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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.

Phrases on decorations

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:

sun nin fai lok1. Sun nin fai lok – the ever important, “Happy New Year”.

gung hei fat choi2.  Gung hei fat choi – “Congratulations on your prosperity”
(used to ask for red envelopes).

sun tai gin hong3. Sun tai gin hong – “Wishing you good health”

daai gat daai lei4. Dai gat dai lei – “Great luck and prosperity”

lung ma jing sing5. Lung ma jing sung – “May you have the strength of a dragon and horse”

mahn si sing yi

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

mahn si yuh yi

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

sum seung si sing8. Sum seung si sing – “May all your heart’s desires come true”

going ho san hei9. Gung ho sun hei – “Congratulations in the New Year”

sun jeong lek gin10. Sun jeong lek gin – “May you be strong and healthy”

mn fuk lam mun11. Mn fuk lam mun – “Having all good blessings in your house”

chut yap ping on12. Chut yap ping on – “Be safe when entering and exiting

nin nin yao yue13. Nin nin yau yue – “Every year have more than you need”

faii gou jeung dai14. Faai goh jeung dai – “Grow tall and be strong”
(used for children)

sang yi hing lung15. Sang yi hing lung – “May your business grow and flourish”

pun mun but mun16. Poon muhn boot muhn – “To be filled to the very top with money”

siu hau seong hoi17. Siu hau seung hoi – “May you always laugh happily”

yat bun mahn lei

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

Choi yun gwong jun19. Choi yun gwong jun – “May lots of wealth come in”

Bou bou goh sing

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

How many do you think YOU could memorize?

17 comments

  1. 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.
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted…Stone Spheres of #EcoCostaRica: Visiting Finca 6 Archaeological SiteMy Profile

  2. 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!
    Megan Claire recently posted…The World’s Best Locations for Public Displays of AffectionMy Profile

  3. 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!
    Charli | Wanderlusters recently posted…Exploring The Indomitable Milford SoundMy Profile

    • 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.

  4. This is one of the coolest write-ups I’ve seen in a while! Thanks…or rather “Sum seung si sing”! :-)
    Ron | Active Planet Travels recently posted…Budget Australia: 5 Tips for Seeing the Country on the CheapMy Profile

  5. My God it is really complicated, I had a lot of time trying to speak those upload!
    Marysia @ My Travel Affairs recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #56My Profile

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

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

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

  7. So helpful, thanks so much. I pinned it so when I get there I’ll always remember what to say :D
    Erin Bender (Travel With Bender) recently posted…Top 7 Photos Of 2013My Profile

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

  8. 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.
    Adelina @ PackMeTo recently posted…The Best Part of Chinese New Year – the FoodMy Profile

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

  9. I’m showing this to my students tomorrow…thanks!
    Corinne recently posted…Is Visiting Sepilok the Best Way to See Orangutans?My Profile