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50 Timeless Chinese Proverbs Worth Memorizing

Memorize them. Share them. Live them.

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Patterned background with Chinese fabrics and text: Timeless Chinese Proverbs
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Wisdom, condensed

Plucked directly from Gerd de Ley’s Book of Chinese Proverbs: A Collection of Timeless Wisdom, Wit, Sayings & Advice, these 50 proverbs really strike a chord and are worth keeping in your back pocket. For more inspiration, check out these life-changing quotes that will stay with you forever.

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A bird does not sing because he has the answer to something, he sings because he has a song.
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On self-expression

Not every action has to be productive, or to move something forward. Sometimes you just have to respond to the moment that you’re in.

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It is difficult to catch a black cat in a dark room, especially when it’s not there.
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On being lost in darkness

You can’t see it, but it can probably see you. Unless its eyes are doing that spooky glowing-thing. Then you can probably see it. Unless it’s not there. Take a break from looking with these cat quotes every cat-lover can appreciate.

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All cats love fish but fear to wet their paws.
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On want and fear

Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Or dry. If cat jokes are more your speed, check out these hilarious cat memes.

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Charity is not a bone you throw to a dog, but a bone you share with a dog.
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On sharing

Sharing your success is infinitely more worthwhile than distributing your pity. Guess which one the dog would rather have. Take a minute to reflect with these quotes for gratitude.

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He who plays the donkey must not be surprised that he gets everyone on his back.
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On martyrdom

Don’t let people take advantage of you, and then complain about it. Boundaries are important! If these awesomely confident women in history wouldn’t stand for it, neither should you.

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When you aim at the rat, beware of the vase.
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On acting thoughtfully

Even the best-aimed shoe can do more harm than good. The vase will thank you later. Here are 22 of the most beautiful proverbs from around the world.

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A strong steed cannot be raised in the yard.
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On growth and boundaries

You gotta give them thangs room to roam! Comfortable conditions don’t breed growth, the challenge does.

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Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.
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On self-assessment

What’s the point of perfection if you never reach your full potential? A little sweat never hurt anybody, and a flawed diamond still sparkles. These success quotes will help you dream big.

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The pen of the tongue should be dipped in the ink of the heart.
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On speaking kindly

Personally, I have not forgotten a single nice thing someone has said to or about me, ever. If you need some ideas, try these 19 powerful kindness quotes that will stay with you.

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To ask is not a crime. To be rejected is not a calamity.
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On shooting your shot

Think of it this way: if you don’t ask, the answer is definitely no. If you do ask, the answer is only probably no. Or yes!

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What you cannot avoid, welcome.
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On picking your battles

There are plenty of futile fights worth fighting regardless, but life is a lot easier when you make peace with the inevitable.

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If you have never been fooled, you’ll never become an expert.
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On learning from your mistakes

This proverb was written specifically about the time I got scammed out of a $30 Amazon gift card while trying to buy concert tickets from a Facebook catfish. Now, I know. So can you.

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Real gold is not afraid of the melting pot.
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On handling the heat

Melted gold is still gold! Or, in other words: you’ve got this, we believe in you, trust in yourself.

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Some people are already old when they are three.
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On acquired wisdom

Have you ever met someone and just known this is not their first time here? Some souls just have the ability to make it abundantly clear that this is not their first time around, even if they are easily distracted with a colorful set of oversized plastic keys. Here are 8 signs that you may have lived a past life.

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However strong you are, there is always someone stronger.
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On accepting yourself

There’s always someone younger, older, prettier, less attractive, taller, shorter, better at Scrabble and worse at math than you. And that’s okay! Don’t compare yourself to others; you are enough just the way you are.

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Discipline springs from love.
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On doing better

If you really love you, you will expect a lot from you, because it’s simply what you’re capable of. Holding yourself to a high standard helps draw that out.

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A friend, one soul, two bodies
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On the bond of best friendship

Maybe your life’s true twin flame is none other than your best friend. Or maybe your romantic soulmate is your best friend! Either way, when you meet your soul’s counterpart, you’ll know.

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Behave to everyone as if you were receiving a great guest
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On the treatment of others

Not a single person has ever rubbed someone the wrong way by being too respectful. Imagine how you’d act if your idol was coming over for dinner and keep that same energy for everyone else in your life. That’s right, even for your family.

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The scent of a rose will always stay on the hand of the giver
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On generosity

Pretty straightforward here—receiving is lovely, but givers reap the true benefits. And they smell good. It’s just a fact.

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One cannot manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other.
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On spreading yourself too thin

While I cannot say I myself have tried holding pumpkins underwater, I have definitely tried managing too many affairs. It does tend to pop back up if you take your hand off them, and I only have two. Hands, that is. These 15 time management tips that actually work will help you regain control of your pumpkins.

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The capable are assigned more tasks
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On performing to the best of your ability

You may have to accept you’ll spend pretty much the rest of your life operating at peak capacity—it’s the ceiling of that capacity that determines how much you’ll accomplish.

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A project that you built for a long time can be destroyed in one careless moment
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On the products of consistency

There are times when a single move can spell disaster, and when you start to get complacent one is much more likely to abound. This is one of those times where a bit of mindfulness can help you not to make an unthinking mistake. Wake up inspired with these beautiful morning quotes.

