Chinese idioms T to X

[貪天之功]
Tān tiān zhī gōng [tan tian zhi gong]
covet heaven 's achievement
Appropriate the achievements of others
Cheating others of their just reward. The story is of an official who was swindled out of his just reward for good service. Eventually the ruler worked out what had happened and he was given an even greater reward.
Rough justice
[貪小失大]
Tān xiǎo shī [tan xiao shi da]
covet tiny lose large
Coveting small gains and incurring great losses
Paying attention to the unimportant details not the big picture. Concentration on trivia.
Penny wise, pound foolish
养晦 [韜光養晦]
Tāo guāng yǎng huì [tao guang yang hui]
hide brightness nourish darkness
Conceal your strength
Bide your time before showing your strength
Hiding your light under a bushel
弹冠 [彈冠相慶]
Tán guān xiāng qìng [tan guan xiang qing]
flick hat mutually celebrate
Knocking the dust off your hat and congratulating each other
Presumptively celebrate promotion/appointment to a job ahead of time. Arrogantly assume a job is already in the bag. The story is of two officials Wang Ji and Gong Yu of the Han dynasty, Both were dismissed but on Emperor Yuan's enthronement Wang Ji was re-appointed, on hearing the news Gong Yu flicked the dust off his official hat assuming he would follow his friend into office
[談何容易]
Tán hé róng yì [tan he rong yi]
chat what look easy
Talking makes look easy
Not as easy as it seemed
Easier said than done
[談虎色變]
Tán hǔ sè biàn [tan hu se bian]
chat tiger look transform
Turning pale at the mere mention of a tiger
To be so timid that even mentioning danger causes fear.
Afraid of your own shadow
螳臂 [螳臂當車]
Táng bì dāng chē [tang bi dang che]
praying mantis arm obstruct vehicle
Mantis obstructing a chariot
Overrate abilities and attempt the impossible. A mantis is a fearsome insect that does not back down even if faced with a much larger predator. So it means someone full of pride making an idle threat.
螳螂捕蝉 [螳螂捕蟬]
Táng láng bǔ chán [tang lang bu chan]
praying mantis catch cicada
The mantis stalks the cicada
Seeking one target unaware of the bigger picture, in this case the mantis was being stalked by a bird. An appeal to heed advice against taking an easy target that would result in greater jeopardy.
,[太公釣魚,願者上鉤]
Tài gōng diào yuàn zhě shàng gōu [tai gong diao yu yuan zhe shang gou]
High Duke fish bait fish wish above to hook
Willing fish jumping to Duke Jiang?s hookless line
Trying t o ensnare a gullible person. The ancient story from the Zhou dynasty is of Lord Jiang who used to just hang an unbaited and unhooked line in the air not the water. When asked what he was doing said he was not trying to catch fish but a king who he would serve. After many years of pointless fishing he was appointed to be Prime Minister.
Green around the gills
Tiān nán dì běi [tian nan di bei]
heaven south land north
As distant as the heavens
Places or opinions that are very far apart
宴席 [天下沒有不散的宴席]
Tiān xià méi yǒu bù sàn de yàn xí [tian xia mei you bu san de yan xi]
world does not have no break up of banquet
No banquet in the world goes on forever
Good fortune can not last for ever
All good things must come to an end
[天下烏鴉一般黑]
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
[天下無雙]
Tiān xià wú shuāng [tian xia wu shuang]
heaven below no pair
Unequalled under heaven
Something or someone with superlative skills.
[天衣無縫]
Tiān yī wú fèng [tian yi wu feng]
heaven clothes not seam
Heavenly robe without seams
A perfect result, clothes so well made that the seams cannot be seen. Used to describe an excellent piece of work - especially an essay or speech.
