Chinese proverbs, or 諺語 (yàn yŭ), are often used to gain wisdom or insight on topics that may feel confusing. These Chinese sayings of wisdom are peppered throughout the Chinese language, and range within a variety of topics.
Proverbs are often adapted from literature or philosophers' sayings to express popular advice. Whether you're talking about love, life, death, or money, there's probably a proverb that you can relate to.
These top 12 Chinese proverbs about love and life are perfect to learn and discuss with your fellow Chinese language learners.
6 Chinese Proverbs About Love & Romance
Love proverbs - who doesn't love the idea of love? These six proverbs will help you express your love for someone (or something) in a concise way.
1. 一見鍾情/一见钟情 (yī jiàn zhōnɡ qínɡ)
This Chinese saying or idiom loosely translates to "Love at first sight." While it's common in the English language to use that phrase when referring to a person, this phrase in Chinese can be used on an object, too! The phrase separates into "一見" meaning "first sight" and "鍾情" meaning "fall in love."
2. 各花入各眼 (gè huā rù gè yǎn)
This Chinese proverb translates to "Different flowers catch different eyes." In English, the common phrase that can almost be related to this is "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." For example, if someone stands out in a crowd to you but you can really explain why, you can tell your friend "各花入各眼." When broken down, "各花" means "individual flower"; "入" means "enter"; and "各眼" means "individual eye."
3. 厮守终身 (sī shǒu zhōng shēn)
This romantic Chinese love quote is the perfect phrase to use with the one you love so dearly. It can be translated to "Stay together for life." Each part of the phrase means something different. "廝" means "mutual or reciprocal"; "守" can mean "guardianship or companionship"; and "終身" means "lifetime or forever."
4. 有緣千里來相會/有缘千里来相会 (Yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiāng huì)
"Fate brings together those that are a thousand miles apart." For the romantic soul, this love proverb says that distance cannot separate two souls who are meant to be together. Destiny has its ways to bring two people together!
5. 藕斷絲連/藕断丝连 (Ǒu duàn sī lián)
Sometimes break-ups happen, but it doesn't mean you weren't in love! Directly translated, this proverb/idiom says "a broken lotus root is connected by its strings." If you've eaten lotus before, you'll know that there are small strings when you bite off a piece. Similarly, when two people break up, they're still connected in someway through heart strings.
6. 有情飲水飽，無情食飯飢/有情饮水饱，无情食饭饥 (Yǒuqíng yǐnshuǐ bǎo, wúqíng shí fàn jī)
"With love, water is enough; without love, food doesn't satisfy." This Chinese proverb expresses the satisfying nature of love. When you're in love, even the most difficult situation can become bearable. Without love, everything can feel unsatisfying and empty.
6 Chinese Proverbs About Life You Should Know
Unlike tongue twisters that are designed for fun, sometimes we need a little reminder in life to keep us grounded. These six proverbs touch upon aspects of life that anyone can relate to.
1. 路遙知馬力，日久見人心/路遥知马力，日久见人心 (lù yáo zhī mǎlì, rì jiǔ jiàn rénxīn)
This proverb about life reveals that time can reveal the truth of life. Roughly translated, the proverb says "As distance tests a horse's strength, time reveals a person's heart." Over time, the truth will be set free, so don't blindly believe or make assumptions. Let time lead you to where you need to be.
2. 冰凍三尺，非一日之寒/冰冻三尺，非一日之寒 (bīngdòng sān chǐ, fēi yī rì zhī hán)
Have you ever heard the English saying "Rome wasn't build in a day?" Well, this is the Chinese version of that! Remember that good things take time. With a little perseverance, persistence, and hope you can achieve whatever it is you have set out to do. This proverb can be translated to say "It takes more than one cold day for the river to freeze three feet deep."
3. 人不可貌相 (rén bùkě màoxiàng)
Here's another proverb that you've mostly heard in English. This is the Chinese version of "Don't judge a book by its cover." When this proverb is translated, it means "People aren't their appearance." So if you're ever in a situation where you catch yourself judging based on a cover, remember this proverb to help keep you grounded!
4. 耳聽為虛，眼見為實/耳听为虚，眼见为实 (Ěr tīng wèi xū, yǎnjiàn wéi shí)
This classic proverb tells us that "seeing is believing." Sometimes, what we hear may not be true (i.e. rumors) so it's better to confirm it for yourself. It's more reliable to discover the truth with your own eyes than to hear it through the grapevine.
5. 身正不怕影子斜 (shēn zhèng bùpà yǐngzi xié)
"A straight man isn't afraid of a crooked shadow." This proverb states anyone who's righteous isn't afraid of seeming unrighteous. Essentially, if you know that you're doing the right thing, you won't be afraid to be told or represented otherwise.
6. 廣交友，無深交/广交友，无深交 (guǎng jiāoyǒu, wú shēnjiāo)
Some people in life only need a few friends to be happy. This Chinese proverb claims that those who have numerous friends don't hold any deep friendships with anyone. It's similar to the English saying "A friend to all is a friend to none." Sometimes, when you spread yourself too thin, you have a hard time forming deep connections with others.
Chinese Proverbs (諺語) vs. Chinese Chengyu (成語）
The purpose of proverbs is to offer advice during times of confusion. These slices of wisdom help you gain a better understanding of things that may be hard to digest in the moment. Proverbs educate and impart knowledge in a concise and interesting way. Whether it's about love, life, or friendship, there's something to learn in every wise saying.
On the other hand, Chinese chengyus (成語）are idioms. Idioms and proverbs are important throught the Chinese language, however idioms tend to express a play on words or uses a short amount of words. A common English idiom would be "break a leg", which most people understand as an expression to say "good luck." However, in Chinese, chengyus often follow a structure in order to be considered a chengyu. While it's easy to confuse the two, Chinese proverbs and Chinese chengyus are quite different.
There are plenty of other interesting Chinese proverbs that may be relevant to you. Chinese proverbs cover a variety of topics like patience, fear, children, and happiness. Whether you're looking for advice or simply like learning new proverbs to discuss with friends, there's always something for everyone to learn in these Chinese sayings and phrases.