“Who, being loved, is poor?” -Oscar Wilde
“At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” -Plato
“Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.” -William Shakespeare
Whether we’re deep in the throes of a passionate romance, cruising for our next crush or helping a friend recover from a difficult breakup, love is often on our minds.
No matter what language you’re speaking, few topics call for nuanced and expressive language more than love.
So, why not add some romantic vocabulary to your Chinese language repertoire by studying Chinese proverbs about love?
Proverbs are popular sayings that often dispense advice or speak the truth about the world. In any language, proverbs come from many sources, including historical texts, poetry and pop culture.
Think “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” or “Life is like a box of chocolates.”
But whether you choose to study the origins of proverbs or not, learning these sayings will enrich your vocabulary and add nuance to the romantic ideas you want to express.
The following list of 15 Chinese proverbs and phrases about love will get you started!
15 Chinese Proverbs About Love for the Romantic Learner
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And now, for our set of 15 Chinese proverbs and phrases about love!
Chinese Proverbs and Phrases About Beauty
These phrases should help you get started expressing love and attraction. Add them to your repertoire to improve your flirting in Chinese.
1. 一见钟情 (yījiànzhōnɡqínɡ) — Love at first sight
The translation of this Chinese saying is very similar in English. 一见 (yījiàn) means “first sight” or “first time meeting you,” and 钟情 (zhōnɡqínɡ) means “fall in love.” The phrase doesn’t necessarily have to be about a person.
2. 各花入各眼 (gè huā rù gè yǎn ) — Different flowers match different eyes.
How do we account for why one person might catch our eye while another doesn’t? If you can’t explain why someone stands out from the crowd, you can simply say 各花入各眼.
Literally, 各花 (gè huā) means “each flower,” 入 (rù) means “goes into” and 各眼 (gè yǎn) means “each eye.”
3. 沉鱼落雁闭月羞花 (chén yú luò yàn bì yuè xiū huā) — Sinking fish, falling goose, hiding the moon, shaming the flowers. (A woman so beautiful that fish stop swimming and birds stop flying, the moon hides and flowers are shamed.)
This particular Chinese proverb refers to China’s historical four great beauties. Each of the four beauties has a different story, and at least one is a fictional character.
The four parts of 沉鱼落雁闭月羞花 refer to each beauty: one whose looks can make a fish stop swimming and sink, one who can make a goose stop flying and fall out of the sky, one who can make the moon hide behind the clouds and one who can shame even the flowers.
沉鱼落雁闭月羞花 can be used as one long phrase, or you can convey the same meaning by using select parts of the saying. So, it’s okay to just say 闭月羞花 or 沉鱼落雁 if you want to shorten the proverb.
Chinese Proverbs and Phrases About Types of Love
Now that you’ve hooked the object of your affection through your clever use of Chinese proverbs, you can let your love grow. Whether you hold on loosely or fall deep into a passionate affair, there are several ways we can convey the type and depth of our romantic relationships.
4. 有缘千里来相会 (yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiāng huì) — Fate/destiny has us meet from a thousand miles away.
有缘 is something connected by fate or karma. This romantic sentiment can be found on posters and in cards, indicating the idea that your love was meant to be.
5. 一往情深 (yīwǎngqíngshēn) — To be deeply attached to
There’s like, there’s love and then there’s deep attachment. The word 情 is a common word for “emotion” or “feeling” that you’ll see in other proverbs and phrases about relationships, while 深 is what makes it a “deep” emotion.
深 can be used literally, as in 深雪 (shēnxuě), which means “deep snow,” or figuratively, as in 深入阅读 (shēnrù yuèdú), which means “read deeply.”
6. 风流韵事 (fēng líu yùn shì) — Love affair (poetic and passionate)
This phrase acts as a noun that distinguishes a torrid relationship from merely “going out” or “seeing each other.”
On its own, 风流 more often means “distinguished” (it can also mean “romantic”) while 韵事 refers to a situation that’s elegant or poetic.
7. 爱屋及乌 (ài wū jí wū) — Love the house and its crow.
True, long-lasting love means accepting your partner’s imperfections, so you should love the whole house—even the crow sitting on it.
As an added bonus, this one’s nice to say and easy to remember because of the two words that are pronounced wū with a first tone. 屋 means “room” or “house,” and 乌 means “crow,” though when speaking about crows on their own, you’d normally use the longer word 乌鸦 (wūyā).
8. 执子之手，与子偕老 (zhí zǐ zhī shǒu, yǔ zǐ xiélǎo) — Hold hands with you, grow old with you.
偕 means “in company with” and is found in other words that mean “together,” like 偕同 (xiétóng).
