Chinese proverbs keeping bad things at bay

A set of proverbs that warn about evil and demonstrate how it can be defeated.

Chòu bù kě dāng [chou bu ke dang]
smelly not can equal
Worst ever smell
To give off an unbearable stink
Thu 4th May

Preserving Confucian Temples

In this article in China Daily the role of Confucian temples is examined. Should the remaining temples be run to draw in tourists or return to be places where Confucian doctrine is studied? Under Mao Zedong, most Confucian temples were torn down and the monks and officials dismissed. Confucius was held up as the epitome of all that was backward and out-dated. Gradually, since about 1990 Confucius has come back into prominence. The Chinese government supports the many Confucius Institutes springing up all over the world to promote Chinese culture and education. He is now seen as an ancient father figure representing the distinctive Chinese culture and philosophy.

A report on the status of the remaining 546 Confucian sites highlights the difficulties in maintaining them. The province of Hunan has the most Confucian academies including Yuelu that has been going for over a thousand years. With massive redevelopment of towns and cities all over China the temple sites are coming under increasing pressure from development.

There are Confucian sites outside China: Vietnam, Japan and Korea and many Asian tourists come to visit the Chinese temples. Of particular interest is the vast temple complex at Confucius' birthplace Qufu which is still inhabited by his descendents.

Qufu, temple, Confucius, Shandong
Lingxing Gate of Qufu Confucian Temple, Qufu, Shandong. January 2009.
Image by Sean Shih available under a Creative Commons license

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Dǎ cǎo jīng ché [da cao jing che]
strike grass startled snake
Striking the grass alerts the snake
Unwisely alerting an enemy
尺,魔
Dào gāo chǐ, mó gāo zhàng [dao gao yi chi, mo gao yi zhang]
virtue tall one foot, devil tall ten foot
Where good flourishes, evil can flourish even more
There is always opportunity for evil to take root
Daǒ gē xiāng xiàng [dao ge xiang xiang]
fall spear mutual direction
Attack own party
Betray one's own side
è guàn mǎn yíng [e guan man ying]
evil string of cash everywhere full
If evil was put like discs on a string it would be always be full. Traditionally coins had holes in them and they were strung together.
Evil is all around
è rén xiān gàozhuàng [e ren xian gaozhuang]
evil person first tell complaint
The offender is the first to complain
The perpetrator diverts attention by being the first to complain
Crying wolf
恩将仇
ēn jiāng chóu baò [en jiang chou bao]
kindness will enemy repay
Repay kindness with hostility
Reject kindness
Biting the hand that feeds it
逢奸碎,
Féng jiān nìng kě yù suì, qì zhèng bù qiú wǎ quán [feng jian ning ke yu sui, qi zheng bu qiu wa quan]
come upon traitor stand approve jade, spirit straight no beg tile complete
In face of evil, rather be a broken jade than an intact brick
It is better to die with honor than surrender
改邪
Gǎi xié guī zhèng [gai xie gui zheng]
change evil return correct
Abandon evil and turn to good
Reject bad ways and turn to the good
Turn over a new leaf
Gǒu měng jiǔ suān [gou meng jiu suan]
dog fierce wine acid
A fierce dog bankrupts a liquor store. A story of a shopkeeper who lost all his customers due to his ferocious dog
Bad company discourages true friends
Hài qún zhī mǎ [hai qun zhi ma]
injure crowd this horse
Bring injury to the group
The bad person of the family
Bad apple; Black sheep

