Great Chinese Sayings
1] A gentleman considers benevolence his duty and never considers it a burden. He knows the long journey ahead and even unto death, he would not have regrets for the difficult journey he had traveled.
2] A man must have determination and he who is not determined will never acquire knowledge.
3] A real man makes his home anywhere in the world. He is established in an honorable position and he follows the way. When enjoying success, he shares his ideals with people and when plagued by failures; wealth and fame cannot tempt him. Poverty and humiliation cannot move him away from his principles; power and authority cannot sway him.
4] Before Heaven gives awesome responsibility to a man, he will be greatly tested. His resolution is first tested then his flesh buffeted, his appetite repressed, his body left in want and his mental perplexities left unresolved. This will make up for his deficiencies and will produce perseverance.
5] Even if a person is brave to do anything, he will bring himself harm if he does not have good intentions.
6] This particular bird might not be flying now, but once it starts to fly, it will soar high in the sky. It might be silent now, but once it calls, people will be surprised.
7] It is better for a man to die defending his country during war than to stay at home and die in bed surrounded by his children.
8] Without exposure to great sayings, one will not develop great aspirations and without great exposure to correct opinions, one will not have a firm mind.
9] When climbing a mountain, one should not give up when faced with difficulties and when accumulating merits, one should not be bitter about poverty.
10] Misfortune should make one more steadfast and not frustrate one’s lofty ambitions and age should make one stronger rather than change one’s mind.
11] A real man should have ambitions that span the four directions.
12] Direct one’s heart towards Heaven and Earth, establish the Way for people, restore the lost teachings of past Sages and Saints and build a peaceful world for all future generations.
13] Time must not be lost and one must never slacken in accomplishing aspirations.
14] When living, seek to be an outstanding hero and when deceased, seek to be a heroic ghost.
15] If one has talent but lacks the desire to improve oneself, it means one has no goals.
16] One must have great aspirations in order to discuss great matters.
17] To achieve worldwide success, one must have aspiration that can influence the whole world.
18] The most benevolent ambition is still useless if it cannot remove the sufferings from the world.
19] Once set, the goal of a real man should be like a mountain that cannot be moved.
20] No one in the world without first setting a goal can achieve success and without setting a goal, nothing in the world can be accomplished.
21] To be a gentleman, one should necessarily be engaged in learning and if he is not diligent, it is because his will is not strong enough.
22] A student must have resolute will otherwise he will become frustrated as soon as he encounters difficulties.
23] Nothing is impossible for those who have strong will.
24] Without learning, a man cannot know what righteousness is; just like a piece of jade without carving cannot be turned into a vessel.
25] Only when the Way is appreciated will the people respect learning and when the teachers are strict, the students will adhere to the Way.
26] A real man has three worries. Not yet of being informed of a good thing to do, he worries until he knows. When he knows, he begins to worry that he has yet to learn it well. When he has learnt it, he begins to worry that he has yet to put it into practice and perfect it.
27] Without eloquence, language cannot be disseminated and without language, who knows your thoughts?
28] A real man in regards to eating he does not seek to be full and when residing in a house; does not seek to be comfortable. His concern is to be diligent at work and careful in speech and action. He uses the Way to correct himself and in so doing it, he regards himself as a good learner.
29] Confucius said, “When I was 15, I aspired to learn. At 30, I found my footing. At 40, I cleared all doubts. At 50, I knew the decree of Heaven. At 60, I was able to discern the truth. At 70, I could follow my heart’s desire without transgressing what is right.
30] On a journey, there is bound to be at least one that I can learn something. If I find a virtuous one, I will emulate him. If I find a weakness, I will check to see if I have the same weakness.
31] Confucius said, “Once I tried to meditate all day and night without eating or sleeping. I found that it did not benefit me, unlike learning.”
32] Education is for all and there is no distinction between people.
33] By thinking one can attain knowledge and the role of the mind is to think. Without thinking, one would not acquire knowledge.
34] Confucius said, “After listening to a sage, others’ speeches will not be attractive anymore.”
35] Confucius said, “Once I contemplated the whole day but what I learned was less than what I gained from a moment’s learning.”
36] One who does not stop until he has completed carving, could even carve through material as hard as stone or metal!
37] A real man knows and will not be confused because he knows there is a beginning and an end to fortune and misfortune.
