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 marvelous state of affairs.

, [笑一笑十年少]
Just one smile makes you ten years younger
Happiness is the best cosmetic.
蚂蚁 [熱鍋上的螞蟻]
Rè guō shàng de mǎ yǐ
As active as ants on a hot pan
In a state of feverish activity and excitement.
Xīn huā nù fàng
The flower of the heart in full bloom
Full flowering of joy.
腾达 [飛黃騰達]
Fēi huáng téng dá
To fly in the sky like the legendary horse Fei Huang (flying yellow)
A meteoric rise to success and honour.
Jiǔ niú èr hǔ zhī lì
The strength of nine bulls and two tigers
Tremendously strong.
[愛屋及烏]
Ài wū jí wū
Strong love that encompasses all, including the crow sitting on the roof
In love with everything in the world.
Roughly equivalent to: Love is blind.
[一見鍾情]
jiàn zhōng qíng
Upon first seeing fall madly in love
To fall in love at first sight.
怡, [心曠神怡事事順利]
Xīn kuàng shén yí, shì shì shùn lì
Heart joyful, work profitable
Feeling happy and relaxed.
Jīn zhāo yǒu jiǔ jīn zhāo zuì
When have some wine, all will get drunk
Take advantage of good fortune while it is around.
塞翁, [塞翁失馬安知非福]
Sài wēng shī mǎ, ān zhī fēi fú
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.
Roughly equivalent to: Every cloud has a silver lining.
感恩图 [感恩圖報]
Gǎn ēn tú bào
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.
Roughly equivalent to: One good turn deserves another.
桃源
Shì wài táo yuán
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.
Roughly equivalent to: Land of milk and honey.
[一顧之榮]
gù zhī róng
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.
taijiquan, Hong Kong
Tai chi show in Kowloon Park, Hong Kong
Image by Jakub Halun available under a Creative Commons license
[普天同慶]
tiān tóng qìng
Everyone in celebration
The whole nation is rejoicing at some happy event.
[龍飛鳳舞]
Lóng fēi fèng wǔ
A dragon's flight and a phoenix's dance - very powerful and invigorating.
Flamboyant. Lively and vigorous.
藕断 [藕斷絲連]
Oǔ duàn sī lián
Although the lotus root may be cut, its fibered threads are still connected
Friendship survives adversity.
[遲開的花未必不香]
Chí kāi de huā wèi bì bú xiāng
A late-blooming flower is not necessarily lacking in fragrance
It's never too late to try something new.
[㱃水思源]
Yǐn shuǐ sī yuán
When drinking water remember the origin
Do not forget the source of your good fortune (particularly your parents)
Roughly equivalent to: Count your blessings.
绕梁 [餘音繞樑]
Yú yīn rào liáng
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.
Roughly equivalent to: Transport of delight.
Ěr xīn
New sights and sounds
A change of place, everything fresh and new.
Bù zhī ròu wèi
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).
Roughly equivalent to: Lost touch with reality.
琴瑟 [琴瑟咊鳴]
Qín sè hé míng
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.
Roughly equivalent to: A match made in heaven.
Bù bù gāo shēng
Step by step promotion
Congratulation on promotion or a new job.
[賓至如歸]
Bīn zhì rú guī
Guests feel at home
Warmly welcoming guests to your home. Guests treated as part of the family.
Roughly equivalent to: Be my guest.
消雾 [云消霧散]
Yún xiāo wù sàn
Cloud and mists disperse
All becomes clear again. Troubles are over.
[洛陽紙貴]
Luò yáng zhǐ guì
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.
Roughly equivalent to: Become all the rage.
Macau, cityscape, view, modern housing
Macau skyline, 2013
[苦儘甘來]
Kǔ jìn gān lái
Bitterness over, happiness arrives. At the end of suffering comes relief
After troubles comes happiness.
Roughly equivalent to: The darkest hour is just before the dawn.
[雞犬升天]
Jī quǎn shēng tiān
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.
Gāo shān liú shuǐ
High mountains and flowing water
A description of beautiful music and by analogy a deep friendship.
Roughly equivalent to: Boon companion.
[樂此不疲]
Lè cǐ bù pí
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.
[千慮一得]
Qiān lù:
Thousand tries, one success
An expression of modesty when accounting for success. Discounting skill and perseverance as just a lucky break.
Roughly equivalent to: Lucky chance.
Zì yóu zì zài
Unrestricted freedom
To be carefree, peaceful and relaxed.
[富麗堂皇]
Fù lì táng huáng
Prosperous and beautiful
To have the best of good fortune.
[一箭雙鵰]
jiàn shuāng diāo
Shooting two hawks with one arrow
Completing two (or more) tasks at the same time. A fortunate coincidence.
Roughly equivalent to: Killing two birds with one stone.
[安居樂業]
Ān jū lè yè
Live and work in peace and contentment
Wishing you well in a new home.
[和顏悅色]
Hé yán yuè sè
Having a happy face looking contented
Amiable appearance.
Hǎo rén hǎo shì
Good personality good deeds
Pleasant person who behaves well.
Roughly equivalent to: A good man is hard to find.
Shí quán shí měi
Completely whole and beautiful
Perfection; faultless.
[來日方長]
Lái fāng cháng
Long time ahead
There is adequate time to achieve your desires.
Roughly equivalent to: All things come to those who wait.
Great Wall, view
The Great Wall winding its way like a huge dragon across the mountains near Beijing
hú zhī yè
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
The rain has gone, the sky brightens
Things are improving. Hope for the future.
Tiān zuò zhī hé
Heaven made intimacy
Blissful affection.
Roughly equivalent to: Marriage made in heaven.
[所向無前]
Suǒ xiàng wú qián
No obstacle in any direction
To be able to conquer anyone on all fronts. Invincible against all opponents. An irresistible force.
[馬到成功]
Mǎ daò chéng gōng
Horse win easy victory
Gain immediate victory.
[心甘情願]
Xīn gān qíng yuàn
Delighted and helpful
Delighted to be able to help.
[後起之秀]
Hòu qǐ zhī xiù
Promising young talent
Said of someone showing talent at an early age.
Roughly equivalent to: He/she will go far.
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 some of the characters have been simplified the traditional form 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.

See also