Ticks all the boxes
Tiān zuò zhī hé [tian zuo zhi he]
heaven make someone close
Heaven made intimacy
Blissful affection
Marriage made in heaven
挑肥拣瘦 [挑肥揀瘦]
Tiāo féi jiǎn shòu [tiao fei jian shou]
carry fat select thin
To separate out the fat and pick only the lean meat
A very picky person. Over zealous attention to detail
[鐵杵成針]
Tiě chǔ chéng zhēn [tie chu cheng zhen]
iron pestle produce needle
Grind an iron rod down to a needle
Perseverance can achieve anything
[听其言觀其行]
Tīng qí yán guān qí xíng [ting qi yan guan qi xing]
listen his speech observe his travel
Listen to what a person says and then watch what is done
Judge people by their actions, not by their words
Actions speak louder than words
偷梁换柱 [偷梁換柱]
Tōu liáng huàn zhù [tou liang huan zhu]
steal girder change post
Steal beams replaced with wooden poles
To carry out a crafty deception
grand canal, boat
Boats on the ancient Grand Canal, China
[同病相憐]
Tóng bìng xiāng lián [tong bing xiang lian]
same ill mutual pity
People with similar illness empathize with each other
People suffering the same misfortune sympathize with each other
Birds of a feather flock together
[同床異夢]
Tóng chuáng yì mèng [tong chuang yi meng]
same bed different dream
Dream different dreams on the same bed
Not everyone thinks the same
It takes all sorts to make the world
[頭頭是道]
Tóu tóu shì daò [tou tou shi dao]
head head correct way
Thinking carefully about the way to proceed
Logically and rigorously argued
There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip
投鞭断流 [投鞭斷流]
Tóu biān duàn liú [tou bian duan liu]
cast whip break flow
Throwing in whips to stop the river
An immense number of people. If all the people carried whips that were thrown into the river Yangzi then they would be so numerous as to block its flow. Overwhelming odds.
[投筆從戎]
Tóu bǐ cóng róng [tou bi cong rong]
cast pen join army
Throwing down the pen and joining the army
A scholar choosing to join the army. To choose a more active life mid career.
Tuī jǐ jí rén [tui ji ji ren]
push self to reach person
Imagine being in someone's position
To understand a situation from someone else's perspective.
Get the bigger picture
Tuī xīn zhì fù [tui xin zhi fu]
elect heart put stomach
Having full confidence
Put give someone your full support - body and soul. To trust someone implicitly.
退避
Tuì bì sān shè [tui bi san she]
withdraw to escape three 'she'
Withdrawing three leagues
To retreat ahead of superior force, a tactical withdrawal. A 'she' is an ancient term for three day's march or 30 li. To sensibly avoid conflict.
脱颖 [脫穎而出]
Tuō yǐng ér chū [tuo ying er chu]
take off sharp point and yet emerge
A sharp stick protrudes
A talented person can't help but be noticed
[圖窮匕見]
Tú qióng bǐ xiàn [tu qiong bi xian]
map exhausted dagger appear
When the map is unrolled the dagger is revealed
A secret plan is revealed, a conspiracy unmasked. The story is of an assassination attempt on the King of Qin back in the Warring States Period. Pretending to cede territory Prince Dan concealed a dagger in a scrolled up map.
The secret is out
[屠龍之技]
Tú lóng zhī jì [tu long zhi ji]
slaughter dragon skill
Skilled in killing dragons
Possessing a useless skill. Pointless training to achieve something of no value. Wasting time and effort.
[徒勞無功]
Tú láo wú gōng [tu lao wu gong]
no avail toil no result
Futile effort
Pointless effort that will achieve nothing.
A fool's errand
Tù sǐ gǒu pēng [tu si gou peng]
rabbit dog cook
Trusted helpers are dispensable once their job is done
Watch your back. Once the mission is accomplished you may be sacked
Outliving your usefulness
狐悲
Tù sǐ hú bēi [tu si hu bei]
hare die fox sorrow
A fox mourns the death of a rabbit
Feigning concern to conceal true feeling
To weep crocodile tears
[兔子不吃窩邊草]
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
完璧[完璧歸趙]
Wán bì guī zhào [wan bi gui zhao]
complete jade bi return Zhao
Returning the jade bi to Zhao
A jade bi is a large round piece with a hole in the middle. The story is of an ancient Imperial 'crown jewel' the 'He shi bi' that was stolen by the king of Qin. The ruler of the state of Zhao then managed to get it back. It has come to mean returning something (in good condition) to its rightful owner.
