Chinese idioms about luck and good fortune

A celebration of luck and good fortune in Chinese sayings. Some wish for the luck to arrive, others show gratitude for the marvellous state of affairs.

怡, [心曠神怡事事順利]
Xīn kuàng shén yí, shì shì shùn lì [xin kuang shen yi, shi shi shun li]
heart broad spirit joy, matter matter obey profit
Heart joyful, work profitable
Feeling happy and relaxed
Jīn zhāo yǒu jiǔ jīn zhāo zuì [jin zhao you jiu jin zhao zui]
now palace have wine, now palace drunk
When have some wine, all will get drunk
Take advantage of good fortune while it is around
, [笑一笑十年少]
Xiào xiào, shí nián shào [xiao yi xiao, shi nian shao]
smile a smile, 10 year less
Just one smile makes you ten years younger
Happiness is the best cosmetic
[一見鍾情]
jiàn zhōng qíng [yi jian zhong qing]
once see deep affection
Upon first seeing fall madly in love
To fall in love at first sight
藕断 [藕斷絲連]
Oǔ duàn sī lián [ou duan si lian]
lotus root break silken thread links
Although the lotus root may be cut, its fibered threads are still connected
Friendship survives adversity
Jiǔ niú èr hǔ zhī lì [jiu niu er hu zhi li]
nine ox two tiger 's strength
The strength of nine bulls and two tigers
Tremendously strong
[愛屋及烏]
Ài wū jí wū [ai wu ji wu]
love house reach crow
Strong love that encompasses all, including the crow sitting on the roof
In love with everything in the world
Love is blind
[普天同慶]
tiān tóng qìng [pu tian tong qing]
universal heaven together celebrate
Everyone in celebration
The whole nation is rejoicing at some happy event
蚂蚁 [熱鍋上的螞蟻]
Rè guō shàng de mǎ yǐ [re guo shang de ma yi]
heat pot up of ants
As active as ants on a hot pan
In a state of feverish activity and excitement
桃源
Shì wài táo yuán [shi wai tao yuan]
world foreign peach source
The land of peach blossoms
A mythical land of peace and harmony. The story is of a hidden land that a fisherman found while trying to escape turmoil and war in the Qin dynasty. Try as he might he never found the land again.
Land of milk and honey
腾达 [飛黃騰達]
Fēi huáng téng dá [fei huang teng da]
fly yellow gallop extend
To fly in the sky like the legendary horse Fei Huang (flying yellow)
A meteoric rise to success and honour
感恩图 [感恩圖報]
Gǎn ēn tú bào [gan en tu bao]
feeling kindness plan recompense
Gratefully returning kindness
Repaying a debt of kindness. The story is from the Zhou dynasty when the state of Wu was mounting a war against the state of Zheng. A Zheng fisherman offered to try to stop the conflict. He boldly went to the enemy general Wu Zixu and reminded him that his father had saved Wu's life a long time ago. The general then recalled the incident and in repayment of the kindness called off his attack on Zheng.
One good turn deserves another
[龍飛鳳舞]
Lóng fēi fèng wǔ [long fei feng wu]
dragon fly phoenix dance
A dragon's flight and a phoenix's dance - very powerful and invigorating.
Flamboyant. Lively and vigorous
Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Tiananmen Square, NPC
Great Hall of the People, Beijing where the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China convenes. January 18, 2003 Photo by Allen Timothy Chang, available under a Creative Commons license .
[遲開的花未必不香]
Chí kāi de huā wèi bì bú xiāng [chi kai de hua wei bi bu xiang]
slow opening flower did not certainly not smell
A late-blooming flower is not necessarily lacking in fragrance
It's never too late to try something new
[一顧之榮]
gù zhī róng [yi gu zhi rong]
one attend honor
Honored from a single glance
Honored by a visit of someone distinguished who is showing an interest. A passport to getting on in social circles. The story is that a expert of horse was persuaded to give a mere glance at a horse that was for sale and by so doing its price rose enormously in value.
Xīn huā nù fàng [xin hua nu fang]
heart flower in full bloom
The flower of the heart in full bloom
Full flowering of joy
塞翁, [塞翁失馬安知非福]
Sài wēng shī mǎ, ān zhī fēi fú [sai weng shi ma, an zhi fei fu]
frontier old man lose horse, peace know wrong blessing
When the old man from the frontier lost his horse; how could he have known that it would not be fortuitous?
The story is that a man lost his horse but actually it went over the Great Wall and brought back several horses with it. A setback may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Every cloud has a silver lining
[洛陽紙貴]
Luò yáng zhǐ guì [Luo yang zhi gui]
Luoyang paper expensive
To make paper expensive in Luoyang
The story is of a book that initially failed to find any interest, when he came to the then capital of Luoyang several respected scholars found it exceptional. The book then became so popular that printers exhausted the supply of paper to print copies of it. It therefore is used to describe a book that is destined to be a sensation.
Become all the rage
[雞犬升天]
Jī quǎn shēng tiān [ji quan sheng tian]
chicken dog ascend heaven
Even chickens and dogs go to heaven
Riding high on someone else's success. When someone gets a plum job all his friends and family will also prosper. Alternatively can mean once a problem has been cracked anyone can solve it.
Bù bù gāo shēng [bu bu gao sheng]
step step tall ascend
Step by step promotion
Congratulation on promotion or a new job
琴瑟 [琴瑟咊鳴]
Qín sè hé míng [qin se he ming]
guqin harp harmony song
Qin and harp in harmony
