There is a huge range of Chinese proverbs and common sayings, often spoken and used without thoughts by teachers and parents. This is part of the reasons why communication is sometimes difficult because one party is so used to it while the other wonders what it is all about. While the speaker feels that he or she has expressed fully, the listener sort of half understood, without wanting to interrupt or demand a full explanation.
Furthermore, some of the proverbs are hard to translate, or even worse, difficult to be explained without going back to the relevant Chinese cultural matters.
Some of the proverbs are used in greeting cards, banners, or plaques in offices and homes. They are normally used whenever the situation, or something similar, arises.
Indeed proverbs reflect cultural value, judgment criteria, as well as underlying thoughts. We are after all moulded through education, including expressions and proverbs. An understanding of the proverbs provide useful insight into the reasoning, mentality, psyche as well as cultural sensitivities of any race.
Mastery of Chinese proverbs could be difficult, their usage often reflect the command of the Chinese language itself.
The way we think is reflected in the language used. A review of the proverbs and common sayings gives a good indication of our thinking process, value judgment, as well as things that consciously or subconsciously shape our thoughts and speeches. The book lists three hundred and sixty five commonly used proverbs, bearing in mind that the translation is done to the best of our ability. Listing is done alphabetically according to pinyin, the literal translation is then given, followed by our interpretation of the phrase. Some of the proverbs are reproduced below.
“News of good deeds does not get out of the door,
news of bad deeds spreads around for a thousand miles”
“A tree with wide girdle grows from a tiny seed”
However big the project is, it started off as something tiny.
Success is not built overnight, it takes time to nurture.
“There is a difficult script to be cited in each household”
In every family, however good it looks from the surface, often there is something unpleasant that the family does not want it to be told. Each family has its own untold difficulties.
“Do not do unto others what you do not want to be done unto you”
A commonly quoted proverb from Confucius.
“It is easy to change the rivers and mountains (referring to the State),
it is hard to change one’s fundamental nature”
It is extremely difficult to change one’s nature—a leopard does change its spots.
“The man puts in the efforts, but the Heaven makes it a success.”
An often quoted statement, implying that though one could try their best,
the final outcome could be very circumstantial.
“Seeking help from others is not as good as doing it oneself”
It is far better to rely on oneself than relying on others. Comes from the saying “using the mouth is not as good as moving yourself, seeking help from others is not as good as seeking help from oneself”
“Strike first to gain the upper hand”
Emphasise on the importance of controlling the situation early, before things get out of hand.
Usually followed by “Strike late and you will be in disaster”
“Small funds not out, big funds not in”It does not feel to be in the human realm
This is a common phrase amongst businessmen.
Small funds are required to cultivate network, before big funds could be acquired.
Men experience sorrow, joy, separation or reunion; The moon may be dim or bright …Full or wane
This is from a famous poem by Su Dongpo, called "Prelude to Water Melody" [shuidiaogetou].
The proverb is used when a sad event such as "separation" occurs.
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