[玩物喪志]
Wán wù sàng zhì [wan wu sang zhi]
play thing lose ambition
Obsessional play ruins the will
Spending too much time on trivia. Excessive attention to detail. Losing the big picture.
Little things please little minds
Wáng jǐ dé máo [wang ji de mao]
lose halberd gain spear
Losing a halberd but gaining a spear
Losing something but gaining something of similar value. A halberd is rather similar to a spear - having a different blade on the end of a pole. No overall impact - both losses and gains.
Swings and roundabounts
补牢 [亡羊補牢]
Wáng yáng bǔ láo [wang yang bu lao]
lose sheep mend pen
Mend the pen after the sheep are lost
Can mean taking action too late or else taking action to protect against a future repeat of misfortune
Mending the stable door after the horse has bolted
feng shui, turtle, tortoise, calligraphy
Bronze tortoise used in Feng Shui
[王顧左右而言他]
Wáng gù zuǒ yòu ér yán tā [wang gu zuo you er yan ta]
king attend to left right and talk other
The king looked left and right and then talked of other things
Evading making an uncomfortable reply by changing the topic of conversation. The story is of Mencius who asked three questions of the king of Qi, when the last question touched on the king's mismanagement of the kingdom, the king looked left and right to other guests to dodge making a response
Avoiding the hot potato
[網開一面]
Wǎng kāi miàn [wang kai yi mian]
net open one side
To leave one side of the net open
To give someone a chance of escape
To let someone off the hook
[外強中乾]
Wài qiáng zhōng gān [wai qiang zhong gan]
outside strong middle dry
Outwardly strong but inwardly weak
Looking strong and powerful but actually weak. Flattering appearance that does not represent true worth.
Don't judge a book by its covers
俱备, [萬事俱備,只欠東風]
Wàn shì jù bèi, zhǐ qiàn dōng fēng [wan shi ju bei, zhi qian dong feng]
All things entirely prepared only lack east wind
Everything is ready, except for the east wind
Lacking one small, but crucial item. It refers to the battle of Red Cliff in the Three Kingdoms period when Cao Cao's great army threatened to overcome his adversaries on the Yangzi River. The clever strategy advocated by Zhuge Liang was to send fire boats into Cao Cao's navy. Everything was prepared but for ages the wind was in the wrong direction. At last it changed to the east and Cao Cao was defeated.
For the want of a nail .,. the kingdom was lost
Wàng zì zūn [wang zi zun da]
absurd self respect great
Having an inflated opinion of oneself
Full of inflated pride. There are many examples throughout history of people thinking rather too highly of themselves.
Pride cometh before a fall
恩负 [忘恩負義]
Wàng ēn fù yì [wang en fu yi]
forget favor lose justice
Forget a previous favor
Ungratefully forget to acknowledge a favor.
望梅
Wàng méi zhǐ kě [wang mei zhi ke]
gaze plum stop thirst
Gaze at a plum to quench thirst
Offering hope by thinking of something currently out of reach
望洋[望洋興嘆]
Wàng yáng xīng tàn [wang yang xing tan]
towards ocean excitement sigh
Consider one?s competance before the ocean
To feel inadequate to perform a great task. Feel misgivings before a big endeavor. The story is of the river god of the Huanghe caused a great flood that made the river a mile wide but when it met the sea it was overcome with relative inadequacy.
Wēi rú lěi luǎn [wei ru lei luan]
danger as repeated egg
As precarious as a pile of eggs
In a dangerous state - about to collapse. Just about to fall and break apart.
The brink of disaster
[溫故而知新]
Wēn gù ér zhī xīn [wen gu er zhi xin]
revise ancient but know new
Study the past and yet know the present
Studying the past helps to understand the present
[為富不仁]
Wéi fù bù rén [wei fu bu ren]
be good fortune not benevolent
Have riches but not be generous
Be rich but heartless
围魏救赵 [圍魏救趙]
Wéi wèi jiù zhào [wei wei jiu zhao]
encircle Wei to save Zhao
Besiege Wei to rescue Zhao
To aid a friend by attacking a mutual enemy. During the Warring States periodthe state of Wei was attacking the state of Zhao. Handan, the capital of Zhao was besieged, The state of Qi wished to help its ally Zhao, rather than intervene to try to lift the siege of Handan, the Qi general launched an attack on the Wei's capital Daliang, forcing the Wei troops to lift the siege.