In blissful harmony. The story is from the Song dynasty when Zhao Mingcheng and Li Qingzhao fell in love and lived a life of bliss. They collected ancient inscriptions and played the guqin (type of zither) and harp together. Tragedy struck when the Jurchen invaded Shandong. The couple fled south to Hangzhou but Zhao died and Li spent 25 years as a mournful widow.
A match made in heaven
绕梁 [餘音繞樑]
Yú yīn rào liáng [yu yin rao liang]
residue sound reverberate roof beam
The music lingers around the roof beams
Music so beautiful it seems to reverberate around the roof. A pleasant musical performance and by analogy memory of a joyous occasion.
Transport of delight
[苦儘甘來]
Kǔ jìn gān lái [ku jin gan lai]
bitter exhuast sweet arrive
Bitterness over, happiness arrives. At the end of suffering comes relief
After troubles comes happiness
The darkest hour is just before the dawn
消雾 [云消霧散]
Yún xiāo wù sàn [yun xiao wu san]
cloud vanish mist disperse
Cloud and mists disperse
All becomes clear again. Troubles are over
[賓至如歸]
Bīn zhì rú guī [bin zhi ru gui]
guest arrive as if belong
Guests feel at home
Warmly welcoming guests to your home. Guests treated as part of the family.
Be my guest
Ěr xīn [er mu yi xin]
ear eye one new
New sights and sounds
A change of place, everything fresh and new
Huangshan, Anhui, mountain
Huangshan mountain with Pinus hwangshanensis trees, Nov 2010
Image by Peter05031960 available under a Creative Commons license
[㱃水思源]
Yǐn shuǐ sī yuán [yin shui si yuan]
drink water think source
When drinking water remember the origin
Do not forget the source of your good fortune (particularly your parents)
Count your blessings
Bù zhī ròu wèi [bu zhi rou wei]
not know meat smell
Not notice the smell of meat
Totally entranced and distracted. The story is from the Analects of Confucius. The great sage was walking in woodland and heard someone performing Shao music. He was so entranced by the blissful sound that he could not be distracted even by the smell of roasting meat (then a rare treat).
Lost touch with reality
Shí quán shí měi [shi quan shi mei]
ten complete ten beautiful
Completely whole and beautiful
Perfection; faultless
[樂此不疲]
Lè cǐ bù pí [le ci bu pi]
happy no longer weary
Pleasure takes away the fatigue
Said of a task that is enjoyable and so does not seem to be tiring. Can also be applied to a pleasurable task that you never get tired of doing.
[和顏悅色]
Hé yán yuè sè [he yan yue se]
harmony face contended colour
Having a happy face looking contented
Amiable appearance
hú zhī yè [yi hu zhi ye]
single fox's underfur
The underfur of a fox
The underfur of a fox is so soft that is highly valued. Something of great value to someone
[雨過天晴]
guò tiān qíng [yu guo tian qing]
rain past heaven bright
The rain has gone, the sky brightens
Things are improving. Hope for the future
Hǎo rén hǎo shì [hao ren hao shi]
good person; good deeds
Good personality good deeds
Pleasant person who behaves well
A good man is hard to find
[安居樂業]
Ān jū lè yè [an ju le ye]
peace reside happy enterprise
Live and work in peace and contentment
Wishing you well in a new home
[來日方長]
Lái fāng cháng [lai ri fang chang]
arrive day region long
Long time ahead
There is adequate time to achieve your desires
All things come to those who wait
Gāo shān liú shuǐ [gao shan liu shui]
high mountain flow water
High mountains and flowing water
A description of beautiful music and by analogy a deep friendship.
Boon companion
Zì yóu zì zài [zi you zi zai]
freedom unrestrained
Unrestricted freedom
To be carefree, peaceful and relaxed
[富麗堂皇]
Fù lì táng huáng [fu li tang huang]
good fortune beautiful hall emperor
Prosperous and beautiful
To have the best of good fortune
Hong Kong, modern housing, view
Densely populated Hong Kong
[千慮一得]
Qiān lù: [qian lu: yi de]
thousand tries one completed
Thousand tries, one success
An expression of modesty when accounting for success. Discounting skill and perseverance as just a lucky break.
Lucky chance
[一箭雙鵰]
jiàn shuāng diāo [yi jian shuang diao]
one arrow two eagles
Shooting two hawks with one arrow
Completing two (or more) tasks at the same time. A fortunate coincidence.
Killing two birds with one stone
[所向無前]
Suǒ xiàng wú qián [suo xiang wu qian]
actual direction nothing previous
No obstacle in any direction
To be able to conquer anyone on all fronts. Invincible against all opponents. An irresistible force
[後起之秀]
Hòu qǐ zhī xiù [hou qi zhi xiu]
after raise him refined
Promising young talent
Said of someone showing talent at an early age.
He/she will go far
Tiān zuò zhī hé [tian zuo zhi he]
heaven make someone close
Heaven made intimacy
Blissful affection
Marriage made in heaven
[心甘情願]
Xīn gān qíng yuàn [xin gan qing yuan]
feeling sweet fine wish
Delighted and helpful
Delighted to be able to help
[馬到成功]
Mǎ daò chéng gōng [ma dao cheng gong]
horse arrive accomplish merit
Horse win easy victory
Gain immediate victory
China motif
Our proverbs come with full information. The modern Chinese characters are given first with links that give information on the character. As proverbs are so old you will often see them written using the traditional form of characters; so if of the characters have been simplified the phrase is shown in brackets and gray text. . The characters are followed by the proverb (Chengyu) 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 shown.

Our translations are in need of improvement, so please let us know your ideas. For background on the types and history of proverbs please see our guide.