12 Inspirational Proverbs and Quotes in Chinese to Keep Calm and Carry On

Have you been feeling down in the dumps lately?

Life can be pretty rough at times, which can make it hard for us to remain positive 100% of the time.

But as the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

It’s expressions like this that remind us the bumps in the road we sometimes face can be overcome.

So whether you need some motivation to overcome an obstacle in your Mandarin studies, or simply need words of encouragement to carry on, we have 12 uplifting quotes in Chinese to get you through tough times!


Chinese Proverbs About Patience


1. 不怕慢, 就怕站。— Be not afraid of growing slowly, only of staying still.

Pinyin: bú pà màn, jiù pà zhàn.

Key Vocabulary:

 (pà) — to fear, to be afraid
 (màn) — slow
 (zhàn) — to stop, to halt

When literally translated word for word, the saying is actually, “Do not be afraid of slow, only be afraid to stop.”

The main idea here is that the only thing you should fear is staying in one place and never progressing. No matter how slowly you think you’re moving towards a goal, slow progress is always better than no progress at all!

2. 冰冻三尺,非一日之寒。— Three feet of ice does not form in a single day.

Pinyin: bīng dòng sān chǐ, fēi yī rì zhī hán.

Key Vocabulary:

 (dòng) — to freeze, to feel cold
 ( fēi) — incorrect, not; to not be
 (zhī) — equivalent to ; it, her, him
 (hán) — cold; to tremble

It’s true that there’s a lot you can accomplish in a day, but do not be disappointed when you don’t see any visible progress.

Progress and growth take time, and it’s important to exercise patience with whatever journey you’re currently on.

3. 欲速则不达。— Haste will not get you anywhere.

Pinyin: yù sù zé bù dá.

Key Vocabulary:

 (yù) — appetite, passion; to desire
 (sù) — fast, rapid; velocity
 (zé) — but, then; norm, standard; to imitate
 (dá) — to attain, to amount to

Literally meaning, “Want something in haste but cannot there,” this Chinese quote emphasizes that speeding up does not mean you will necessarily cross the finish line faster.

We have to stop being in a rush all the time, looking for instant gratification. It’s better that you take your time so your progress is nice, steady and consistent.

It’s like the saying, “Don’t run before you can walk.”

4. 循序渐进。— Follow the order to gradually move forward.

Pinyin: xún xù jiàn jìn.

Key Vocabulary:

 (xún) — to adhere to, to abide by
 (xù) — order, sequence
 (jiàn) — gradual; gradually
 (jìn) — to go forward, to advance

Just like you would not skip ahead when following a recipe, take things one step at a time in whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Trying to yield faster results for the sake of convenience won’t do you any good.

Chinese Proverbs About Perseverance


5. 万事开头难。— The first step is the hardest.

Pinyin: wàn shì kāi tóu nán.

Key Vocabulary:

万事 (wàn shì) — all things
 (kāi) — to start, to establish
 (tóu) — head, top, beginning, end, first

Whether you’re thinking about taking up a new language or transitioning into a healthier lifestyle, just the idea of getting started can be quite intimidating. We often find excuses for not taking on anything new in our lives.

Once we get over our fear of taking risks, however, we realize that the biggest hurdle is letting ourselves be vulnerable to mistakes, and accepting that failure is part of growth.

6. 一口吃不成胖子。— One mouthful will not make a fat man.

Pinyin: yì kǒu chī bù chéng pàng zi.

Key Vocabulary:

 (chéng) — to finish, to accomplish, to turn into

Here is a quote that’s very similar to, “Rome was not built in a day.”

While the Chinese saying is about not expecting quick results, my personal interpretation is that one setback will not ruin your progress entirely.

7. 熟能生巧。— Experience can breed skill.

Pinyin: shú néng shēng qiǎo.

Key Vocabulary:

 (shú) — experience, practice
 (qiǎo) — skill; skilled; timely

Though some people are naturally gifted, the truth is that practice makes perfect. You have to put the time and work in if you want to master anything, be that Mandarin Chinese, a technical skill or an artistic pursuit.