[維妙維肖]
Wéi miaò wéi xiaò [wei miao wei xiao]
tie clever tie resemble
Weave skillfully life like images
Produce an image remarkably true to life; highly skilled
[聞風喪膽]
Wén fēng sàng dǎn [wen feng sang dan]
hear news lose courage
Panic on hearing news
Panic stricken; terrified by news
[聞雞起舞]
Wén jī qǐ wǔ [wen ji qi wu]
reputation chicken rise dance
Begin at cock?s crow
Keen to begin a task even at daybreak. Diligent in action, losing no time.
The early bird catches the worm
[味如雞肋]
Wèi rú jī lèi [wei ru ji lei]
taste as if chicken rib
As tasteless as chicken ribs
A humdrum, boring activity and by extension a person lacking character. Insipid, bland.
Wèi néng miǎn sú [wei neng mian su]
not able avoid convention
Bound up by conventions
Unable to do what you want because social conventions forbid it. Doing something just because it is expected.
Creature of habit
[未雨綢繆]
Wèi chóu móu [wei yu chou mou]
not yet rain silk repair
Before the rains repair the cloth
Plan ahead, be prepared
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Wèi shǒu wèi wěi [wei shou wei wei]
fear head fear tail
Fearing both the head and the tail
Nervous and afraid. Fearful at both the start and end of some event.
Afraid of your own shadow
Qinghai, landscape, view, mountains
Mountain and lake on Qinghai-Tibet plateau
,,[我看見我忘記我听見我記住我做我了解]
Wǒ kàn jiàn wǒ wàng jì, wǒ tīng jiàn wǒ jì zhù, wǒ zuò wǒ liǎo jiě [wo kan jian wo wang ji, wo ting jian wo ji zhu, wo zuo wo liao jie]
I catch sight of I forget, I hear I remember, I do explained
When I see, I forget; when I hear, I remember but when I do, I understand.
You learn only by trying it, not by just observing or talking about it
Practise what you preach
Wǒ xíng wǒ sù [wo xing wo su]
I work I usual
To continue in habitual ways
Stuck following old ways
薪尝 [臥薪甞膽]
Wò xīn cháng dǎn [wo xin chang dan]
lie fuel taste gall
Lying on straw and tasting gall
Patiently suffering while plotting revenge or recovery. Sleeping rough and eating poor food while preparing for a comeback.
Harboring a grudge
漏偏 [屋漏偏逢連夜雨]
Wū lòu piān féng lián yè [wu lou pian feng lian ye yu]
house leak slanting happen upon continuous night rain
When the roof is leaking, there will be continuous nights of rain
Misfortunes tend to come all at once
When it rains, it pours
[吳牛喘月]
Wú niú chuǎn yuè [wu niu chuan yue]
Wu ox pants moon
The ox from Wu pants at the sight of the moon
Unnecessarily fearful of something. The story is of an ox from Wu that thought the moon was the sun and panted through the assumed heat it expected to experience.
Afraid of your own shadow
[無風不起浪]
Wú fēng bù qǐ làng [wu feng bu qi lang]
no wind no rise wave
No wind, no waves
There must have been signs that it was going to happen
No smoke without fire
殿 [無事不登三寳殿]
Wú shì bū dēng sān bǎo diàn [wu shi bu deng san bao dian]
nothing matter no climb three treasure hall
No-one comes to pray at the Temple of Three Treasures unless in trouble
Often it is obvious when somebody is after something
, [無源之水無本之木]
Wú yuán zhī shuǐ, wú běn zhī mù [wu yuan zhi shui, wu ben zhi mu]
no source water, no root tree
A river without a source, a tree without roots
Something without a proper foundation. Not properly planned
shí bù xiào bǎi [wu shi bu xiao yi bai bu]
50 pace smile 100 pace
Fifty steps laugh at a hundred steps
Being complacent about the future. Believing a job is all but done when only half done.