38] Ignorance of rites and righteousness springs from the lack of learning and morality.
39] There were no ancient sage kings who did not respect teachers and they were revered regardless of their social status and wealth.
40] When lacking in understanding, ask; when lacking in ability, learn and one who is humble despite knowing is truly knowledgeable.
41] A sage practises what he preaches.
42] A Sage cherishes a moment of time because time is difficult to get but very easy to lose; he does not value a large piece of jade.
43] It is better to be dull and fond of learning than to be clever but idle and do nothing.
44] Time once passes will never come again. It is difficult to be successful but easy to fail and it is difficult to retain time but easy to lose it.
45] Books are like medicine and being well read can cure foolishness.
46] Consultation is one of the sources of wisdom; contemplation is the way to wisdom. Although endowed with great talents, one would be useless without learning and consultation.
47] A real man is never ashamed of learning or ashamed of asking. A human being who refuses to learn might have no worries; but how is he different from animals?
48] A sage who is familiar with everything in the world; feels ashamed if there is one thing he still does not know.
49] Hearing something a hundred times is not better than seeing it once and one should pursue learning diligently, be fond of the ancient classics and seek for the truth.
50] Since time immemorial, it has never been possible to know without learning nor understand without consulting.
51] Things are differentiated based on appearance, but for mankind, the standard of judging a person is whether he is learned or not and not on whether beautiful or not.
52] A great man learns from all, even from those who are inferior to him but a petty man feels ashamed and humiliated to learn from others.
53] He who has learnt about the Way before I do; will be considered my teacher even if he is younger. Wherever the Way exists, a teacher will be found, irrespective of his age and social status.
54] A student is not inferior to his teacher and a teacher is not superior to his student; the difference between a teacher and a student is the teacher knows the Way earlier than his student.
55] Practice is more valuable than mere understanding in learning.
56] What is there to be ashamed of if today’s consultation brings about tomorrow’s superiority.
57] The most valuable thing in learning is to understand with one’s mind.
58] A learner must aspire to the Way with the ambition to become a sage.
59] Do not idle when young for one will only regret in vain when one is already old. Ancient spent all their efforts in learning because they understood that the efforts they made when young would not bear fruit until they were old.
60] Knowledge gained is only superficial from mere reading; the only way to gain knowledge is from practice.
61] If a man can question himself in the same way as he questions others, he will be halfway towards finding his strong and weak points.
62] For a career, what is important is not rapid promotion but a clear conscience.
63] By not giving up halfway, a string may saw through a piece of wood and drops of water may penetrate a piece of stone.
64] Do not worry if you cannot succeed but worry if you have no aspirations.
65] Not all that one learns is correct and only knowledge gained through deep consideration is genuine. Those that have been widely discussed may not be fact and only those that have been repeatedly discerned are good.
66] Read as many books as you can and travel as long as the way maybe; only then one can be knowledgeable.
67] If one reads many books but did not put into practice; it is as good as not having read anything. Learning is indeed an endless course and should be pursued with continuous efforts. If a man states that there is nothing he does not know, then he is an ignorant man.
68] Learning means nothing but to find out one’s faults and correct them immediately. A man can be called a sage once all the faults have corrected and left with a few mistakes to correct.
69] Everything to do with daily life constitutes learning and a deeper understanding of the emotions of ordinary people constitutes true knowledge. After learning, one must review and after review, one must practise. A man will acquire knowledge when he realizes that there are many things he does not know. Knowledge that is easily mastered will be easily forgotten and only what is gained through painstaking effort can be held fast.
70] Only through personal experience can a person gain understanding and only through practice can he know the difficulties involved. There is no knowledge gained without practice. If one knows only theory but cannot put into practice, then it may not be real knowledge; if it is real knowledge then can be put into practice.
71] Since ancient time, the building of a tall edifice has to begin with its foundations and a thousand metres of silk can only be made by accumulating every inch of thread. Those who have achieved success began with a serious attitude towards trivialities.
72] A white jade’s stain may be removed by polishing but an error in one’s speech cannot be removed. Do not seek profits at the cost of righteousness and do not sacrifice your integrity under the threat of death.
73] The objective of cultivation is to make one’s mind just; do not lose the chance to do good and do not encourage evil deeds. Be frugal as extravagance is the worst of all evils.
