August 18, 2009, 05:47 AM posted in General Discussion

Chinese idioms and sayings often make my head swirl.  There are so many so I almost always forget all of them.  I went online looking for the most common ones and found the following list.  Who knows if they are the most common, but they do seem mostly useful.  Anyway, I thought some of you might find them interesting.

天道酬勤      God helps those who help themselves. 
熟能生巧      Practices make perfect. / Skill comes from practice.
不眠之夜      white night 
爱屋及乌      Love me, love my dog.
不遗余力      spare no effort; go all out; do one's best
笨鸟先飞      A slow sparrow should make an early start.
辞旧迎新      bid farewell to the old and usher in the new; 
                   ring out the old year and ring in the new
大开眼界      open one's eyes; broaden one's horizon; be an eye-opener
国泰民安      The country flourishes and people live in peace
过犹不及      going too far is as bad as not going far enough; 
                   beyond is as wrong as falling short; too much is as bad as too little
和气生财      Harmony brings wealth
既往不咎      let bygones be bygones 
金玉满堂      Treasures fill the home
脚踏实地      be down-to-earth
茅塞顿开      be suddenly enlightened
马到成功      achieve immediate victory; win instant success
名利双收      gain in both fame and wealth
弄巧成拙      be too smart by half; Cunning outwits itself.
拿手好戏      masterpiece
礼尚往来      Courtesy calls for reciprocity.

脚踩两只船            sit on the fence
不打不成交            "No discord, no concord.
百闻不如一见         Seeing is believing.
拆东墙补西墙         rob Peter to pay Paul
活到老,学到老      One is never too old to learn.
有志者,事竟成      Where there is a will, there is a way.
功夫不负有心人      Everything comes to him who waits.
好了伤疤忘了疼      once on shore, one prays no more
赔了夫人又折兵      throw good money after bad
君子之交淡如水      the friendship between gentlemen is as pure as crystal; a hedge between keeps friendship green
每逢佳节倍思亲    On festive occasions more than ever one thinks of one's dear ones far away. It is on the festival occasions when one misses his dear most.

没有规矩不成方圆         Nothing can be accomplished without norms or standards.
不以物喜,不以己悲      not pleased by external gains, not saddened by personnal losses
金无足赤,人无完人      Gold can't be pure and man can't be perfect.
老生常谈,陈词滥调      cut and dried, cliché
比上不足,比下有余      "worse off than some, better off than many; to fall short of the best, but be better than the worst
谋事在人,成事在天      "The planning lies with man, the outcome with Heaven. Man proposes, God disposes. "
大事化小,小事化了      try first to make their mistake sound less serious and then to reduce it to nothing at all
好事不出门,恶事传千里   Good news never goes beyond the gate, while bad news spread far and wide.
留得青山在,不怕没柴烧   "Where there is life, there is hope."

My source is here.

By the way, if anyone has a better list, please share.

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August 18, 2009, 06:08 AM


"No discord, no concord.


Nothing can be accomplished without norms or standards.

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March 08, 2010, 12:50 AM

Well, here is a post back from the dead.  I found a website that has translations of 100 common Chinese idioms.

Interestingly, I found this old post on mistake while googling.

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August 18, 2009, 07:22 AM

The problem is there are too many "最常见的成语" in Chinese. I have a small book titled "学生成语词典" edited for Chinese grade schoolers. To my surprise, it contains more than 600 "frequently used" chengyu.......

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August 18, 2009, 08:18 AM

Some more! And "情人眼里出西施”,Qíngrén yǎnlǐ chū Xī shī,"Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder", “说曹操,曹操到”,Shuō Cáo Cāo,Cáo Cāo dào,"talk of the devil and he comes".

and...there must be some more....(not the end)

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August 18, 2009, 08:56 AM


right in front of me lies a small book called 汉语成语小词典 that is supposedly geared at elementary school students (!). It claims:


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August 18, 2009, 03:28 PM

7000常用的... yikes!  Anyway, thanks rolandpeng and shenyajin for the added 成语s.

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August 19, 2009, 02:54 AM

Ahh.. some more!
Actions speak louder than words.
事实胜于雄辩. Shìshí shèngyú xióngbiàn

Knowledge is power.
知识就是力量. Zhīshi jiùshì lìliàng

An idle youth,a needy age.
少壮不努力,老大徒伤悲. Shàozhuàng bù nǔlì,
lǎodà tú shāngbēi

Better late than never.
晚做总比不做强. Wǎn zuò zǒng bǐ bù zuò qiáng

Better pills may have wholesome effects.
良药苦口. Liángyàokǔkǒu

Easy come,easy go.
来得容易,去得容易. Láide róngyì, qùde róngyì

Look before you leap.
三思而后行. Sānsī ér hòuxíng

Well begin is half done.
好的开始是成功的一半. Hǎo de kāishǐ shì chénggōng
de yībàn

All good things come to an end.
天下没有不散的宴席. Tiānxià méiyǒu bù sàn de yànxí

Even Homer sometimes nods.
智者千虑,必有一失. Zhìzhě qiān lǜ, bì yǒu yī shī

It's dogged that does it.
世上无难事,只怕有心人. Shìshàng wú nánshì, zhǐpà

All roads lead to Rome.
条条大路通罗马. Tiáotiáo dàlù tōng Luómǎ

Practise what you preach.
言行一致. Yánxíng yīzhì

Practice makes perfect.
熟能生巧. Shúnéngshēngqiǎo

No pain,no gain.
不劳无获. Bùláowúhuò.

Where there is a will,there is a way.
有志者事竟成. Yǒuzhìzhě shì jìngchéng

Seeing is believing.
百闻不如一见. Bǎiwén bùrúyījiàn

Walls have ears.
隔墙有耳. Géqiángyǒu'ěr

Heart and soul.
全心全意. Quánxīnquányì

Do in Rome as the Romans do.
入乡随俗. Rùxiāngsuísú

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August 19, 2009, 03:21 AM


Thank so much!


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August 18, 2009, 06:59 AM

Very interesting,thanks.

It helps me learn English.

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August 19, 2009, 08:44 AM

Hi everybody

I made some flascards using the idioms and sayings from above. Click here to use them.  欢迎你们来用!  (Feel free to contribute more.  I can always add to the flashcards.)

PS: Thanks Sun!  If you ever have any English questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

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August 19, 2009, 09:19 AM


If you are really ambitious (not that you havent been already) maybe you could break some of them down. Some of the translations seem to be a stretch so understanding the logic behind them would be fun.

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August 19, 2009, 09:31 AM


Yeah, you are right.  Actually, what I first want to do is trim them down to about 30 of the ones I think I will actually use, possibly add sample sentences, and then send them back into a flashcard format.  (I will of course share.)  After those get memorized, I will add more. 

I would like to break them down as well.  It seems to me someone around here already did.  I saw a group in the CPod community awhile back.  I can't get the search feature to work, though.

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August 19, 2009, 10:24 AM


you are correct. It is here:


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August 19, 2009, 10:40 AM

So it is.  Thanks.  Looks like I have something new to read.

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August 20, 2009, 02:54 AM

I made a revised flashcard list that can be found here.  I removed many of the idioms and sayings I thought I would not use much.  This is of course subjective.  Feel free to use if you are interested.

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August 19, 2009, 08:20 AM

@xiaophil, 不用谢!我也学到了很多。我们确实很常用这些俗语,比如:“说曹操,曹操到”,还有上面这个帖子里的,不是因为英语中有这样的说法,主要是其中有些有教育的意义,就像座右铭一样。