Ancient Chinese Proverbs & How to Live by Them

We’re now two after the (Chinese) New Year. That means, it’s prime time to reflect on and evaluate our habits, beliefs, and resulting actions. We all want to live optimally, to have rich experiences, and meaningful conversations, but so often we find ourselves running into barriers that prevent this—or that’s at least how we are inclined to think.

This year, being surrounded by the ever-wise Chinese culture, we’re inspired to take a different approach. Instead of viewing our struggles as preventative, we’re trying to live like the locals here do and view our difficulties as what they really are: opportunities to grow.

Here we dive into some of our favorite Chinese proverbs that are inspiring this mental shift and show how you can apply them to your daily life:

“Do not fear going slowly; fear only to stand still.”

Are you embarking on a new project? Maybe you’re trying to incorporate more exercise or mindfulness into your routine, or you’re trying to flex your creative muscle by painting or writing more. No matter what change you’re trying to make in your life, you can be sure to encounter some pushback. Constant smooth sailing is not realistic. Thank god for this. Can you imagine how boring that would be? How much you would refrain from learning about yourself? So, seeing as you will encounter some resistance, be ready for it. Recognize it as a healthy hurdle that is helping you broaden your mind and get to know yourself better.

Success ahead

Most of all, know that the best thing you can do in the face of resistance is to push through. Feeling panic-stricken and frozen is common when charting unknown territory, but when you begin to feel this way remind yourself that you’ll feel infinitely better by just starting.

Tip – Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art gets to the heart of this.

If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”

When we focus too much on ourselves—our desires, our problems, that which we “deserve”—we are prone to unhappiness. If you find yourself dissatisfied with where you are in your life, a small, free, and incredibly impactful way to mend this is by changing your focus. How can you help those around you? Can you volunteer somewhere you may be of service on the weekends? Can you visit an elderly relative more often? Even simply making it a point to call a friend or a family member once or twice a week to check in and see how they are doing is a great start; listening and engaging in a genuine conversation is a sure-fire way to show you care.


One tip – if you find yourself unable to get through all the food in your fridge, instead of tossing it, take the time to package it and give it away to those less fortunate. If you have the time, go a step further and make a meal out of your extra food and give back something nourishing to your community. To find a local shelter visit Ample Harvest.

“Don’t waste your hour—the sun sets soon.” “If you hurry through long days, you will hurry through short years.”

We’re firm believers in living a joyful life that is rife with passion and unconventional experiences. It’s why we lead the life that we do, and why we want to share it with all of you. But what’s most important to us is not checking things off a bucket list, it’s about being present in the moment and living it. We can travel around the world and not actually experience anything if we don’t open ourselves up fully.

This is something you can do no matter what your day is comprised of. If you’re taking a walk, look at your surroundings. How would you describe the architecture? Do any colors jump out at you? Take a deep breath. What do you smell? What do you hear? If you’re at work, think about your relationship to your task at hand; recognize its significance and your unique ability to bring your skill to this project. Engage and immerse yourself in life.


Yoga is a great practice to emphasize this mindset.

Now that we have our intentions…

We’re enjoying coming up with different ways of infusing them into our routines. I like to schedule some of these proverbs in my calendar in order to get real reminders throughout the day of how I want to be thinking and approaching life. If you’re more tactile or visual, you may enjoy writing out these quotations on cardstock, which you can even decorate to make aesthetically appealing and thus more likely to draw you in and remind you of your intention written there. Leave these scattered throughout your home; put one in your travel bag.

Ancient Chinese proverbs

Finally, open up to a close friend about any practices and mindset shifts you want to take on; while meditating, for instance, is a singular act, going to a meditation class with a buddy can make you accountable and ensure you get some well-deserved friendship-bonding before and after. Ultimately, do what works best for you and your lifestyle; the best approach is the one you will actually stick with. And again, if you’re feeling trepidation, remember the best thing to do is just to take the first step.

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Cez Krol

Travel blogger at eTramping
Cez lives in China like a local for the past 4 years. Apart from speaking the language, he loves to discover more about this unique country of extreme contrasts. He shares his China experiences here at Sublime China and on his blog eTramping, so go and check out what's out there for you in China.
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