Top 17 Famous Chinese Proverbs & Sayings | Inspirational Life Lessons

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China is said to have more proverbs than anywhere else on Earth. The orgins of some are lost in the mists of time. Inspiring Chinese Proverb. Sometimes ancient proverbs seem like they were written for today, not thousands of years ago. And this classic saying from Chinese tradition seems as relevant as ever in our fast-paced lifestyle – in which the present moment seems like the only thing that matters, and in which we often forget that even our smallest actions now can have deep reverberations in our future. Ancient Chinese proverbs for everyday life. These are relevant today as they were centuries ago. Wise words.

Here are Top 17 Chinese proverbs and the life wisdom that Inspire Us.

1. You Need To Begin Somewhere and The Best Time Is Now

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

Many people live in the past and lament over “ifs” and “should haves” and release their power of action in the present moment.
Ask yourself if you are allowing the regret of not doing things in the past influence your present and if you are feeding your mind stories of hopelessness and despair. The best time to act on that plan that you should have done years before is NOW!

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” – Chinese Proverb

2. Small And Consistent Steps Are The Keys To Great Achievement

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu

If you have even wondered how great achievements and journeys are built and sustained, the answer does not lie in quick sprints and fast fixes. The simple answer to great success and achievement comes from the great teacher Lao Tzu and from Chinese proverbs that a single step and a removing a small stone and doing it consistently is the key to a great journey. Expecting results too quickly and moving too fast will simply cause you to burnout.

“The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Chinese Proverb

3. Be Decisive And Choose To Step Forward

“Your teacher can open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” – Chinese Proverb

You can have mentors and people that show you the way and facilitate you to sharpen your skills but when it comes to engagement and moving forward in new directions, the choice lies on your shoulders. Whether you are enthusiastic and upbeat about learning and if you open new doors for your life depends squarely on you. Teachers can show the way but they cannot decide the way for you and cannot carry you into the new path.

4. Let Go Of What Others Are Thinking About You

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”- Lao Tzu1

Letting go of the assumptions of what others are thinking about you is a sure way to freedom and much relief.

5. DO You Believe That Stress And Tension Are A Necessity?

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”- Chinese Proverb

The next time you feel tense and stressed out, remember the wisdom from this proverb. The reality is that a lot of dis-ease and problems are created by excessive stress and tension. The natural order is something entirely different and involves flow and less effort. Our cells, tissues and organs are progressing with their remarkable work of keeping us together and functioning as a human being quite effortlessly.

6. The Key To Deep Engagement and Understanding

“Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.”1 – Chinese Proverb

The best way to understand and engage with a skill or a passion is to get involved and involve like-minded people to assist you. Research in motivation has indicated that when we have a chance to get deeply involved and complete a task and see the completed work, we experience greater motivation to continue with a project.

“He who asks is a fool for 5 minutes, but he who does no task remains a fool forever.” – Chinese Proverb

7. Do Not Sit Still And Procrastinate

“Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be afraid only of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

“Person who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait a very, very long time.” – Chinese Proverb

8. The Paradox Of Failure

“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” – Chinese Proverb

Let us change the way we process and think about failure. Failure is quite essential as a tool for growth if you allow it to teach you. Instead of focusing your energy into the doubt and guilt that is generated by failure, choose to focus all your energy in getting up and brushing the dust off your sleeves. If you refuse to get up after failing, the very first experience of the inevitable failure will crush you. And remember that when you are ready to quit, your success might be just around the corner.

“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.” – Chinese Proverb

9. When You Are Feeling Defeated And Angry, Remember That Others Might Be Having Greater Struggles

“I was angry that I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.” – Chinese Proverb

It is easy for us to lose a sense of perspective when things are not going exactly like we would like them to be. If you are looking for a quick shot of perspective, realize that there are many people who have or had greater adversities that you have and have decided to deal with them the best way possible.

“Better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” – Chinese Proverb

10. Do Not Let Yesterday’s Worries Ruin Today’s Solutions

“Do not let yesterday use too much of today.” – Chinese Proverb

Why allow the past to linger and ruin the peace and action that you can choose to implement today?

“If your problem has a solution then, why worry about it. If your problem has no solution, then why worry about it?”- Chinese Proverb

11. Embrace Peace And Let Go Of Anxiety And Sadness

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” – Chinese Proverb

Every day and every moment, you will be confronted with a choice. Jettison the comparison and become as unique that you can be and sing your song.

“You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent their making a nest in your hair.” -Chinese Proverb

12. How to Be Enlightened?

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

Do you spend a lot of time knowing and understanding the world and learning new things?

It is a great sign of wisdom to learn from new experiences and have a beginners mind about the world all around you.
The master Lao Tzu points out that in addition, you will greatly benefit by knowing yourself deeply.

13. How Not To Get Stuck In A Sticky Situation

“If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.” – Chinese Proverb

There is great wisdom in the wonderful proverb above since the guilt and shame of living with the outcomes of doing things that are less than desirable far outweigh the temporary relief that they provide. Reminding yourself of this proverb will make you rethink decisions and reactions that you will end up regretting later on.

“Life is like an echo. What you send out usually comes back to you.” – Chinese Proverb

While delegating work to others, remember that if you impose on them what you do not yourself desire, it will be difficult to create an empowered workplace. It is best to look at the strengths and skills that each person possesses and delegate accordingly to create an inspired and energized workplace.

“Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire” – Confucius

14. On Purpose And The Journey

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. A bird sings because it has a song.”- Chinese Proverb

Are you primarily looking for answers or a destination or do you believe in thoroughly enjoying and soaking in every moment and experience of the journey?
When you go for your skills and passion that enthrall and fascinate you, you may not find immediate success or answers.
But if the need to sing your song is greater than the potential outcome and the fame, you have a powerful force of enthusiasm and engagement working tirelessly in your favor.

“The journey is the reward.” – Chinese Proverb

So choose your journey carefully and answer the calls that you are most deeply called to answer and reap the rewards of every precious moment on the journey.

15. On Productive Ways to Spend Your Time

"Dig the well before you are thirsty”

Always plan for the worst even when things are going well because once the worst hits, you won’t have time to plan it then. A related quote from Sun Tzu is “Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”

Planning is an essential ingredient to success. Often times the best time to shine or prove your worth is being the person is best prepared for an escalation/disaster.

Spend at least a quarter of your day planning. Whether it be for an important meeting later in the week, a venture that could define your quarter, or a team project that will require actions of key stakeholders, you should always be known as the guy/gal who is well prepared. Nobody likes to waste their time on a meeting that doesn’t have an agenda! Use your free time wisely.

16. On Learning

“It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books”

You can learn far more from experience than you ever did studying the subject. There is nothing like on the job learning. Not only will experience in an actual field make you better than someone who merely studied it, most decision makers will value it more too. Take on extra projects that expose you to functions you have experience with. Go out of your own comfort zone regularly. Never stay comfortable for too long or you will reach your own ceiling very quickly.

17. On Luck

“A blind cat catches a dead mouse"

This means pure luck. Sometimes someone thinks that they were clever and accomplished something, when in fact, it was just plain dumb luck.


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