8. 今日事,今日毕。— Today’s task is for today to complete.

Pinyin: jīn rì shì, jīn rì bì.

Key Vocabulary:

 (bì) — to complete; finished

Procrastination is a widely shared setback. Many of us have a tendency to put off even the simplest tasks because we’re either not in the mood or the task itself is not enjoyable.

Leaving everything to the last minute does nothing for you in the long run except build bad habits. Thus, if you set out to accomplish something for the day, then get it done. Or at least, get as much of it done as time permits.

Chinese Proverbs About Learning


9. 授人以鱼,不如授之以渔。— Giving a man a fish is not equal to teaching him how to fish.

Pinyin: shòu rén yǐ yú, bù rú shòu zhī yǐ yú.

Key Vocabulary:

(shòu) — to teach, to award, to give
(yǐ) — to use; by means of
不如 (bù rú) — inferior to, not as good as
(yú) — to fish; fisherman

We all know the adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Many have contested the origin of this quote. Some argue it originated from this particular Chinese proverb, while others say it came from the Native Americans or somewhere else.

No matter where the English quote came from, the notion is observed by the Chinese and non-Chinese—there is greater value in learning or being taught rather than just receiving a handout.

10. 学习是永远跟随主人的宝物。— Learning is a treasure that always follows its owner.

Pinyin: xué xí shì yǒng yuǎn gēn suí zhǔrén de bǎo wù.

Key Vocabulary:

永远 (yǒng yuǎn) — eternal; forever
跟随 (gēn suí) — to follow

No matter how mundane or tedious it can sometimes be when acquiring new skills, everything you learn will follow you for the rest of your life.

Even if you’re not currently studying, you never actually stop learning. This is a privilege you should always cherish and treasure.

11. 不入虎穴,焉得虎子?— If you do not enter the tiger’s den, how will you get the tiger cub?

Pinyin: bú rù hǔxué, yān dé hǔ zǐ?

Key Vocabulary:

(yān) — how, where
(dé) — to obtain, to gain; suitable; finished

You’ve likely heard the mottoes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and, “No pain, no gain.”

Although no one in their right mind would actually enter a tiger’s den, the idea here is that you will never get anywhere in life if you don’t take the risk.

Nothing will happen if you always stay in your comfort zone!

12. 书是随身携带的花园。— A book is a garden you carry around with you.

Pinyin: shū shì suí shēn xié dài de huā yuán.

Key Vocabulary:

随身 (suí shēn) — to carry on one’s person
携带 (xié dài) — to take along

This is by far one of the most beautiful quotes in Chinese I have ever come across. A book can be many things, but I’d never compared a book to a garden before.

It completely makes sense; a garden is a place of nurturing, growth and love, and we should never underestimate how much we can learn and grow from reading.

What You Can Learn from Chinese Quotes and Proverbs

New vocabulary

First and foremost, proverbs are opportunities to pick up new terms that might not appear in a typical Mandarin lesson or textbook. Additionally, many quotes also include chengyu (Chinese idioms).

Chengyu are a natural part of everyday speech. For example, Chinese speakers may use color-specific idioms to describe everyday situations, or phrases about love to describe beauty and feelings.

Essentially, chengyu are language tidbits that will improve your overall Mandarin skills. They’re absolutely necessary if you want to communicate well with native speakers.

Chinese core values

Chinese adages reveal certain beliefs that are unique to Chinese culture. Some of the core values that have existed for centuries include harmony and benevolence, which are reflected in proverbs from Laozi and Confucius.

The sayings above have been passed down from generation to generation to offer insight into the wisdom that is so deeply rooted in Chinese culture.

A sense of universality

While no two cultures share the exact same set of values, we have more in common with each other than we may think.

Proverbs may be connected to certain groups, but the universality of the underlying messages manifests in the way that anyone can relate to them on some level.

The proverbs convey the values that have survived through the centuries, and the truths that we need and can still apply in this day and age. It is the timelessness of proverbs that gives us the comfort and strength to push forward.


So, keep your chin up!

You will get through your hurdles. And just in case, you can always check out these proverbs for a little more Chinese wisdom!

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