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Chinese Symbol Tattoos - A Beginners Guide

Oct 19, 2007
Chinese symbol tattoos are rapidly growing in popularity all round the world. In fact, more than six thousand people search for the phrase "Chinese Tattoos" on the internet every single day.

But that's not surprising as Chinese symbol tattoos are extremely beautiful and mysterious. Thanks to the movies and popular culture, most people in the west can recognise these Chinese symbols but can't understand them. So that makes these tattoos a rather exotic form of self expression.

But beyond that, there are other more gender specific reasons for the popularity of these tattoo designs.

Women are attracted to the numerous subtle meanings and over-arching themes that the Chinese symbols can express, such as hope, freedom and love. Men, on the other hand, are drawn to Chinese symbol tattoos because in western culture they're strongly associated with martial arts movies.

So if you're considering getting a Chinese tattoo, here's a quick beginners guide to Chinese symbols.

The system of Chinese writing began more than 4000 years ago and doesn't have an alphabet. This is perhaps the biggest difference for non Chinese people to understand.

Instead, Chinese writing relies upon a large number of symbols that represent spoken ideas or concepts. Each symbol represents a different spoken word.

In 1710 AD the Kangxi Dictionary was created by imperial decree and contained more than 47,000 symbols. However, since then that number has risen to more than 70,000 symbols to represent the growing number of nuances and meanings in the modern language.

But having said that, the average Chinese person only needs to know around 5,000 of these Chinese symbols to be able to read and understand anything that's written in Chinese.

Can anything be written in Chinese symbols?

Thanks to the sheer number of symbols available, anything can be translated into Chinese. Even the most subtle meanings and nuances can be achieved using a combination of symbols.

What is Kanji?

Kanji is the term used to describe Chinese symbols that have been adapted to mean Japanese words. The meaning of the symbols in Chinese and Japanese can be the same but they may be pronounced differently. Alternatively, they may express completely different ideas.

Can I get my name, or someone else's name, translated into Chinese Symbols?

Yes, of course. But it's worth bearing a couple of things in mind. First, Chinese names are written in reverse order, which means that your last name appears before your first name. Second, if your name is foreign to the Chinese language, symbols will have to be selected that represent your spoken name.

As you can see, the whole issue of Chinese writing is extremely complex, so the first major rule when you're getting a Chinese symbol tattoo is to...

Make Sure That Your Chosen Words Are Correctly Translated

Before you allow anyone to put a tattoo needle anywhere near your skin, make sure that you have discussed your chosen design with someone who can understand Chinese writing. And make sure that they are used to advising people about the meaning of Chinese symbols for use in tattoos.

Whatever happens, resist the temptation to ask the first Chinese person that you know to check the meaning of your intended design. They may not know the exact meaning that you want and provide you with the wrong symbol.

For example, one women asked a waiter at her local Chinese restaurant to draw the Chinese symbol for free on a napkin. Unfortunately, this English word can be translated into Chinese in one of two ways. She wanted "Freedom" he gave her the symbol for "Free of charge".

So consult a Chinese speaking tattoo specialist and you'll avoid the permanent embarrassment of a Chinese tattoo that doesn't mean what you thought it did.

The second rule of getting a successful Chinese symbol tattoo is to...

Get A Custom Design

To create a high quality tattoo, your artist will need a quality design to work from. So it's important to spend some money on getting a custom design professionally made to your order. This will provide you with a crisp, clear Chinese tattoo that means what you think it does.

Okay, you could search the internet and find a free translation service, but in most cases the end result will be a small and poorly defined image which is unsuitable for creating a quality tattoo. If you find a tattoo artist who is prepared to use such a poor design you'll end up with a blurred mess which may have lost its meaning.

Chinese symbol tattoos represent a highly individual and beautiful way to express your personality. If you follow these basic guidelines you will be rewarded with a unique piece of body art which will last you for the rest of your life.
About the Author
Gustavo Gomez runs SuperTattooDesigns.com. For information about chinese tattoos and a wide range of other tattoo designs, check out Super Tattoo Designs.
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