Two-part allegorical saying (of which the first part, always stated, is descriptive, while the second part, often unstated, carries the message)
dāng yī tiān hé shang zhuàng yī tiān zhōng –– dé guò qiĕ guò
当一天和尚撞一天钟 –– 得过且过
Go on tolling the bell as long as one is a monk –– drift or muddle along; do the least that is expected of one; take a passive attitude towards one’s work.
ài kè sī guāng zhào rén –— kàn tòu le
爱克斯光照人 –— 看透了
X-ray somebody –—see through him/her.
bā zì méi yī piĕ –—- zăo zhe ne
八字没一撇 –—- 早着呢
Not even the first stroke of the character “八” (“eight”) has been written –—– nothing tangible is in sight; there’s no sign of anything happening yet.
chū lóng de niăo er –—- yŏu qù wú huí
出笼的鸟儿 –—- 有去无回
A bird out of its cage will never come back –—- gone never to return.
dāo zi zuĭ dòu fu xīn –—- zuĭ yìng xīn ruăn
刀子嘴，豆腐心 –—- 嘴硬心软
Have a mouth as sharp as a dagger, but a heart as soft as tofu – have a sharp tongue but a soft heart
duàn le xiàn de fēng zhēng –—- bù zhī qù xiàng
断了线的风筝 –—– 不知去向
The flying kite has broken away from its string –—— it’s unknown where somebody or something has gone.
fēi é pū huŏ –—- zì qŭ miè wáng
飞蛾扑火 –—- 自取灭亡
A moth darting into a flame –—- bringing destruction upon oneself; courting one’s own doom.
zuì wēng zhī yì bù zài jiŭ –—- lìng yŏu suŏ tú
醉翁之意不在酒 –—– 另有所图
The drinker’s heart is not in the cup –—- have other things in mind; have ulterior motives; many kiss the baby for the nurse’s sake.
Chū shēng de niú dú – bù pà hŭ
初生的牛犊 – 不怕虎
New born calves are not afraid of tigers. – Young people dare do anything and fear nothing.
Wén zi zhăo zhī zhū – zì tóu luó wăng
蚊子找蜘蛛 – 自投罗网
A mosquito looks for a spider – throw oneself into a trap; bite the hook
Zhēn jiān duì mài máng – zhēn fēng xiāng duì
针尖对麦芒 – 针锋相对
A pin against an awn – be diametrically opposed
Tiān xià wū yā – yī bān hēi
天下乌鸦 – 一般黑
All crows are black. – Evil people are the same all over the world; in every country dogs bite.
Shí wŭ ge diào tŏng dă shuǐ – qī shàng bā xià
十五个吊桶打水 – 七上八下
Have one’s heart clang like fifteen buckets in one well, seven going up and eight going down – have one’s heart pound with uncertainty, fear or turmoil
Niú tóu bù duì mă zuĭ – hú lā luàn chĕ
牛头不对马嘴 – 胡拉乱扯
Horses’ jaws don’t match cows’ heads – incongruous; irrelevant
Zhàng èr hé shang – mō bu zháo tóu năo
丈二和尚 – 摸不着头脑
You cannot touch the head of a ten-foot monk. – can’t make head or tail of something; completely fail to understand
Yī ge bā zhang pāi bu xiăng – gū zhăng nán míng
一个巴掌拍不响 – 孤掌难鸣
You can’t clap with one hand; it takes two to make a quarrel; it takes two to tango. – It’s difficult to achieve anything without support.
fēng chuī qiáng tóu căo – liăng biān dăo
风吹墙头草 – 两边倒
The grass on top of a wall blows either way with the wind – someone who sits on the fence will end up going along with the crowd; to sit on the fence
dă zhǒng liăn chōng pàng zi – sĭ yào miàn zi
打肿脸充胖子 – 死要面子
Try to look fat by slapping one’s face till it’s swollen – to try to look impressive; be keen on face-saving
māo kū hào zi – jiă cí bēi
猫哭耗子 – 假慈悲
A cat crying over a mouse’s death – hypocritical show of sorrow or sympathy; shedding crocodile tears
lăo hŭ zuĭ li bá yá – zhăo sĭ
老虎嘴里拔牙 – 找死
Pulling teeth from a tiger’s mouth – seeking death; dare the greatest danger; beard the lion in his den
jī dàn pèng shí tou – zì bù liàng lì
鸡蛋碰石头 – 自不量力
Like an egg striking a rock – attacking somebody far stronger than oneself; overestimating oneself or one’s strength; overrating oneself
jiăn le zhī ma diū le xī guā – tān xiăo shī dà
捡了芝麻丢了西瓜 – 贪小失大
Pick up the sesame seeds but overlook the watermelons – covet a little and lose a lot; seek small gains but incur big losses; be penny-wise and pound-foolish
méi mao hú zi yī bă zhuā – zhŭ cì bù fēn
眉毛胡子一把抓 – 主次不分
Try to grasp the eyebrows and the beard all at the same time – try to attend to everything at once irrespective of priority; confuse the primary with the secondary
wáng pó mài guā – zì mài zì kuā
王婆卖瓜 – 自卖自夸
Wang Po keeps praising his melons while selling them. – ring one’s own bell; blow one’s own trumpet.