Monday, December 20, 2004

Holding Lives

From reader "Nic T.":

"Hey there mate, I think I got to your site via Big White Guy, it's a great read! I got a tattoo of the Chinese phrase 'Jup Sang' several years ago - just the characters - but recently got some color added to it. This was the day after so it looks a bit crusty. I had seen the characters in a TIME magazine article on Hong Kong gambling, where it said it meant 'to take a chance' in life or 'live with the path you have chosen'. I lived on Hong Kong for 20 yrs and always wanted a tattoo with Chinese characters that meant something to me. I was hoping you knew the literal and true translation of the tattoo - as I have often had strange looks from local Chinese when they see it - which can't be a good thing!! Many thanks"

The literal translation is "holding lives", but it actually means "controlling destiny".

= hold in hand; keep; carry out

= life, living, lifetime; birth


  1. Actually, Tian, "執生" is a slang in Cantonese Chinese meaning "saving yourself in difficult situation". In fact, in Hong Kong, if people say you don't know how to "執生", it is very insulting.

    So, Nic got the meaning right. But "to take a chance" is, in my opinion, too nice a translation for the slang.


  2. Yes, Angela is rite, this is really a Cantonese slang which is usually used by HK people. We usually use it to remind people to take suitable action in difficulties.