Mandarin Love: Chinese Phrases On Love and Destiny

A night sky filled with stars and glowing with possibilities
In this first installment of Mandarin Love, I share some of my favorite Chinese idioms that invoke love and destiny. (photo by Billy Frank Alexander)

Love and destiny, love and destiny. In China, they’re as inseparable as Chinese New Year and fireworks. So if you want to talk love in Mandarin Chinese, some of the best phrases invoke or suggest destiny. Here are some of my favorite idioms:

有缘千里来相会 (Yǒu yuán qiānlǐ lái xiānghui)
“We have the destiny to meet across a thousand miles.”

This is my favorite phrase combining love and destiny in Chinese, probably because my Chinese husband uses it all the time to refer to our marriage. It’s no wonder either — the use of distance perfectly captures how a foreigner and a Chinese, separated by thousands of miles and geography, came to love one another.

天配良缘 (Tiānpèi liángyuán)
“Destined (by heaven) to be a happy match (for marriage).”

This phrase offers a celestial way to put the destiny stamp on your love. There’s nothing stronger than saying that heaven — which is really a reference to “God” — is on the side of your relationship.

天缘巧合 (Tiānyuán qiǎohé)
“A coincidence destined by heaven.”

Evoke the influence of heaven/”God” in describing how you and your loved one met/got together with this phrase. Also used for circumstances that seem like a “coincidence,” but, from a heavenly standpoint, were really meant to happen (which just make this your go-to pickup line).

心有灵犀一点通 (Xīn yǒu língxī yìdiǎn tōng)
“Lovers’ hearts are linked together and always beat as one.”

While the idea of two hearts as one burns with romance, this actually has cooler, more melancholy roots. It comes from a poem where the author, expressing his regret at never having the chance to marry his true love, penned this phrase. Think of it as capturing that Titanic “our hearts will go on” sentiment after lovers, meant to be together, become tragically ripped apart. This phrase could inspire romance, but also might just be the thing to say when that “perfect relationship” sinks.

What are your favorite Mandarin Chinese phrases to talk about love and destiny?

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15 Replies to “Mandarin Love: Chinese Phrases On Love and Destiny”

  1. When I was a kid, I used to hear the adults say 有缘就有份 (you yuan jiu you fen). I didn’t understand it then. But literally it just means if you are destined to, you will have a share or if you are meant to be together you will and you can’t even run away from it. I like 天配良缘, it sounds so celestial.

  2. Thanks for the phrases. I’m looking forward to using them in my story hehe 🙂 If only I could find someone who might say one of the phrases to me… The last phrase, I’m not sure I understand how it’s sad though…

    1. @ordinary malaysian, thanks for the comment! I’ve never heard of 有缘就有份 — but I like it. Kind of romantic too.

      @Sveta, thanks for the comment! On the last one, it’s really sad only because of its origin — the guy who wrote the phrase, in a poem, lamented that he could not marry his true love (which naturally happened much in the past when arranged marriages were the norm). Since the poem from which the phrase is borrowed is sad, that’s where the melancholy comes from.

  3. 天缘巧合

    I really like this one.
    It holds special meaning for me, and the reason is, I met my Chinese boyfriend on an… (Oh Lord, I feel so humbled to say this -_-)…internet chatroom!
    Yep, one day out of boredom, we were instantly connected to each other…purely by coincidence. And luckily we were in a good mood that day, so neither of us hastily disconnected, nor did my crummy DELL die on me before we exchanged emails! And so that led to MSN, to QQ, to lengthy emails, to love letters, and finally, to a blissful meeting 🙂 I can’t believe cynical and judgmental old me is telling you this. You can say whatever you want, whether you think it’s sad or lame or dangerous or doesn’t work out – but the internet CAN bring two people together, and people can fall in love through it.

    We often used to say to each other; imagine, if our computers had never connected in that second, would we ever have actually met in this lifetime? And the answer is, I honestly don’t think so. So the feeling of destiny is even more intensified. It’s fantastic.

    If you ask a Chinese how you should go about finding a mate, they will often tell you not to press on, but simply to wait and love may or may not find you – and may or may not take it’s course – but if it’s in your destiny, rest assured it WILL happen.

    I’m a big believer of all that ‘Que sera sera~ Whatever will be, will be’ stuff! 😀

  4. My ancestors were from China but my Chinese language is limited. I have known this Chinese girl for more than 4 years and love her very much. However, we can only see each other occasionally and corresponding alot on sms. Would someone out there help me to translate the following phrase which I would like to send to my girl friend. Tried many variation using the web-site but the translation just doesn’t have the right romantic tone:-

    In English ” My love, I love you more and more in every seconds of my life”

  5. What is the translation of the second phrase below mentioned by SB ?

    SB says:

    October 17, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    According to my girlfriend 有缘千里来相会 is usually followed by 无缘对面不相逢

  6. @larry gersy : The second phrase (无缘对面不相逢) means if you’re not destined for each other, you won’t notice the person even if you are literally face to face.

    So as a whole (in a rough direct translation), it basically means “if you are destined for each other you will end up meeting even though you were a thousand miles apart. if you’re not destined for each other, you can be standing face to face with the person and not even notice their existence.”

    It can sometimes kind of be used in a “just let it go with with the flow” / “if you’re meant to be together, you will be” sense. I hope this helps. 🙂

  7. Hi! Im Chinese-Indonesian, but can only speak and understand limited Chinese. I like the phrases in your web! They’re so romantic. Luckily, I found it when I was looking for my parents wedding-anniversary Chinese-phrase. Can I use them?
    Thank you.

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