28 Comforting Chinese Wisdoms That Reflect On Education, Life, And Realism

Jennifer Turner
Jennifer Turner

After eight months of my Boren Fellowship studying Mandarin in tropical Taipei, Taiwan, I returned to Washington, DC just in time for the record snowstorm that hit the Northeastern United States last week. It wasn’t culture shock exactly, but certainly a weather shock. As I watched the blizzard from my window, I spent some of that cozy time baking and sorting through trip photos and papers. Among them was a list of my favorite Chinese sayings that I had collected, some about learning, some about life, all of which I find insightful, comforting, and wise.

Education

1. 玉不琢不成器,人不教难成才 Yù bù zuó bùchéngqì, rén bù jiào nán chéngcái: Jade isn’t useful without polishing, people aren’t talented without education!

2. 不怕慢,就怕停  Bùpà màn, jiù pà tíng: Don’t be afraid of going slowly, be afraid of stopping.

3. 种树的最佳时间是二十年前,第二个最好的时间就是今天 zhǒng shù de zuì jiā shíjiān shì èrshí nián qián, dì èr gè zuì hǎo de shíjiān jiùshì jīntiān: The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.

4. 活到老,学到老 huó dào lǎo, xué dào lǎo: Live until old age, learn until old age.

5. 读万卷书不如行万里路 dú wàn juǎn shū bùrú xíng wànlǐ lù: Reading ten thousand books is not as good as traveling 10,000 li [a traditional Chinese unit of distance].

6. 熟能生巧 shúnéngshēngqiǎo: Experience becomes skill.

Realism

7. 天高皇帝远 Tiān gāo huángdì yuǎn: Heaven is high and the emperor is far away.

8. 山不转,路转   shān bù zhuǎn, lù zhuǎn: The mountain doesn’t move, the road moves.

9. 江山易改,本性难移 jiāngshān yì gǎi, běnxìng nán yí: Rivers and mountains are easy to change, true character is hard to change.

10. 祸莫大于轻敌 huò mòdà yú qīngdí: The worst disaster is underestimating your enemy.

11. 疑惑深,智慧深;疑惑浅,智慧浅 yíhuò shēn, zhìhuì shēn; yíhuò qiǎn, zhìhuì qiǎn: Deep doubts, deep wisdom. Little doubt, little wisdom.

12. 求人不如求己 qiúrén bùrú qiú jǐ: Depending on yourself is better than depending on others.

 13. 交个朋友多条路,树个敌人多堵墙 jiāo gè péngyǒu duō tiáo lù, shù gè dírén duō dǔ qiáng: Make a friend, make another road. Make an enemy, build a wall.

14. 兔子急了也要人 tùzǐ jíle yě yào rén: Even a rabbit will bite when cornered.

15. 平时多流汗,战时少流血 píngshí duō liú hàn, zhàn shí shǎo liúxuè: Sweat more in peacetime, bleed less in war.

16. 狗嘴里吐不出象牙 gǒu zuǐ lǐ tǔ bu chū xiàngyá: Do not look for ivory in the mouths of dogs.

17. 内乱外患 nèiluàn wàihuàn: Civil strife, foreign aggression.

18. 当局者迷;旁见者请 dāngjúzhěmí; páng jiàn zhě qǐng: The authorities are confused, those involved see clearly.

Wisdom and Comfort

19. 山外有山,人外有人  shān wài yǒu shān, rén wài yǒurén: Around mountains are other mountains. Around people are other people. There’s plenty of fish in the sea!

20. 天无绝人之路 tiān wú jué rén zhī lù: Heaven won’t refuse man a path.

21. 一日为师,终生为母 yī rì wéi shī, zhōngshēng wèi mǔ: Be someone’s teacher for a day, become their mother forever.

22. 夜长梦多 yèchángmèngduō: The longer the night, the more dreams.

23. 天生我材必有用 tiānshēng wǒ cái bì yǒuyòng: Heaven made me. Society will find a use for me.

24. 皇天不负苦心人 huángtiān bù fù kǔxīn rén: Heaven will not abandon those who work hard.

25. 已所不欲勿施于人 yǐ suǒ bù yù wù shī yú rén: Do not do unto others what you would not want done to you.

26. 爱屋及乌 àiwūjíwū: Love the house, and the crow that lives there. Love me, accept my flaws!

27. 笨鸟先飞早入林 bènniǎoxiānfēi zǎo rù lín: The stupid bird who flies first gets to the forest earlier.

28. 爱人如己 àirén rú jǐ: Love yourself most of all. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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