Chinese Proverbs

Located in eastern Asia, China (the Chinese call it Zhongguo) is the most populous country in the world with well over one billion people.

China is considered one of the world’s oldest civilizations. It has also had a tremendous impact on neighboring areas such as Japan and Korea.

Much of Chinese history has to do with various dynasties that ruled and various philosophies that flourished throughout the land. Before we explore its proverbs, here is a brief look at China.

Early Culture and Dynasties

The roots of China come from the early Yangshao and Longshan cultures, which later spurned China’s first dynasty around 1700 BC, known as the Shang dynasty.

Zhou Dynasty

Around the 1100s BC, western Chinese people known as the Zhou overthrew the Shang, and they directly ruled northern China until 256 BC, and also indirectly ruled other parts of China

Confucius and Confucianism

Around 500 BC, a Chinese philosopher named Confucius (a.k.a. Kung Fu Tzu) popularized a moral philosophy now known as Confucianism, which shaped Chinese culture on-and-off for many centuries.

Around the same time, a school of thought known as Taoism began developing and flourishing throughout China, which also influenced China tremendously throughout its history.

Qin Dynasty—Legalism, Standardization, and the Great Wall

By 221 BC, the Qin dynasty began. It had a strong central government and used a philosophy called Legalism, which promoted ideals such as authority, efficiency, and lawmaking. Like Confucianism, Legalism also had a significant impact on China, although the Qin dynasty dissolved by 206 BC.

Other notable impacts of the Qin dynasty included an era of standardization in China, as well as the construction of the massive Great Wall (which joined earlier walls that existed, and was later added to and rebuilt in subsequent dynasties. The Great Wall is currently over 4500 miles long.)

Han & Xin Dynasties, Buddhism, and Foreign Rulers

The Han dynasty ruled China from 202 BC to 220 AD, but was interrupted from 8 AD to 25 AD during the Xin dynasty. During the Han and Xin periods, science, art, and writing flourished, and Confucianism also grew in popularity. Additionally, a school of thought known as Buddhism spread to China from India.

From 220 AD to the late 500s, various foreign rulers controlled various parts of China, while Buddhism continued to spread and influence Chinese culture.

Sui and Tang Dynasties

In the late 500s, China was reunified by the Sui dynasty, which lasted for under four decades, and was replaced by the Tang in 618. The Tang ruled for nearly three centuries, and in that time, China experienced many scholarly and financial advancements.

Several offspring of Buddhism also developed in China, including Chan (known as Zen in Japan).

Song Dynasty and Neo-Confucianism

The Tang Empire ended in 907, and China was later unified once again in 960 by the Song. The Song period marked the development of Neo-Confucianism, which combined aspects of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

The Song period also marked a dramatic increase in rice production, as well as inventions such as gunpowder and movable type, an increase in literacy, and advancements in literature, history, philosophy, and art.

Mongol Rule

In 1279, Mongol warriors led by Kublai Kan established the Yuan dynasty. They ruled for nearly a century before being driven out, and in that time, the rest of the world became more aware of China.

Ming and Qing Dynasties

The Ming Dynasty ruled from 1368 to 1644, and marked a time when China was prosperous, and also when it rejected foreign influence and culture. In 1681, the Manchus (people from Manchuria—a region in northeastern China) took over China and began the Qing (Manchu) dynasty.

The early Qing period was marked by Chinese influence on countries such as Mongolia and Tibet, a dramatic increase in Chinese population, and an increase in foreign trade. The Qing gradually lost power throughout the 1800s and early 1900s.

Rebellions, Conflicts, Revolutions and Wars

China underwent many conflicts, rebellions, revolutions and wars from the late 1700s to the late 1900s.

In the late 1700s, Chinese production could not keep up with the growing population, and political corruption also brewed. This sparked a rebellion in 1796 that lasted until 1804.

In the 1800s, European traders began smuggling opium into China. This caused enormous problems in China, and led to The Opium War, where the United Kingdom defeated China. After that war, the UK, and later other European countries and the United States, began signing unfair treaties with China.

By the mid 1800s, the Qing still had some power, but many violent rebellions persisted in China. In the late 1800s, Japan defeated China in a war. Other foreign powers looked to turn China into colonies, but China remained unified, and the Western powers agreed to share equal trading rights with China.

In 1900, China had a rebellion against Western and Christian influences. In 1905, a revolutionary group formed, and by 1911, they defeated the Qing (Manchus) and officially ended the Qing dynasty. They established the Republic of China, but political unrest ensued. Communist, Nationalist, and Japanese groups struggled for power of China for many years.

Communism, and the People’s Republic of China

In 1946, a civil war began, and in 1949, the Communist Party and army under leader Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. The government redistributed land from landlords to peasants, although this led to more bloodshed. More revolutionary activities also continued in China.

Mao Zedong died in 1976. Beginning in the 1970s, China’s relations with the West began improving.

Current China

Most Chinese people currently live in small villages and towns, while others live in large cities such as Shanghais and Beijing. The eastern parts of China are very overcrowded, and the Chinese government encourages people to marry late and to have only one or two children.

China is home to many cultures, but most people belong to the Han nationality. Most people speak one of several variations of Chinese, although the government hopes to standardize the Northern Chinese language, which is known as Mandarin or Putonghua. Unlike spoken Chinese, written Chinese is mostly the same throughout the nation.

Lately, China’s economy has been undergoing major transitions.

Chinese Themes

Some themes of China include philosophy (such as Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism), tai chi (a form of exercise), marital arts, communism, overcrowded populations, soybeans, cotton, low cost manufacturing, a recent influx of American culture (such as McDonalds and KFC), pirated movies, basketball superstar Yao Ming, ping pong, soccer, tennis, literature, textiles, coal, rice, soup, the consumption of many different kinds of animals, pottery, acrobatics & gymnastics, music, dancing, calligraphy, poetry, painting, and theatre.

Chinese Proverbs