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Large demands on oneself and little demands on others keep resentment at bay
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On avoiding a letdown

If you keep your expectations on the ground, you become impossible to disappoint. The only one with control over your destiny should be you.

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The first thing to do is start and the second is to continue
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On changing your life

Despite all the coordination, variables, and skill that a project might require, it really is as simple as that: just show up, and keep going. Do or do not, there is no try, as I believe someone small, green, and wise once said?

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The best place to find helping hands is at the end of your own arms
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On self-sufficiency

Be your own superhero, baby! You are more than capable, I promise.

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Talking doesn’t get your rice cooked
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On doing the work

The hot air you are full of can’t get water to a boiling point—believe it or don’t. Talking it is fine, but eventually you’re gonna have to walk it, too. Start the year off right with these inspirational New Year’s quotes.

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You have to study to learn to be good.
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On self-improvement

Being good is a skill, not a personality trait. It’s something you’ve got to constantly work at and sharpen.

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He who does not know what to do in his spare time is not a businessman.
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On fulfillment

If you don’t know what you’re doing it for then why do? What are you working towards? Does your work feed you in return? Passion breeds work, not the other way around. Ask yourself these 10 questions to discover your true passion.

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"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
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On resilience

Even the biggest project can be broken down into small, manageable parts. One thing at a time soon adds up.

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To die is to stop living but to stop living is something entirely different than dying.
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On being alive

When most people are on their death’s door, their greatest regrets aren’t things they’ve done, but those they haven’t. Life: suck the marrow out of it!

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One cannot refuse to eat just because there is a chance of being choked.
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On pooh-poohing fear

The thing about scenarios in which you might die, is that you almost never do. If you die, you die. Are you going to miss out even though you probably won’t?

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The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.
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On long-term change

Sure, having 20 years of performance under your belt is nice, but don’t let a late start deter you. These 15 stories prove it’s never too late to change your life.

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What shall one lean on if one has no backbone?
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On being a force

I don’t care what you believe, if you don’t say what you believe, and don’t do what you say. What you believe in is all you’ve got, so why not give it all you’ve got?

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If at home you receive no visitors, then abroad you will have no host.
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On reciprocal relationships

You reap what you sow—relationships, work, corn, free accommodation when you travel.

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Virtue practiced to be seen is not real virtue; vice which fears to be seen is real vice.
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On keeping it real

Human beings, by nature, want to be perceived as good and not evil, regardless of the truth of their character.

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Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.
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On finding out for yourself

One person’s perception absolutely won’t be yours. Get out there and form your own opinion—it’s more valuable to you than anyone else’s. The 10 most extreme travel adventures in the world might be a good place to start?

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Traveler, there is no road. The road is made as you walk.
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On just figuring out

Do you know what’s infinitely better than following in someone’s footsteps? Forging your own path. You’ll get there, exactly the way you were meant to get there.

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True character is revealed in moments of extreme anger.
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On handling yourself

When you’re caught in a storm of extreme emotions, it’s the most difficult time to be rational, understanding, or kind. These wise quotes will help you stop any worsening argument in its tracks.

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He who hides his faults plans to make more.
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On working on yourself

Usually, if you try to cover them up, it’s because you’re incapable of changing them at all. To change a fault, first you have to admit that it exists.

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Indulgences have more victims than swords.
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On not getting too distracted

It’s funny how the things we do to fill our time often become the ways we ruin our lives. Why not replace those bad habits with some of the habits of naturally productive people?

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A hundred “no’s” are less painful than one insincere “yes.”
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On false hope

Sometimes you’ve got to be cruel to be kind. They’ll deal with it, I promise. The weird thing about life is how it just incessantly goes on.

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After three days without reading, talk becomes flavorless.
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On spicing up your life

Conversation with someone who just recycles their same thoughts over and over and over is a Circle of the Inferno through which Dante wouldn’t even pass. These reading quotes will make you crave a good book.

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Want a thing long enough, and you don’t.
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On getting after it

Cause if you wanted to, you would.

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If you are standing on the edge of an abyss, don’t step back.
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On the rewards of risk

Reader, explore the abyss. The unknown can be scary but the known is downright frightful. If you don’t like it, you can always go back. A metaphorical abyss, that is. Why not dive into the unknown with the best hobby for your zodiac sign?

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If you neglect your art for one day it will neglect you for two.
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On staying focused

Reiterating that true passion breeds work—if you can go a period of time without practicing, you might need to reevaluate.

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Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.
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On living your best life

Survival is incorporated into the DNA of life, but living? That’s something you have to find yourself. Go beyond just surviving, make your life worth watching and all that. That’s probably the meaning of life, after all.

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It is not a failure to be down, but it is to stay down.
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On toughness

You haven’t been beaten when you reach a setback—only when you decide to give up. Anything worthwhile isn’t going to come easy, so try to demonstrate an unbreakable spirit in the face of challenge.

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Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
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On inner-peace

You place a lot of stress on yourself in trying to be you at your fullest potential. Never stop blossoming, but back it down from 100 every once in a while, to check in with you. These beautiful quotes about peace will get you thinking.

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The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.
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On trying

Guess which one you want to be?

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The more you are afraid of ghosts, the more ghosts you see.
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On making peace with the beast

This is applies to ghosts, spiders, failure, anything that strikes fear into you. The more you hype it up in your head, the more cognizant you become of it. You know who doesn’t see ghosts everywhere? Glass-half-full types!