Monday, May 30, 2005


Reader Dimitri emails:

"Hello Tian, I am a long time reader of your blog. Last week while visiting the city of Val-d'Or (Quebec) in Canada, I found the following plastic leg 'tattooed' in the front window of a tattoo parlor. In this picture, you can clearly see the character is upside down. Could it be they wanted to make sure the tattooed person will be able to read his own tattoo?"

The character shown on the leg is an upside down 鹿, which means "deer" in Chinese.

In Japanese, when it is combined with (horse); as in 鹿, it means "fool, idiot", and 鹿 means "stupid foreigner[s]".

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Eternal Love

Reader Neko emails:

"One of my friends from high school recently got this tattoo. She claims it means 'Eternal Love'. I found 'Eternal' in my books, but could not find anything even closely resembling her version of love. Is it a translation I simply haven't seen before? I did end up finding a 'flash' version of this same thing online somewhere, but since I only saw it once, and it was flash.. I'm having a hard time believing. I'd love to get your input on it. :)"

The top character means "long, perpetual, eternal, forever". The bottom character even though sometimes it is used to describe "dote, doting", but most often it means "aches, pains, sore".

Morals of the Story: Buyers Beware.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Condo Tiles

Reader Michael Bolduc emails:

"Tian, I am a realtor and these are in a condo a client of mine wants to buy. He's not wild about the tile mosaic around these tiles and is considering removing the whole thing. These tiles are on the facing of the breakfast bar. Do they say what is reported in English? Thanks for your help."

I have never seen "family" is referred as "". Usually is translated as "family".

= also, too; likewise
= make; work; compose, write; act, perform

Despite the poor calligraphy, this tile was my personal favorite. The character shown is the simplified version of , which means "hot". Mixing the Chinese character with the English caption, the tile is "hot love". This tile would be a good sell on eBay.

Bad calligraphy, correct characters and translation.

=luck(ily), favor, fortunately
= happiness, good fortune, blessing

This one is correct as well.

= life, living, lifetime; birth
= long; length; excel in; leader

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

FHM Lithuania March 2005


Jennifer Virskus from FHM Lithuania has sent me a copy of March 2005 issue of the magazine, where Hanzi Smatter was featured on page 12's "Eggs of the World" section.

Since I do not understand Lithuanian, would anyone that does please translate it for me?


Sunday, May 22, 2005

New York Yankees Kanji Cap

I know "New York Yankees" is "ニューヨーク・ヤンキース" in Japanese Katakana and 紐約洋基 in Chinese.

According to the news story, the character on the cap suppose to be Kanji for New York Yankees, but I have never seen the character before. Could anyone please verify that?

New Rules by Bill Maher

Reader Jerry has forward this quote from Bill Maher:

"New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to 'beef with broccoli.' The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high."

Old Navy's Temple of Strength Tee


I spotted this t-shirt at a local Old Navy store. I don't know if "Temple of Strength" really exists in Yangshuo. I also do not understand the significance of using the character on the shirt.

Update: Random Chinese Characters Used As Marketing Tool

Date: Tue, 24 May 2005 08:36:03 -0400
From: " Service"
To: "Tian"
Subject: Re: ON-Stores - About Our Products; response-yes (KMM23799250V38116L0KM)

Dear Tian,

Thank you for your message regarding the Old Navy Yangshuo Temple of Strength tee, #299500. We appreciate the time you have taken to contact us regarding the design of this tee. Please know that there is no special significance to the characters on our tees. We appreciate your feedback, and we have forwarded your comments to our merchandising and design teams.

If we may be of further assistance, please contact us via e-mail at or by calling 1-800-OLD-NAVY. Our Customer Service Consultants are available 24 hours a day for your convenience.


Customer Service Consultant

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

$320 Pair of "Self-Suspicion"

Reader Bruce Spragg emails about a new line of Nike sneakers for Lebron James. This particular pair shown above is $320, and that is cheap! Since there were only 300 pairs of these made, sneaker pimps are selling them on eBay for as high as $9,000 according to news report (video).

So what do these four Chinese characters say on these "overpriced-toe-fungus-traps"?

= self; myself
= to doubt; to suspect; doubt; suspicion

The phrase means "self-suspicion" or "self-doubt". What a great way for Nike to rub "buyers' remorse" in these sneaker fans' faces and their empty wallets (except the sneaker pimps).

I am somewhat inspired by the latest trend of exclusive customized sneakers, Adidas has its Original Series, Puma has its Mongolian Shoe BBQ, and Nike has its NikeID, what about Hanzi Smatter?

Don't you worry, I have got that covered.

Presenting the HS Sneaker:

1. Buy a pair of sneaker of your choice
2. Download and print out the Hanzi stencils provided here:
"crazy diarrhea"
"inferior goods"
3. Paste the stencil onto a piece of cardboard backing
4. Trim out the black part of the characters
5. Place the stencil along with the cardboard backing onto any surface or the sneaker
6. Use color marker(s) and smear over the stencil, thus the design will be left on the sneaker

Congratulations, you are now a proud owner of HS Sneaker!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Does This Say "Love"?

Reader Sonja emails:

"Hi Tian!!! Ok, here is my tattoo that apparently says 'Love'. I think ill cry if you tell me it says horse... ;-( LOL I'm kidding... Sort of.... When I got it they said it was an ancient Japanese Buddhist dialect I think called... Kanji? Or something? Oh I cant remember anymore... I'm very excited to get my new ones now... !!! Ill send you pics of the new ones when I get them In the first week of June. xoxoxo"

After I saw the photo, I did not recognize the character. I then forwarded it to my associates and hoping at least one of them would have more knowledge about the "ancient Japanese Buddhist dialect" than I did. At the same time I emailed Sonja back asking her about where she got the tattoo, and if the design was an original or from a template.

"I had it done in Toronto on queen street west, downtown. At New Tribe... You're worrying me!! I picked it there.. I spent some time in Japan (6 months) and when I came back to Canada I missed it so much so I wanted to get something to remember my time there. Maybe when I go in to get my new ones done I can get them to photocopy the sheet that it came from? Would that help? Someone once told me it says sex......?? Oh gosh... Now I'm worried. Just please be honest.. I know you will... Take care."

The first person responded to my email was John:

"I think she was totally bullshitted. Looks like to me, but I'm certainly no expert at the more 草书-ish characters."

John does have a point there, especially when he pull out his 草书 book:

3500常用字索查字帖(草书) 上海交通大学出版社, 1999.

Ken Nishimura and Aaron Batty from Japan both agree with John:

"I thought it was distorted 'blue' . To me, this cannot be 'love' or any kanji I'm familiar with."

Jeremy from thinks "maybe the tattooist was trying to write ?"

= wheat, barley, oats;

Chinese translation for McDonald's is 麦当劳 or 麥當勞.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Interview with RTHK Radio 3

Yesterday I did a telephone interview about Hanzi Smatter with Mr. Hugh Chiverton of RTHK Radio 3. Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK 香港電台) Radio 3 broadcasts in English covers news, information, and general programming. It is similar in genre to BBC Radio 4.

rthk20050512.smi (real audio)
rthk20050512.mp3 (mp3)

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Airbrushed Tats at Cornell's Slope Day 2005

Reader Elliott Back emails:

"My girlfriend and I were at Cornell University's Slope Day today, and they were offering airbrushed tattoos, some of which were in Chinese. Of course, she told me that half the descriptions didn't match the characters at all. I'm a longtime reader of your blog, so I snapped a photo so I could send it to you. Thanks."

The character labeled 34 appears to be a poorly written , which means "trust", but it also means "brood over eggs; have confidence". The bottom partial should be , not .

#35 means "beauty", not "hope" as the caption says.

I have never seen "peace" written like #40 before. I don't know if it could be because it is written so badly.

#39 means "real, actual, true, genuine", not "hope".

My personal favorites are #38 and #41. That is because the person did not even bother to remove the horizontal bars above the characters. The bars used by the template's manufacturer to indicate "this way up" on the package.

#38 is the same as #35 which means "beauty" despite the misleading captions. I have seen #41 before and it was featured here in Hanzi Smatter last October. When will these idiots ever learn...

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Fashionable Chinese Characters

In recent Voice of America's News Chinese section, there is an article about Hanzi Smatter titled "汉字渐成美国年轻人追求时尚"; or in English, "American Youth Consider Chinese Characters Fashionable". (more at and

What I personally found interesting was the last sentence of the article:



According to statistics, currently there are 30 million [non-Chinese] people studying Chinese globally, this number is expected to reach 100 million by 2007.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

"Poison" vs. "Wife"

Reader A. Hanagata emailed this photo with the following description:

"I'm Japanese, and a friend of mine has this tattoo... she told me it meant 'poison' and I told her that it most certainly did not. Perhaps in Chinese it means something. I personally do not recognize it."

I used the similar font that tattoo was done, the closest character I have found is , which means "wife".

Among other similar characters are:

= absurd, foolish, reckless; false
= concubine
= appoint, send, commission
= ginger

Update: Reader Joel/Zhwj emails

The top portion is a typical way of writing the top of 毒, 青, and so on (here's a 精神, for comparison); the bottom portion has three main differences from the type version of 母: (1) it's rotated, so the verticals and horizontals are now angular; (2) the the hooked turning stroke is connected to the middle horizontal, and (3) the dots have been made into a line, which unfortunately doesn't extend below the middle horizontal (this is the main source of confusion, and is probably due to the lack of resolution the tattoo artist had to work with). I've sent you an image, Tian, of the two characters written in a font modeled after Qi Gong's handwriting; the 毒 is written in the same style as this photo.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

3D Car FX

Listen up, all you import mod fans, you can make fools out of yourselves and cars by placing these incorrect Kanji stickers on your rides.

does not mean "beauty", it means "letter, invitation; choose".

does not mean "extreme", it means "cut, mince, slice, carve".

I have no idea what that "follow" character is.

does not mean "love", it means "to entertain, feast; a feast, banquet".

is "strength", not the gibberish shown.

I should also point out that usually means "ghost; spirit of dead; devil", and means "inhale, suck in; absorb; attract".

I have emailed corrections to, so far the only response I got from them is an auto-response email.

Monday, May 2, 2005

"Central Ice"

The top two characters usually means "central". In geographical term, there is an area just south and south-west of Tokyo that is called the same. In Japanese, would sometimes also represent the "heart", as the equivalent of "center".

The bottom character , despite it might look like a miswritten (long, perpetual, eternal, forever), it is actually the Japanese version of , which means "ice".

Hence the problem: does the tattoo suppose mean "central ice", "icy center", "Ice of Tokyo's South-West", or "cold hearted"?