Pride cometh before a fall
[物極必反]
Wù jí bì fǎn [wu ji bi fan]
thing extreme certainly turn around
Extreme conditions will surely calm down
Things will turn around in the opposite direction when they reach the highest point
The tide is on the turn
类聚 [物以類聚]
Wù yǐ lèi jù [wu yi lei ju]
thing with similarity congregate
Like attracts like
People tends to form groups with like-minded individuals.
Birds of a feather flock together
[蝦兵蟹將]
Xiā bīng xiè jiàng [xia bing xie jiang]
shrimp soldier crab general
Shrimp soldiers led by a crab general. An ineffective army
A laughably ineffective solution to a problem
[先發制人]
Xiān fā zhì rén [xian fa zhi ren]
early show control people
Strike first to gain the upper hand
The first side to attack/move often has the advantage. An admonishment to act now and not dither about.
The early bird catches the worm
[先下手為強]
Xiān xià shǒu wéi qiáng [xian xia shou wei qiang]
first set about act strong
Striking first to demonstrate strength
To gain the upper hand by striking first
Strike while the iron is hot
[先斬後奏]
Xiān zhǎn hòu zòu [xian zhan hou zou]
early behead afterwards report
Execute first?report later
Taking the initiative; acting without orders. The story is of a newly appointed magistrate who was seeking a murderer. When she was found, the magistrate had her executed on the spot in spite of she being a servant to the Emperor's sister. An execution requires the Emperor's sanction and so the magistrate was in deep trouble,. In this case the magistrate managed to escape with his life.
Off you own bat
[香消玉損]
Xiāng xiāo yù sǔn [xiang xiao yu sun]
fragrant vanish jade broken
Fragrance is dissipated; jade is broken
Spoken of on the death of a beautiful young woman
Whom the Gods love die young
掩瑜
Xiá bù yǎn yú [xia bu yan yu]
defect not conceal jewel
A speck on a jade stone can't obscure its brilliance
One small fault won't spoil the impression of an overall exceptional person
Xiǎng rù fēi fēi [xiang ru fei fei]
want enter wrong wrong
Indulge in fantasy
Let imagination run wild
Head in the clouds
补, [小洞不補大洞吃苦]
Xiǎo dòng bù bǔ, dòng chī kǔ [xiao dong bu bu, da dong chi ku]
small hole no mend big hole eat bitter
A small hole not mended in time will soon become a larger hole more difficult to mend
Do not put off taking action to put things right
A stitch in time saves nine
rice, paddy fields
Terraced rice fields in Yunnan, China. The reflected sky is glinting on the fields. Photo by Jialiang Gao available under a Creative Commons license .
[小題大作]
Xiǎo zuò [xiao ti da zuo]
small topic large work
To talk a lot about very little
Procrastination and exaggeration
Make a mountain out of a molehill
[夏蟲疑冰]
Xià chóng yí bīng [xia chong yi bing]
summer insect doubt ice
The summer insect doubts the existence of ice
An ignorant person doesn't understand the wider truth
项庄舞剑, [項莊舞劍,意在沛公]
Xiàng zhuāng wǔ jiàn yì zài pèi gōng [xiang zhuang wu jian yi zai pei gong]
Xiang Zhuang dance sword desire at Duke of Pei
Xiang Zhuang performs the sword dance but his intention was to kill Liu Bang
An elaborate evil deception. The Duke of Pei was one of the titles of the first Han Emperor (r. 202-195BCE) Liu Bang. Xiang Zuang was a sword-fighter who intended to murder Liu Bang. In order to get close to Liu he performed a sword dance in front of him. fortunately for Liu the plot was unmasked by Fan Kuai and Liu escaped unharmed. Refers to a hidden malicious agenda.
Xiào lǐ cáng dāo [xiao li cang dao]
smile inside conceal knife
A dagger concealed in a smile
Malice concealed by apparent friendliness. There is a story of Li Yifu who was a great flatterer of the early Tang dynasty. He was always smiles but sought to blackmail and deceive. Eventually Emperor Gaozong discovered his duplicity and he was banished.