9. 厮守终生 (sīshǒu zhōngshēng) — To be together forever
One example of using this phrase would be 两人约定厮守终生 (Liǎng rén yuēdìng sī shǒu zhōngshēng), which means “they agreed to stay together for life.”
Although marriage in China is on the decline, hopefully, there’s someone special out there for those who are looking.
Chinese Proverbs and Phrases About Heartache
Sadly, not all romance leads to a life of bliss. When it comes to heartache, how can we express our pain? Chinese has some great phrases that strike at the heart of the situation.
10. 一刀两断 (yīdāoliǎngduàn) — To break up
This phrase refers to a clean break: One cut, two pieces.
一刀 here means “one cut,” but it can also mean “one knife” or “one sword,” like in the game titled 一刀传世 (yīdāochuánshì) — A Sword Passed Down from Ancient Times. 断 means “to break” or “to snap off.”
While 一刀两断 refers to a romantic breakup, you can discuss the disillusion of a formal relationship, such as a corporate or political relationship, by using 断交 (duànjiāo).
11. 耳听为虚，眼见为实 (ěr tīng wéi xū, yǎn jiàn wéi shí) — Seeing is believing.
Literally, this breaks down to “what you hear, take as false, what you see, take as true.”
You might use this phrase to talk about a relationship that went sour because of lies or empty promises.
虚 means “false” here, but it can also mean “empty,” “weak” or “hollow”. 实 is found in many words meaning “real,” “true” or “honest.” 为 is used in several useful grammatical constructions in Chinese, but in both instances in this proverb, it’s a verb that means “to take something as.”
12. 肝肠寸断 (gān cháng cùn duàn) — With the liver and bowel broken into inches (pieces)
Even though this idiom references the liver and gut, it’s really describing the feeling of having a broken heart. Let’s all hope that this originated from a figurative description of the feeling rather than some terrible, true ancient story!
We saw 断 in 一刀两断 above, and here again, it refers to a cut. 寸 is an inch here. You can use this noun in simple sentences such as 他比我高两寸 (tā bǐ wǒ gāo liǎng cùn) — He is two inches taller than me.
13. 有情饮水饱，无情食饭饥 (yǒuqínɡ yǐnshuǐbǎo, wúqínɡ shífànjī) — With love, water is enough; without love, food doesn’t satisfy.
In the classic “Peanuts” comics, Charles Schulz gave Charlie Brown the line, “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.” You can now eloquently express the same sentiment in Chinese.
A more literal translation of this proverb is “with love, drinking water satisfies/fills; without love, eating food (still) hungry.” Each of these two parts breaks down into nicely matching segments: 有情 and 无情 mean that you have or don’t have love respectively, 饮水 and 食饭 mean that you drink water or eat food and 饱 and 饥 mean that you’re satisfied or hungry, respectively.
Learning opposites like this is a great way to expand your vocabulary quickly (though it won’t help you with your romantic problems).
14. 没有人值得你为他流泪，值得让你这么做的人不会让你哭泣 (méi yǒu rén zhí dé nǐ liú lèi, zhí dé ràng nǐ zhè me zuò de rén bùhuì ràng nǐ kū qì) — Nobody is worth your tears, and the one who is won’t make you cry.
You may have expressed similar sentiments to your friends as they’ve struggled to move on from a breakup.
One of the keywords in building this phrase is 值得 (zhídé), which means “to be worth/to deserve.” Other examples include:
这件小事不值得你担心 (zhè jiàn xiǎoshì bù zhídé nǐ dānxīn) — This little thing isn’t worth your time.
在下雨天不值得去海滩 (zàixià yǔtiān bù zhídé qù hǎitān) — It’s not worth going to the beach on a rainy day.
Another keyword is 让 (ràng), which means “to let/to allow,” like in the phrase 让我尝试 (ràng wǒ chángshì) — let me try.
15. 守得云开见月明 (shǒu dé yún kāi jiàn yuèmíng) — Watch and the clouds will part to show the moonlight.
After one suffers heartbreak, things do get better eventually. Here, 守 tells us to “keep watch” until 云 (the clouds) 开 (open) and we can see the moon’s light.
Learning a few proverbs at a time in contexts that are meaningful to you is the key to mastering the use of chengyu (Chinese idiomatic expressions) in conversation.
If you’re talking to a native Chinese speaker, take the opportunity to try out some of these proverbs and phrases. If you’re studying on your own, consider illustrating the phrases to help you memorize them. If you don’t want to draw them yourself, there are plenty of illustrated Chinese idiom books available for purchase.
Finally, have fun! Lists of chengyu aren’t meant to be dryly memorized but to serve as a launching pad for exploring the more playful and colorful side of the language.
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