I'm trying to find information (including the original Chinese) on an idiom that seems to be gaining popularity recently, related to surveillance (unsure whether this is a traditional phrase or not). In English, it is translated roughly as "People do things, the sky watches".

My guess is that this is of the form 人[verb]天[verb] and that I just need to figure out one or the other and then will be able to search and find the full phrase.

I've tried a few guesses for the translation of "watch", including 见,视,观,to no avail (so, I'm searching for '"the sky watches" 天视' for instance, including both characters and English words).

If anyone happens to know the phrase I'm referring to, all I'm really looking for is a translation, but ideally also some background information.

Recommendations for sites that discuss Chinese slang are also very welcome (chinaSmack seems different from when I was last there several years ago).

1 Answer 1


It might be:


the people do, the Sky (God?) watches

or a more fluent translation

the Sky watches what the people do

The usage I'm aware of, in colloquial speech, is to describe some sort of karma, or payback from destiny if you do bad things and hope to get away with it.

For example:

  1. You steal your friend's money
  2. They suspect of you but can't prove it
  3. They confront you about that
  4. You deny everything
  5. They say 人在做天在看

It's like, "what goes around comes around" in English.

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