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19 Chinese idioms/proverbs that make great tattoos

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

The Chinese language contains thousands of idioms known as “chengyu." Most of these idioms are combination of four characters that sometimes express a literal meaning, and sometimes a metaphorical meaning. Not all idioms are a Chinese proverb, but many idioms hold a proverbial meaning. This article showcases 19 Chinese idioms/proverbs that would make for meaningful tattoos.

crouching tiger hidden dragon idiom chinese tattoo

1. 藏龙卧虎 - “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”

Meaning: hidden talents/abilities Pronunciation: cáng lóng wò hǔ

This idiom might be appropriate for those who believe in their skills that have not yet been discovered by the world.

2. 百折不挠 - “Fold 100 Times and Not Break”

Meaning: to persist through adversity and not crumble under life’s challenges Pronunciation: bǎi zhé bù náo

3. 所向无敌 - “Without Enemy in All Directions”

Meaning: possessing power so great that no one else can match it, no one would dare rise against it Pronunciation: suǒ xiàng wú dí

4. 乘风破浪 - “Ride the Wind and Plow the Waves”

Meaning: to advance bravely in the face of hardship and danger; to have great ambitions Pronunciation: chéng fēng pò làng

5. 披荆斩棘 - “Blaze a Trail Through the Thorns”

Meaning: to expect obstacles when starting new endeavors and persevere through them Pronunciation: pī jīng zhǎn jí

This is often used to describe entrepreneurs or those who resolve themselves to manifest a new idea.

6. 安然无恙 - “Safe and Unscathed”

Meaning: to be safe and sound after an unfortunate circumstance such as an accident, illness, etc. Pronunciation: ān rán wú yàng

7. 知足常乐 - “Contentment and Frequent Joy”

Meaning: to be content with things just as they are; able to be at peace in many circumstances Pronunciation: zhī zú cháng lè

8. 此时此刻 - “Here and Now”

Meaning: this exact moment Pronunciation: cǐ shí cǐ kè

This might have significance for those who practice being mindful in the present moment.

9. 天人合一 - “Heaven and Humanity as One”

Meaning: the interconnectedness and harmony between heaven and humanity; humanity is one with heaven Pronunciation: tiān rén hé yī

10. 白头偕老 - “White Hairs Growing Old Together”

Meaning: a commitment to stay with each other a lifetime Pronunciation: bái tóu xié lǎo

This phrase is often used in weddings.

11. 一日三秋 “One day like three autumns”

Meaning: for one day without someone to feel like an eternity Pronunciation: yī rì sān qiū

This idiom could be applicable for someone who's loved one has passed away and wants to express how they miss them.

12. 落叶归根 - “Falling Leaves Return to the Roots”

Meaning: family members always return home eventually Pronunciation: luò yè guī gēn

This expression may be suitable for those who live far from home but whose heart for their family always calls them back.

13. 熟能生巧 - “Maturity Gives Birth to Skill”

Meaning: practice makes perfect Pronunciation: shú néng shēng qiǎo

14. 善有善报 - “Good Receives Good in Return”

Meaning: you reap what you sow; what goes around comes around Pronunciation: shàn yǒu shàn bào

15. 大智若愚 - “Brilliance Appears as Folly”

Meaning: true wisdom may seem like ignorance; great intelligence may seem to others like stupidity Pronunciation: dà zhì ruò yú

This idiom may hold meaning for those who have achieved or seek to achieve success through a wisdom that others didn’t agree or support them in.

16. 掌上明珠 - “Pearl in the Palm of the Hand”

Meaning: the apple of one’s eye Pronunciation: zhǎng shàng míng zhū

In China, this phrase often refers to children and most often refers to daughters.

17. 种瓜得瓜 - “Plant a Melon, Get a Melon”

Meaning: you reap what you sow Pronunciation: zhòng guā dé guā

18. 积少成多 - “Small Amounts Add Up”

Meaning: huge things start small; tiny things are meaningful in numbers Pronunciation: jī shào chéng duō

19. 四海为家 - “Four Oceans as Home”

Meaning: to wander the world endlessly; to feel at home anywhere; to not be constrained to one specific place Pronunciation: sì hǎi wéi jiā

This idiom could describe those who travel and don't call any one specific place home.


Interested in a Chinese tattoo? Contact us for translation/design help!


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