Don't judge a book by its cover
, [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
[邪門歪道]
Xié mén wāi daò [xie men wai dao]
evil people crooked way
Evil people in crooked ways
Dishonesty and deceit
Xiōng yǒu chéng zhú [xiong you cheng zhu]
mind have finished bamboo
Keeping the appearance of bamboo in mind
To be able to paint bamboo (or anything else), you have to have a mental image of how it looks. An admonishment to plan ahead carefully and acquire the skill to carry it out.
Forewarned is forearmed
休戚 [休戚相關]
Xiū qī xiāng guān [xiu qi xiang guan]
cease sorrow mutually involve
Share both joys and sorrows
People with close ties and shared interests, Mutual dependency.
Common ground
Xiù sè kě cān [xiu se ke can]
beautiful appearance can eat
A lovely sight to feast the eyes on
A beautiful woman
A feast for the eyes
旁观 [袖手旁觀]
Xiù shǒu páng guān [xiu shou pang guan]
sleeve hand side observe
To look on with folded arms
To look on without offering any help or showing concern
Xīn fù zhī huàn [xin fu zhi huan]
heart-stomach trouble
Major internal problems
Internal disorder causing crisis. Internal division preventing proper action.
[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
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
怀叵测 [心懷叵測]
Xīn huái pǒ cè [xin huai po ce]
mind heart not conjecture
Harbouring evil designs
Concealing malicious plans. Harbor evil designs.
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
Xīn ruò sǐ huī [xin ruo si hui]
heart like dead ash
Heart reduced to ashes
Desperately unhappy
Xīng xīng zhī huǒ kě yǐ liáo yuán [xing xing zhi huo ke yi liao yuan]
spark's fire can burn plain
One spark can burn a whole grassland
Need for great care and meticulous planning
[習慣成自然]
Xí guàn chéng zì rán [xi guan cheng zi ran]
habit grow nature
Become habitual, normal
Habit becomes engrained
[行屍走肉]
Xíng shī zǒu ròu [xing shi zou rou]
walk corpse walk flesh
A walking zombie
An unworthy person. Someone bereft of value - just a walking body with no active mind.
Beijing, temple, gateway
Yonghegong lama temple, Beijing
徙宅
Xǐ zhái wàng qī [xi zhai wang qi]
change residence forget wife
Move house but overlook wife
Foolish and forgetful. Move to a new house and take everything - except your partner.
Soft in the head
[幸災樂禍]
Xìng zāi lè huò [xing zai le huo]
lucky calamity laugh misfortune
Delighting in the misfortune of others
The story is of a king who delighted in the plight of the neighboring kingdom that was suffering from famine and would not help them even though he had received help when his people were suffering. So it means sadistic glee.
Schadenfreude
悬崖勒 [懸崖勒馬]
Xuán yá lè mǎ [xuan ya le ma]
precipice rein in horse
Rein in the horse at the cliff edge
Realize danger at the last moment
适履
Xuē zú shì lǚ [xue zu shi lu]
trim foot fit shoe
Reshape feet to fit new shoes
Take the wrong decision. Apply an inappropriate solution
罔,[學而不思則罔思而不學則殆]
Xué ér bù sī zé wǎng, sī ér bù xué zé dài [xue er bu si ze wang, si er bu xue ze dai]
study but no think rule deceive, think but no study rule dangerous
Learning without thinking means wasted work; thinking without learning is dangerous
Studying hard is important and gives rewards
, [學好三年學壞三天]
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
[學無止境]
Xué wú zhǐ jìng [xue wu zhi jing]
learn nothing stop border
There is no limit to learning
Knowledge is infinite
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
加霜
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
循序渐 [循序漸進]
Xún xù jiàn jìn [xun xu jian jin]
follow order gradually enter
Make gradual progress one step at a time
To make steady step by step progress towards an end
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

China motif
Our proverbs come with full information. The modern Chinese characters are given first with links that give information on the character. If the phrase uses traditional characters these are shown in brackets and gray text. As proverbs are so old you will often see them written in the old form. 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 included at the end.

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.

Copyright © Chinasage 2012 to 2020