Chinese proverbs about co-operation

Proverbs extolling the virtues of working together in harmony and co-operation. Some identify the problems of getting along with other people.

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xiān guò hǎi, gè xiǎn shén tōng [ba xian guo hai, ge xian shen tong]
eight immortal past sea each show god knowledge
The eight Immortals crossing sea all have there own special skills
Everyone has their own special skills to contribute
zì méi piě [ba zi mei yi pie]
eight character not one neglect
The character for eight takes two strokes to write not just one
It takes two to Tango
Cáng lóng wò hǔ [cang long wo hu]
hide dragon lie tiger
Hidden dragon, crouching tiger
There are people lurking with great power and strength
,单弦
Dú mù bù chéng lín, dān xián bù chéng yīn [du mu bu cheng lin, dan xian bu cheng yin]
only tree no accomplish forest , single string no accomplish sound
A single tree does not make a forest; a single string can not make music.
Many things require people to work together to achieve an end
All pull together
Dú mù nán zhī [du mu nan zhi]
only timber difficult prop up
A single stick will not prop up a whole building
It takes more than one person to resolve problems
Two heads are better than one
Fēng tóng zhōu [feng yu tong zhou]
wind rain same boat
On the same boat in a storm
Facing troubles together
A trouble shared is a trouble halved
覆巢完卵
Fù cháo wú wán luǎn [fu chao wu wan luan]
overturn nest no entire egg
When the nest is overturned, no egg remains unbroken
In a disaster everyone will feel the consequences
Gū zhǎng nán míng [gu zhang nan ming]
solitary palm difficult sound
You can not clap with just one hand
It is difficult to achieve anything on your own
It takes two to Tango
嫁祸
Jià huò yú rén [jia huo yu ren]
marry disaster foremost person
A person in misfortune blames someone else
Put blame onto others
Lóng zhēng hǔ dòu [long zheng hu dou]
dragon war tiger battle
Bitter fight between a dragon and tiger. An evenly matched big fight
Struggle between two equal leaders
麻雀,脏俱
Má què suī xiǎo, zàng jù quán [ma que sui xiao, wu zang ju quan]
rough sparrow although small, five innards all complete
Small as it is, the sparrow has all the vital organs
A person is a person regardless of size. Complete in every detail
补短
Qǔ cháng bǔ duǎn [qu chang bu duan]
take long mend short
Learn from other's good points to offset your own shortcomings
Take notice of other people's admirable qualities
Hong Kong, skyscraper, modern housing, view
The city of Hong Kong at night
臭皮匠,凑诸葛亮
Sān gè chòu pí jiàng, còu gè Zhūgě Liàng [san ge chou pi jiang, cou ge Zhuge Liang]
three smelly shoemakers, gather together Zhuge Liang
Three humble shoemakers brainstorming make a great statesman like Zhuge Liang
Joint effort can help solve big problems
Two heads are better than one
Sān rén chéng hǔ [san ren cheng hu]
three person accomplish tiger
It only takes three people to make a tiger. A rumour can build a mighty story
Basing a story on rumor and gossip rather than cold facts.
Shā jī gěi hóu kàn [sha ji gei hou kan]
kill chicken give monkey look
Kill a chicken before a monkey. The monkey can then take the message as a warning
To punish somebody as a lesson and warning to others
Shā jǐng bǎi [sha yi jing bai]
kill one warn hundred
Kill one to warn a hundred
To warn many people by punishing a few. Making example punishments
猢狲散
Shù daǒ hú sūn sàn [shu dao hu sun san]
tree fall monkey troupe break up
When a tree falls, the monkeys scatter. When a leader loses power, his followers are disorganized.
An organization needs a strong leader. Chaos results when a leader is deposed.
,
Shuǐ néng zài zhōu, yì néng fù zhōu [shui neng zai zhou, yi neng fu zhou]
water can carry boat, also can sink boat
Not only does water float a boat, it can sink it too
Forces and people can have positive and negative influences
送炭
Xuě lǐ sòng tàn [xue li song tan]
snow neighbourhood deliver charcoal
Send charcoal in a snow storm
To offer assistance when it is needed
A friend in need is a friend indeed
,,
gè hé shang tiāo shuǐ hē, liǎng gè hé shang tái shuǐ hē, sān ge hé shang méi shuǐ hē [yi ge he shang tiao shui he, liang ge he shang tai shui he, san ge he shang mei shui he]
one yet lift water, two yet carry water, three yet not carry water
One monk shoulders water by himself; two can still share the labor between them. When it comes to three, they all go thirsty.
Sometimes work is best done alone, a group may just spend the time discussing without doing anything
Too many cooks spoil the broth
shān bù róng èr [yi shan bu rong er hu]
one mountain not hold two tigers
Two tigers cannot share one mountain
Two equally talented or able employees do not work well together
蜂酿
zhī fēng niáng bù chéng mì kē mǐ áo bù chéng zhōu [yi zhi feng niang bu cheng mi yi ke mi ao bu cheng zhou]
only one bee not produce honey, one grain rice cook not complete meal
One bee cannot produce honey; one grain of rice cannot produce a meal
It needs joint effort to achieve anything worthwhile
Many hands make light work
拾柴
Zhòng rén shí chái huǒyàn gāo [zhong ren shi chai huoyan gao]
many people pick up firewood fire flames high
Only when all contribute their firewood can they build up a big fire
People need to pull together to achieve something significant
Many hands make light work
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 working together in harmony', last updated 4 Sep 2013, Web, http://www.chinasage.info/proverbjointeffort.htm.

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