Chinese proverbs about danger

Warnings about the need to prepare for impending danger, and how to cope when a threat is at hand.

Chū shēng rù sǐ [chu sheng ru si]
be born enter death
To risk one's life
Willing to risk one's life. Offer loyalty
Through thick and thin
Chū shēng zhī dú bù pà hǔ [chu sheng zhi du bu pa hu]
early bear this calf not fear tiger
A baby calf does not fear a tiger
Innocent of the dangers involved
Dāo shān huǒ hǎi [dao shan huo hai]
knife mountain fire sea
A mountain of knives; a sea of fires
An extremely difficult and dangerous situation
Fù tāng dǎo huǒ [fu tang dao huo]
wade hot water tread fire
Wade through scolding water and burning flame
Showing great courage and valour
Gǒu jí tiaò qiáng [gou ji tiao qiang]
dog anxious leap wall
A cornered dog will leap over a wall
Extreme circumstances require extreme measures
The end justifies the means
kǒu bá yá [hu kou ba ya]
tiger mouth pull up tooth
To extract a tooth from a tiger's mouth
To be very daring and/or to take unnecessary risks
Jī quǎn bù ning [ji quan bu ning]
chicken dog not stand
Even the chicken and dog are disturbed. General commotion
All in turmoil and excitement
Jiāo tóu làn é [jiao tou lan e]
beaten head burnt brow
Head bruised and brow burned
In terrible trouble
Beaten black and blue
Maó gǔ sǒng rán [mao gu song ran]
hair bone fearful promise
Hair standing on end. Petrified with fright
Petrified with fright
Míng qiāng yì duǒ, àn jiàn nán fáng [ming qiang yi duo, an jian nan fang]
bright spear easy hide, dark arrow difficult defend
It is easy to dodge a spear from in front; but hard to avoid an arrow from behind
It is difficult to guard against furtive attacks
Qí hǔ nán xià [qi hu nan xia]
ride tiger difficult down
When on a tiger's back, it is hard to dismount
When taking risks you have to live with the consequences, it is difficult to back out
He who sups with the Devil should have a long spoon
Qián pà láng hòu pà hǔ [qian pa lang hou pa hu]
before fear wolf behind fear tiger
To fear wolves ahead and tigers behind
To be obsessed by fears of attack from all sides
Lantern Festival, festival, Shanghai
China,Shanghai,Yu Garden,the Lantern Festival 2012 Image by North sea deamer available under a Creative Commons license
Qiáng lóng nán yā dì tóu shé [qiang long nan ya di tou she]
strong dragon difficult press soil head snake
Even a dragon finds it difficult to conquer a snake in its lair
Knowledge of local area and people gives them a distinct advantage even against a strong enemy
Rè guō shàng de mǎ yǐ [re guo shang de ma yi]
heat pot up of ants
As active as ants in a hot pan
In a state of feverish activity and excitement
Sān shí liù jì, zǒu wéi shàng [san shi liu ji, zou wei shang ce]
thirty six sums walk pride up urge
Of the thirty-six stratagems, running away is the best. 'The Thirty-Six Stratagems' were written by the great military thinker Sun Zi
Sometimes it is best to avoid conflict altogether. Flight can be the best option
Devil take the hindmost
Suǒ xiàng wú qián [suo xiang wu qian]
actual direction nothing previous
This way has no problem. Be able to conquer in all directions
Invincible against all opponents
Xuán yá lè mǎ [xuan ya le ma]
precipice rein in horse
Rein in the horse at the cliff edge
Realize danger at the last moment
Yǐ luǎn tóu shí [yi luan tou shi]
use egg strike stone
Try to smash a stone with an egg
Overrate strength and be defeated. An ill-judged contest
Yīn yè fèi shí [yin ye fei shi]
because choke abandon eat
If is foolish to refuse to eat just because of the chance of choking
Life does not come without risks. Risk of failure is not an argument for not trying
China motif
Our proverbs come with lots of information. The modern Chinese characters are followed by the proverb in pinyin. Next, there is a crude character by character transliteration into English, followed by a more accurate English translation. If this is a Chinese proverb alluding to history the meaning may still not be clear in English, so the general meaning follows. Finally some proverbs have fairly direct English equivalents, if so the English proverb is included at the end.

Our translations need improving, so please let us know if you can help.
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Citation information: Chinasage, 'Chinese Proverbs about danger', last updated 4 Sep 2013, Web,

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