Skin art, or tattooing, has long been a popular way among certain group of people to demonstrate one’s personality and to serve as an additional identity other than the original ones. There have been numerous types of tattoos, such as names, symbols, or pictures that one has a special emotional bond with. Among all these different types, Chinese tattoo has for some while been receiving an increasing number of credit for its unique look and meaningfulness at the same time.
By definition, Chinese tattoo is a tattoo created in such a way that’s related with Chinese culture, characters, symbols or anything close to “Chinese stuff”, as perceived by people. Basically, there are two kinds of Chinese tattoo: picture and character, the latter of which is more popular since Chinese characters are by themselves “picture-like characters” and thus are suitable to convey richer meanings that one wishes to.
Therefore, Chinese characters, or “Hanzi”, are starting to become many’s choice for tattooing. People are in active search of Hanzi that’s bright, positive, powerful, or romantic in meaning so that they can wear a tattoo that’s unique and cool among the crowds.
Currently, there are five sources from which a quality Chinese tattoo can be created. These five sources include: 1. Dan Zi (Single Character) 2. Dual-character words 3. Chengyu (Chinese idiom) 4. Quotes and Proverbs 5. Poems Let’s break them into details one by one.
Dan Zi (single character)
Dan Zi has been quite prevalent among tattoo lovers. One single character in Chinese meaning strength, love, loyalty and kindness etc. tends to be the first choice of many because of its simplicity and convenience.
Examples: Li (strength), Ai (love), Zhong (loyalty), Shan (kindness), Yong (bravery)
Ci Yu (Duel-character words)
There are little difference between certain Dan Zi and Duel-character words as often times they literally mean quite the same. What distinguishes them, however, is the formality and solidity Duel-character words convey according to the linguistic custom in Chinese.
Examples: Li Liang (strength), Zhen Ai (true love), Zhong Cheng (loyalty), Shan Liang (kindness), Yong Gan (brave)
By definition, Chengyu is a four-character word that’s grammatically inappropriate while profound in meaning to describe a certain subject. Most Chengyu were derived from Chinese ancient literature, which therefore accounts for the oddness in grammar and the richness in meaning. As a fine essence of Chinese culture, Chengyu has come to many people’s notice as they try to find a unique Chinese tattoo instead of the common ones.
Examples: Zhong Xin Geng Geng (extremely loyal and devoted), Wu Suo Wei Ju (know no fear), Wo Xin Chang Dan(sleep on firewood and taste gall–undergo self-imposed hardships so as to strengthen one’s resolve to do something.)
Quotes and Proverbs
With a history of 5,000 years, there emerged dozens of great thinkers and visionaries whose enduring remarks have stood the test of time to the present day. These quotes, together with the proverbs, serve as a fabulous tattoo for those with a passion in Chinese culture.
Examples: Zhi Ren Zhe Zhi, Zi Zhi Zhe Ming (To understand others is to have knowledge; To understand oneself is to be illuminated.)
Recently more people are trying to get a verse or two from a Chinese poem written hundreds of years ago. Despite the fact that more than a dozen characters would be inked, as well as the extra cost and pain one has to undertake, personally I believe poem would be a fantastic source for tattooing, since by doing this one would be able to showcase his or her personality and value in the most artistic and beautiful way that Chinese language can achieve.
Example: Chang Feng Po Lang Hui You Shi, Zhi Gua Yun Fan Ji Cang Hai (One day I’ll skim the waves,blown by the wind, with sails hoisted high, across the vast ocean.)