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
Dǎ cǎo jīng ché [da cao jing che]
strike grass startled snake
Striking the grass alerts the snake
Unwisely alerting an enemy
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
ēn jiāng chóu baò [en jiang chou bao]
kindness will enemy repay
Repay kindness with hostility
Reject kindness
Biting the hand that feeds it
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
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
Hǔ shì dān dān [hu shi dan dan]
tiger look at stare stare
A tiger's stare. To look very covetously
To eye enviously
Buddhism , prayer wheel
Buddhist prayer wheels at Wudang temple, Inner Mongolia
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
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
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
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
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.
Shān fēng diǎn huǒ [shan feng dian huo]
incite wind spot fire
Create wind and fire
Create a lot of trouble
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
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
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
giant panda, wildlife
An adult Giant Panda eating bamboo
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
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
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
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 4 Sep 2013, Web,

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