English equivalent: The best defense is a good offense.

10.婚姻是恋爱的坟墓 hun yin shi lian ai de fen mu

Literal translation: marriage is romance’s grave.

English equivalent: Marriage is the death of romance.

11. 一见钟情 yi jian zhong qing
Literal translation: at first sight (一见) fall deeply in love (钟情).

English equivalent: love at first sight

12. 百闻不如一见 bai wen bur u yi jian

Literal translation: Hearing something a hundred times isn’t the same as seeing it once

English equivalent: Seeing is believing.

13.英雄所见略同 ying xiong suo jian lve tong
Literal translation: The views of heroes are similar.

English equivalent: Great minds think alike.


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