Mukden

In old books you may see references to the city of Mukden. This is the Manchu name for their former capital city of Shenyang in Liaoning, before the conquest of China to form the Qing dynasty. The name Mukden dropped from use when Manchuria was recaptured from the Japanese in 1945.
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视眈眈
Hǔ shì dān dān [hu shi dan dan]
tiger look at stare stare
A tiger's stare. To look very covetously
To eye enviously
济私
Jiǎ gōng jì sī [jia gong ji si]
false public aid self
Swindle public to help yourself
Use public office for personal gain
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely
蜜腹剑
Kǒu mì fù jiàn [kou mi fu jian]
mouth honey belly sword
Mouth of honey, heart of daggers
Disguising ill intent with honeyed words. Deceitful and dangerous
Láng xīn gǒu fèi [lang xin gou fei]
wolf feeling dog lungs
Wolf aggression, dog bark. Ungrateful; cruel and unscrupulous
Ungrateful and unscrupulous
落井
Luò jǐng xià shí [luo jing xia shi]
fall well throw stone
After someone falls into a well throw in a stone
To add needlessly to someone's misfortunes
Hit a man when he is down
做亏,
Méi zuò kuī xīn shì, bù pà guǐ jiào mén [mei zuo kui xin shi, bu pa gui jiao men]
haven't made damage heart affair, no fear devil call gate
Clear conscience does not fear a knock at midnight
If you have done nothing wrong, there is no worry over retribution
As you make your bed, so you must lie upon it
,谎
rén yǔ, huǎng yán pà lǐ [ni ren pa yu, huang yan pa li]
clay figure fear rain, lie speech fear logic
A mud figure fears rain; a lie fears truth
Over time lies will eventually be laid bare
Truth will out
,
Rén è rén tiān bù pà, rén shàn rén tiān bù qī [ren e ren pa tian bu pa, ren shan ren qi tian bu qi]
person evil person fear heaven no fear, person good person cheat heaven no deceive
Evil people are dreaded by other people not by heaven; good people may be cheated by people but not by heaven
Even though evil works may go unpunished on earth, good works do not go unnoticed in heaven. Reward for good may not be immediately received.
Gansu, lake, desert
The famous crescent lake near Dunhuang, Gansu
Shān fēng diǎn huǒ [shan feng dian huo]
incite wind spot fire
Create wind and fire
Create a lot of trouble
曹操,曹操
Shuō Cáo Cāo, Cáo Cāo dào [shuo Cao Cao, Cao Cao dao]
speak Cao Cao, Cao Cao arrives
Speak of Cao Cao and he arrives. 'Cao Cao ' of the Three Kingdoms is the embodiment of evil.
Someone who you are talking about happens to appear unexpectedly
Speak of the devil and he is sure to appear
Tiān xià wū yā bān hēi [tian xia wu ya yi ban hei]
world black crow one kind black
Crows everywhere are all black
Bad people are all the same. You find bad people everywhere
偷梁换柱
Tōu liáng huàn zhù [tou liang huan zhu]
steal girder change post
Steal beams and replace them with poles
To carry out a crafty deception
窝边
Tù zi bù chī wō biān cǎo [tu zi bu chi wo bian cao]
rabbit no eat burrow side grass
Rabbits do not eat the grass around their burrows
Thieves do not steal from neighbors
Xiaò lǐ cáng dāo [xiao li cang dao]
smile inside conceal knife
A dagger concealed in a smile
Malice concealed by apparent friendliness
Xié mén wāi daò [xie men wai dao]
evil people crooked way
Evil people in crooked ways
Dishonesty and deceit
Xīn ruò sǐ huī [xin ruo si hui]
heart like dead ash
Heart reduced to ashes
Desperately unhappy
,
Xué hǎo sān nián, xué huài sān tiān [xue hao san nian, xue huai san tian]
study well three year, study bad three days
It takes three years to learn well; it takes only three days to degrade
Falling into bad ways is far easier than keeping to the good
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
加霜
Xuě shàng jiā shuāng [xue shang jia shuang]
snow up add frost
Add frost to snow
To add to misfortunes unnecessarily
Add insult to injury
Yán ér wú xìn [yan er wu xin]
word but nothing true
Speak but not mean it
To go back on one's word
zhèng yā bǎi xié [yi zheng ya bai xie]
one correct flatten hundred evil
Justice can overpower a hundred evils
Justice is the main defense against evil
贼喊捉贼
Zéi hǎn zhuō zéi [zei han zhuo zei]
thief shout 'stop thief'
A thief cries 'Stop thief!'
Diverting attention to cover misdoing
What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over
Zì gāo zì [zi gao zi da]
self tall self big
Think oneself tall and great
Full of conceit and ego
The Chinese Language

The Chinese Language

Language

The Chinese language is rightly treasured as the country's greatest accomplishment. Our language section introduces the historical and linguistic background that greatly adds to the appreciation of China. The written script has fascinated Western scholars for centuries. In the language section we include some introductory lessons, a guide to how it is written and some of the oldest classical texts.
陶醉
Zì wǒ táo zuì [zi wo tao zui]
self I drunk
Drunk with oneself. Narcissistic
Conceited and arrogant
Bǎi zú zhī chóng sǐ ér bù jiāng [bai zu zhi chong si er bu jiang]
hundred foot insect dead but not motionless
A centipede with a hundred legs does not lose its life after one blow
An evil is not easily disposed of; old institutions take a long time to renew
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 countering evil', last updated 7 Dec 2016, Web, http://www.chinasage.info/proverbevil.htm.

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