74] One is not considered brave if one dies other than reason of righteousness. Mistake cannot be avoided but if one can correct mistakes after committing them then one can win the greatest merit.
75] One must be trustworthy, wise and courageous in order to establish a firm standing and one must be good in order to promote those who have similar virtues.
76] When taking action, one must not only begin cautiously but also end it seriously; only then can one avoid failure. Poverty, humility, depression and woe all greatly help a man to achieve great success.
77] Confucius said, “I examine myself several times daily. Have I done something unfaithful to others? Have I done something insincere to my friends? Have I reviewed what I have learnt?
78] If one does not pay reverence to one’s parents, is there any difference between supporting one’s parents and providing for one’s animals?
79] Confucius said, “I would never regret dying in the evening if only I could learn about the Way in that morning.”
80] A great man has a good knowledge of righteousness and a small man has that of profit-making only. A superior man is broad-minded whereas an inferior man is always resentful.
81] If wealth and status cannot be achieved in a right way, one should not accept them. Wealth and status, if gained without righteousness, mean no more than a passing cloud to me. I rather eat coarse food, drink nothing but water, use my arms as a pillow when asleep, and I would still feel happy. Neither be frustrated when in poverty and hardship.
82] In the olden days, people did not talk much for fear that their deeds could not meet their words. One would rather be careful in speech than quick in action. If against the Way, one should not accept even a basket of food from others.
83] A real mistake is committed when one refuses to correct one’s mistakes and cunning speech destroy virtues.
84] A gentleman has three admonitions. When one is young, do not indulge in lust; when in the prime of life and one’s vitality, do not get into fights; when already old and declining in energy, do not be too greedy.
85] At the sight of something good, one should immediately learn it as if that he would miss it forever. At the sight of something bad, one should immediately draw back as if he had put his hands into boiling water.
86] A gentleman bestows benefits on the people and he ensures that people work without having any cause for complaint instead of exploiting them and wasting public funds. He cultivates without being greedy, is composed and not arrogant; is dignified and not fierce.
87] When one invites insult will others only insult him and when a family invites destruction will others destroy it.
88] A perfect man does not hold himself in high regard and a godlike man does expect any merit. A sage pays no attention to renown.
89] Sincerity is the apex of purity and honesty and without purity and honesty, one cannot move others.
90] He who knows himself well never complains about others and he who knows his fate well never complains against Heaven. He who complains about others will find no way out and he who complains against Heaven will lose his will. Such is a foolish man to blame others for his own failure.
91] The nature of pines and cypresses cannot be seen until the freezing winter comes likewise the character of a superior man cannot be seen until great difficulties come upon him.
92] A superior man feels ashamed that he has failed in his cultivation. It is not that he is slandered, that he is untruthful, that he is distrusted by others, that he lacks capability and not that he gets none of the official appointments.
93] A true gentleman does not relax in his pursuit of the Way because of poverty and hardship. A superior man talks little but speaks the truth whereas an inferior man talks a lot but it is all lies.
94] A superior man never speaks empty words and so great is he that he is a sharp contrast to ordinary people. He is lenient but not negligent; fair but not severe; eloquent but not quarrelsome; clear but not critical; straightforward but not arrogant; unyielding but not fierce; agreeable but not servile; respectful and cautious while calm.
95] No achievement is better than removing evil and doing good, and no sin is greater than giving up good and doing evil.
96] Carelessness in words will lead to worries; in actions will lead to troubles; in appearance will lead to shame and in appreciation will lead to lust. On the contrary, Cautious word is certainly in accordance with the rules of conduct; cautious action is definitely virtuous; cautious appearance inspires awe and cautious appreciating is worth emulating.
97] Do not do evil deeds even though they may seem insignificant. Do not give up good deeds even though they may seem minor.
98] The finest gold always keeps its purity even if it is melted a hundred times and a hero never loses justice even if he is subject to peril and hardship.
99] Superficial and hypocritical writings will achieve nothing likewise the same can be said for humans.
100] Sages did not dislike benefits but they tried to benefit the people. They did not dislike riches but they tried to enrich the world.
These Great Chinese Sayings are treasures of the mind not only for Chinese readers. Coming from innumerable ancient Chinese classics over 5,000 years, on the right are great sayings of Confucius, Lao Tze and many Great Chinese thinkers and philosophers from different dynasties. It is the essence of traditional Chinese culture.