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.
As active as ants on a hot pan
In a state of feverish activity and excitement.
When have some wine, all will get drunk
Take advantage of good fortune while it is around.
Upon first seeing fall madly in love
To fall in love at first sight.
Although the lotus root may be cut, its fibered threads are still connected
Friendship survives adversity.
To fly in the sky like the legendary horse Fei Huang (flying yellow)
A meteoric rise to success and honour.
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.
Everyone in celebration
The whole nation is rejoicing at some happy event.
The strength of nine bulls and two tigers
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.
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.
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.
Heart joyful, work profitable
Feeling happy and relaxed.
A dragon's flight and a phoenix's dance - very powerful and invigorating.
Flamboyant. Lively and vigorous.
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.
Just one smile makes you ten years younger
Happiness is the best cosmetic.
A late-blooming flower is not necessarily lacking in fragrance
It's never too late to try something new.
The flower of the heart in full bloom
Full flowering of joy.
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.
Step by step promotion
Congratulation on promotion or a new job.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New sights and sounds
A change of place, everything fresh and new.
Guests feel at home
Warmly welcoming guests to your home. Guests treated as part of the family.
Roughly equivalent to: Be my guest.
Cloud and mists disperse
All becomes clear again. Troubles are over.
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.
When drinking water remember the origin
Do not forget the source of your good fortune (particularly your parents)
Roughly equivalent to: Count your blessings.
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.
The underfur of a fox
The underfur of a fox is so soft that is highly valued. Something of great value to someone.
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.
To be carefree, peaceful and relaxed.
The rain has gone, the sky brightens
Things are improving. Hope for the future.
Completely whole and beautiful
Prosperous and beautiful
To have the best of good fortune.
Live and work in peace and contentment
Wishing you well in a new home.
High mountains and flowing water
A description of beautiful music and by analogy a deep friendship.
Roughly equivalent to: Boon companion.
Long time ahead
There is adequate time to achieve your desires.
Roughly equivalent to: All things come to those who wait.
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.
Good personality good deeds
Pleasant person who behaves well.
Roughly equivalent to: A good man is hard to find.
Having a happy face looking contented
Promising young talent
Said of someone showing talent at an early age.
Roughly equivalent to: He/she will go far.
Horse win easy victory
Gain immediate victory.
Delighted and helpful
Delighted to be able to help.
No obstacle in any direction
To be able to conquer anyone on all fronts. Invincible against all opponents. An irresistible force.
Heaven made intimacy
Roughly equivalent to: Marriage made in heaven.
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.