20 Common Chinese New Year Phrases (And How to Pronounce Them!)

20 Common Chinese New Year Phrases (And How to Pronounce Them!)

Tomorrow marks Chinese New Year Eve and I feel like I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off. (No pun intended considering today 20,000 chickens got their heads cut off…)

With only one day left to make preparations, I’ve been frantically trying to clean the house, as this is the last day to do so. Literally. 

For Chinese New Year families thoroughly clean their homes and put away the brooms come New Year’s Eve. They believe that if you do any cleaning the first few days, you’ll be sweeping away any good luck (also don’t cut your hair, use scissors or use knives as you’ll also cut off your luck this way). To go along with this, our apartment just notified us that they will be suspending trash removal starting tomorrow. Not the news you want to hear when you have multiple bags of trash tied and waiting to be thrown away in your entryway!

So as I run around trying to fit cleaning into my jam-packed schedule, I also realize that tonight is our family reunion dinner. Great! Except that it means having even more work to do.

Hong Kong - Chinese New Year

During reunion dinners, the younger family members often line up to receive their lucky red envelopes. One popular custom is for each person to take a turn trying to recite as many Chinese New Year sayings as possible.

Let me assure you, this is no easy task. There are probably hundreds of different ones to choose from, and further memorizing them is quite daunting– especially for someone who isn’t fluent in Cantonese!

These sayings aren’t greetings, but rather blessings or well wishes. You’ll notice a lot of them focus on prosperity, longevity, and happiness, and are featured on fai chun decorations and red envelopes.

So while I continue frantically cleaning and memorizing these Chinese phrases, you can enjoy reading the most common Chinese New Year phrases:

1. Sun nin fai lok – the ever important, “Happy New Year”.

sun-nin-fai-lok

2.  Gung hei fat choi – “Congratulations on your prosperity”
(used to ask for red envelopes)

gung-hei-fat-choi
3. Sun tai gin hong – “Wishing you good health”

sun-tai-gin-hong

4. Dai gat dai lei – “Great luck and prosperity”

daai-gat-daai-lei

5. Lung ma jing sung – “May you have the strength of a dragon and horse”

lung-ma-jing-sing

6. Mahn si sing yi – “May 10,000 things you do exceed your wishes”

mahn-si-sing-yi

7. Mahn si yuh yi – “May 10,000 things go according to your wishes”
mahn-si-yuh-yi-2

8. Sum seung si sing – “May all your heart’s desires come true”
Sum-seung-si-sing

9. Gung ho sun hei – “Congratulations in the New Year”

gong-ho-san-hei

10. Sun jeong lek gin – “May you be strong and healthy”

sun-jeong-lek-gin

11. Mn fuk lam mun – “Having all good blessings in your house”
ng-fuk-lam-mun

12. Chut yap ping on – “Be safe when entering and exiting”

chut-yap-ping-on

13. Nin nin yau yue – “Every year have more than you need”

nin-nin-yau-yue

14. Faai goh jeung dai – “Grow tall and be strong”
(used for children)

faai-gou-jeung-dai

15. Sang yi hing lung – “May your business grow and flourish”

sang-yi-hing-lung

16. Poon muhn boot muhn – “To be filled to the very top with money”

pun-mun-but-mun

17. Siu hau seung hoi – “May you always laugh happily”
siu-hau-seong-hoi

18. Yat bun mahn lei – “May you be successful in everything”

Yat-Bun-Mahn-Lei

19. Choi yun gwong jun – “May lots of wealth come in”

Choi-Yun-Gwong-Jun

20. Bou bou goh sing – “May you rise to the highest step by step”

Bou-Bou-Goh-Sing

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How many do you think YOU could memorize?

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24 Comments

  1. Anna
    August 11, 2015 / 9:15 pm

    Hi Beth!

    This page is helpful. I was looking around the internet on the Chinese translation/character of this phrase: When exiting, receive blessings. Hope you could help me with this one. :)

    Thanks
    Anna

    • Beth Williams
      August 12, 2015 / 9:44 am

      Hi Anna! Thanks for stopping by. I think you’re looking for chut yap ping on (出入平安). You’ll often see this posted on door frames and near exits :)

    • Tina
      January 9, 2016 / 1:09 am

      I found your Chinese New Year greetings very useful. I slowly copied 12 of them into a card for my grandma who can’t read English. Thanks, for the useful phrases.

  2. February 13, 2014 / 4:25 am

    Cool post! I know next to nothing about Chinese culture, so this was a wealth of information for me. I’m ashamed to say that, despite studying Latin and French all during high school, I have ZERO foreign language skills today. Bad Bret.

  3. February 13, 2014 / 12:00 am

    Thanks for the info Beth! My nephews are absolutely obsessed with Chinese New Year so I’m sending them this in an email. Awesome post!

  4. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs
    February 11, 2014 / 4:44 am

    My God it is really complicated, I had a lot of time trying to speak those upload!

    • Beth Williams
      February 15, 2014 / 8:27 am

      Haha! It gets quite complicated– especially when you need to quickly spout off 5, or even 10, of these phrases in a row!

  5. February 11, 2014 / 2:54 pm

    Thanks for the phonetic info Beth. We are currently camped on New Zealand’s west coast and there are so many Cantonese and Chinese travelers here too. I might have to try out one of these phrases tomorrow and see what sort of response I get!

    • Beth Williams
      February 15, 2014 / 8:38 am

      Haha, do let me know how it goes!

      I think it’s funny how most people want to learn Mandarin, but honestly, all the Chinese people you’re going to meet outside of Mainland China typically speak Cantonese.

  6. February 11, 2014 / 1:14 pm

    This is one of the coolest write-ups I’ve seen in a while! Thanks…or rather “Sum seung si sing”! :-)

    • Beth Williams
      February 15, 2014 / 8:37 am

      Thanks Ron! Sum seung si sing to you as well ;)

  7. February 10, 2014 / 11:08 am

    Fun article! I always love learning phrases in new languages! This is a great list–happy new year! :)

    • Beth Williams
      February 15, 2014 / 8:25 am

      I love learning phrases in other languages as well… even though I might not be the best at pronouncing them!

    • Beth Williams
      February 15, 2014 / 8:19 am

      Thanks for pinning Erin! I’m surprised how often I find myself using these phrases, even outside of Asia.

  8. February 4, 2014 / 6:24 pm

    What a great round up of all the phrases! Definitely useful. Is that you on the video? Your pronunciation is really good! I know how hard Cantonese can be to learn with all the tones.

    • Beth Williams
      February 5, 2014 / 2:29 pm

      It is me! Although I’m still working on my pronunciations for sure, it’s so difficult! Like, frustratingly difficult! haha

  9. January 30, 2014 / 1:58 am

    I’m showing this to my students tomorrow…thanks!

    • Beth Williams
      February 5, 2014 / 2:01 pm

      The video?! Oh, that’s so embarrassing haha.
      Still working on perfecting my tones!