Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chinese Tattoo - Forever Love?

Below is a Chinese tattoo confirmation request sent from Russ:

"I was told it was eternity and love, on my shoulder by itself."

Hi Russ,

Individually, both characters are written correctly and do mean what you mentioned - "forever" and "love".

However, because most Chinese words require compound characters nowadays, the word "forever" is more often translated into the two characters shown in the link below.

For the word "love" -- it is more often translated as "to feel attached to" specifically in a romantic sense, and not, say, the love for your parents, your siblings, for your pets, or for the world, but for one single partner who you're in love with, or it could also be interpreted as the kind of love when one is "in love with oneself".

Put together, these two words do not accurately convey the meaning directly translated from English - "forever love", as Chinese grammar is very much different from that of English. The good news is, they are correctly written.. And although may attract some unwanted attention from Chinese readers for being somewhat "unauthentic", the concept could be made out.

Hope that helps!

Simplified Chinese characters for "Eternity" or "Forever" 永远:
Simplified Chinese character for "Romantic Love" 恋:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wine and Liquor in Chinese Characters and Japanese Kanji

Charles sent in the email with the following message and image:

"... its on the inside of my wrist...Thanks."

HI Charles,

This is a correctly written version of traditional Chinese character -- meanings range from any alcoholic drink, including beers, liquors, liqueurs, and wines.

And it means the same thing in Japanese Kanji.

Hope that helps!

Further information on the character 酒:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese Character Tattoo for Rock, Rocky or Cliff

Jennifer sent me the image below of her tattoo with the confirmation request: "We have been trying to figure out what this tattoo means, we have been told it means different things."

Hi Jennifer,

This appears to be a correctly written Chinese traditional character for the word "rock", or "cliff", or "rocky". It means the same thing in Japanese Kanji.

Even if it's not what you're looking for, the script style does look "rocky" and is appropriate for the word.

Hope that helps!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chinese Tattoo of "Alphabets" KH or Water Stops Flowing?

Kristina sent me this image below with this message:

"Hi, I am one those people who impulsively got a tatoo and naively believed it said what I wanted it to say.  I was young.  Now, 20 years later, I really want to know what it says and how I can fix it to say something meaningful.  I was told that it was my initials, KH.  I later had someone tell me that it said something roughly translated to "never stop flowing"  refering to water.  I would love to have something that actually did say something about flowing water.  I always associated flowing water to seeking truth and knowledge.  Water always flows toward a greater body of water.  The tatoo is on the back of my neck, just left of center.  I plan on getting a back tatoo of the rugged coast line with the ocean at some point in the future.  I'd like to tie it all together."

Hi Kristina,

Here are the explanations of the individual characters:

The first character (on the left): A watery waste; famine, barren - simplified character * see more on the differences between traditional and simplified character below
The second character (on the right): To stop; prohibit; to cease, halt; until - simplified and traditional character

The bad news: It does not mean KH (there are no Chinese characters for English alphabet -- we would just use English alphabet). Instead, putting both characters together, it says "barren stop". In other words, it doesn't mean anything at all.

The good news: Both characters are written correctly.

The semi-good news: If you put three more dots on the left character (see attached), it will become the word "a water way", "to flow" or "to drift" among a list of other meanings including "to move or circulate downwards", "to exude" or "class/style". The word will become a traditional character; and it will be okay because the second character on the right is used in both the simplified and traditional writing.

The semi-bad news: It will read something like "flowing ceases" - in Chinese grammar it's still incorrect and does not mean anything.

With situations like this (not uncommon), I usually recommend clients to just forget about getting another Chinese character -- and either accept the current design for its looks alone (is it perhaps better to be a person who really does flow like water, rather than one who just has a tattoo that says they go with the flow?)... OR, if you're super unhappy with what other people might think of the tattoo, then you might talk to a tattooist about covering the whole thing with a pictograph.

* Note: The difference between Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters:
Traditional - used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other overseas Chinese communities, longer history since 5th century AD.
Simplified - used in Mainland China and Singapore, shorter history, invented by the Communist leader Mao Zedong in China. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chinese Tattoo Characters - Strong Woman

Stacy sent in this confirmation request with the image of her tattoo below:

"1) I was told it meant "strong woman".

2) On my forearm.

3) This tattoo is above another tattoo that not any other Chinese characters."

Hi Stacy,

The design says exactly what you were told: "strong woman", but a bit more. The character for "woman" used here is specifically for that of a woman/married woman/wife, so implying that it's an older woman, not a girl.

Hope that's what you're looking for!


More info on the Traditional Chinese character 婦:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chinese Tattoo Character - Romantic Love

Jess sent in the confirmation request below with the image:

"I was told that the symbol means love but I have been to other tattoist since and they don't have this one. It is in my wrist. I have since had my name put underneath it!"

Hi Jess,

This is the Simplified Chinese character for "to love" or "to feel attached to" specifically in a romantic sense, and not, say, the love for your parents, your siblings, for your pets, or for the world, but for a romantic partner who you're in love with.

Since this "love" is considered a specific kind of love, it's not surprising that you can't find it at the tattoo parlor sample books, which (as seen on this blog) aren't full proof when it comes to getting the correct Chinese characters.

However, adding your name under this existing "romantic love" tattoo would imply that one is "in love with [name; namely oneself]". It isn't an ideal design, but as far as acccuracy goes, your Chinese character tattoo is correctly written.

Hope that makes sense.


More on the Simplified Chinese character for 恋:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chinese Tattoo Symbol for "Beautiful"

The following email was from MzToya who had forgotten the meaning of the Chinese tattoo she got on the back of her neck, a design chosen from a tattoo parlor book.

"I got this tattoo on my neck maybe eight years ago...picked it out of a book....just got the birds added. I believed it to mean beauty or beautiful....not sure.."

Hi MzToya,

Yes - the character is the formal word for "beautiful" - correctly written in Traditional Chinese. Other meanings include "handsome", "seductive", "fine", "colorful", etc. Although this is not commonly used in the day-to-day language (more literary in a sense), it is a common name for baby girls in China. So no worries if you can't find it in the dictionary, it is absolutely correct.



More on the Traditional Chinese character for 妍: