Sunday, September 26, 2010

Alan spotted this photo in BME's Kanji tattoo gallery:

Despite the great calligraphy (calligraphy as in fancy artistic penmanship), there is a huge typo on this person's torso.

Bushido, the way of the warrior in Japanese is written as 武士道, not with in the middle. itself means samurai or warrior, but 武侍道 makes no sense in Japanese. Especially considering Bushido is a Japanese concept.

"Bullshitdo", the way of bullshit, would be more fitting.


  1. "Bullshitdo", the way of bullshit, would be more fitting.


    If that was across an arm it would be bad enough, but to fix this.....ouch ;)

  2. I don't even think it's 侍 there. It looks more like 待 (three strokes on the left radical) or even a kanji I couldn't find in Japanese which has the water radical on the left.

  3. 武待道, huh? "The way of waiting for the warrior" :))

  4. Ulas - Tee-hee!
    Or maybe "The way of the military waiter"?

    "Would you like ground pepper, SIR!?" :)

  5. i am just really baffled by their reluctance to use the internet BEFORE they get their tattoo. If you even just used Wikipedia to look up bushido, you'd have seen a correct rendering of the kanji (albeit a terrible one)
    these same ppl obviously have no qualm about using the internet after they get the tattoo to show off...

  6. This was done by a studio in Hong Kong...

  7. I think this unfortunate tattoo illustrates the importance of knowing the language of the word someone might want as a tattoo. Despite the common misconceptions, Japanese and Chinese are not the same language. A person that knows Chinese will not necessarily know Japanese and vice versa.

    The Hong Kong tattoo shop obviously has talented Chinese artists and calligraphers, but they cannot be expected to know the Japanese language or know how to spell Japanese words correctly.

    Bushido is Japanese concept and a Japanese word, not a Chinese one. So someone wanting this Japanese word as a tattoo ought to get a Japanese tattoo artist to do the work to avoid the risk of such such a huge disaster.

  8. This picture was mistakenly categorized as Kanji.

    It is in fact Chinese calligraphy.

    The two are completely separate languages.

    This tattoo is 100% correct in Chinese - the artist is a native Chinese speaker and the client who wears it only speaks Chinese : )

    To say it doesn’t make sense in Japanese would be to say that my words here don’t make sense is Spanish, French or any other Latin based language.

  9. Mr. Tattoo Temple,

    You say that the tattoo is "100% correct in Chinese." Will you please tell us what this "Chinese" word is? How is it pronounced and what does it mean? Is it in any Chinese dictionary?

  10. Alan,

    The Chinese phrase is 武侍道. It has the same meaning as the Japanese 武士道 although it uses different characters.

    Please simply input the Chinese writing "武侍道" into Google and you will see numerous Chinese articles, papers, game titles and other official publications where this spelling is used. I am happy to send numerous hyperlinks through to you as references should they be required.

    Our studio is based in Hong Kong. The majority of our clients are native Chinese speakers. Our resident artists are native Chinese speakers and have studied across Asia.

    The artist responsible for this piece is a member of the Hong Kong Calligraphy Association and has studied the art for nearly a decade.

    Please feel free to critique the work if you see fit. But in regards to the accuracy of our native language - please check your facts before making slanderous statements.

    Thank you.

  11. A final note - 侍 is of course in the Chinese dictionary. It is pronounced 'shi' (4th tone in Mandarin and 6th tone in Cantonese) and means: serve, attend upon; attendant, servant; samurai

    Again, please simply type it in to any online Chinese dictionary.

    Thank you.

  12. Dear Mr. Tattoo Temple,

    (I wish I had a name by which to address you, since you address me by my first name.)

    I do not wish to criticize the tattoo's Chinese calligraphy, which looks beautiful and your artists should be commended on this.

    However, in regard to the spelling of the word 武士道, I have indeed checked my facts. I have in front of me two Chinese dictionaries, one published in the PRC and one from Taiwan. I looked up the word 武士道 in both, and here is what I found:

    【武士道】 wŭshìdào bushido

     the samurai spirit; the samurai code (Japanese) Bushido

    These dictionary entries tell me that 武士道 is in fact used in Chinese as the word for the Japanese concept of Bushido, and the word is written with the same characters 武士道 as in Japanese, not the nonsensical 武侍道.

    Please back up your claim that the tattoo is "100% correct" with a citation of an entry in some sort of dictionary, preferably a well-respected dictionary like those I have cited.

    And yes, I did do a Google search on 武侍道 and found a total of 117 hits, many of which refer back to this same Hanzismatter post. In contrast, I find over 7 million hits on the correct spelling 武士道. Finding 117 hits that are apparently misspelled words certainly does not demonstrate that the misspelling is "correct."

    I note that 武侍道 would be pronounced in the exact same way (wŭshìdào) as 武士道, so this misspelling is an easy mistake to make, especially by someone writing in a language that is not their native language, such as this case in which your Chinese tattoo artist is writing a Japanese word.

    Mistakes happen. I understand. But claiming that a misspelling is "100% correct" does not help your credibility.



  13. Alan,

    We are not arguing the translation or writing of 武士道.

    However, 武侍道 is still a correct translation and was selected by the native Chinese speaking client.

    The character 侍 in Chinese also means warrior. The substitution and selection of characters - irrespective of your presupposed 'correct' translation - is a perfectly acceptable practice.

    In Chinese calligraphy - if a choice is available the more aesthetically pleasing character can be selected in order to match the entire sentence or phrase.

    Your dictionaries, references and statements are not in dispute. However 武侍道, in Chinese, is a correct usage.

    Please kindly note that within 武侍道 all the individual characters are correct and hold the same meaning as the alternately spelled phrase.

    Please kindly note that our artists and clients are native Chinese speakers. The client who wears this tattoo selected these characters himself. He is from China and only speaks Chinese.

    Again, we are NOT arguing about the Japanese translations. Once again, Japanese is NOT what we were writing.

    I trust that you 1) Do not live in China 2) Have not grown up speaking Chinese 3) Do not practice Chinese calligraphy. In short - you're obviously not Chinese. You do not understand our culture.

    I am writing from Tattoo Temple in Hong Kong. The address and phone number are readily available. Please feel free to browse our calligraphy galleries:

    Thank you for the serious convictions that we are in fact mistaken. If you're ever in Hong Kong or China we'd be happy to go over the practice of calligraphy with you.

    If you genuinely have an artistic debate or question then please do contact us!

  14. First of all, calligraphy of this tattoo is very well done.

    Having that said, there is a big difference how 侍 is used in Chinese and Japanese.

    侍 in Japanese means "warrior", where in Chinese it only means "to serve". 侍者 for example in Chinese means "waiter" or "attendant". Where in Japanese, same phrase would have more heroic meaning.

    The concept of 武士道 is originated from Japan, plus the controversy during World War II, it is HIGHLY doubtful a Chinese person would willing to tattoo him/herself with this phrase.

    Granted, 士 and 侍 are pronounced the same in verbal Chinese, but linguistically and conceptually they are two different things.

    Regardless how great piece of work this tattoo is, but at the end of the day, it still is just another piece of 畫蛇添足.

  15. Dear Anonymous/Alan,

    We're happy to see people fighting for the correct translations!! This is what we've been doing for years! However, speaking the language first usually helps : )

    "侍 in Japanese means "warrior", where in Chinese it only means "to serve"

    This is incorrect.

    As previously illustrated, in Chinese, 侍 has a variety of meanings including: serve, attend upon; attendant; servant AND samurai.

    士 can also mean: member of senior ministerial class; scholar; bachelor; honorific; first class military rank and specialist worker

    Additionally, in Chinese calligraphy art, each character can be written in over 10 different ways. These multiple variations are recognized by the educated and the professionals. These are only used for by Chinese people for Chinese art - and are not understood or used by foreigners. There is a plethora of complex history and cultural heritage intertwined with calligraphy art. The professional Chinese calligraphy dictionary outweighs the normal Chinese translation dictionary by 10 to 1. And you cannot find the full calligraphy dictionary online or outside of China.

    We have a collection of professional Chinese calligraphy dictionaries here at the studio though. Anyone interested is welcome to make an appointment and have a look!

    Linguistically and conceptually 士 and 侍 can share the same meaning depending on the usage and phrase.

    To argue that: "The concept of 武士道 is originated from Japan, plus the controversy during World War II, it is HIGHLY doubtful a Chinese person would willing to tattoo him/herself with this phrase. "

    This is absolutely ridiculous and beyond a joke. You are stating that ALL Chinese people do not respect Japanese culture and would veer away from this particular saying because of World War II?? Really?

    Please come live in China. Please learn Chinese fluently. Please then study Chinese calligraphy for 10 years or so and then come back with a response.

    We pride ourselves on being the first genuine Chinese calligraphy body artists. To argue that one piece should be written ONLY in one way, when you don't even speak the language, is disdainful and inane.

    Your arguments here and unwillingness to consider the facts of the matter have been the epitome of the timeless phrase - 'The danger of a little knowledge'

    We are always happy to answer any questions and if you would like to learn about Chinese calligraphy, please feel free to e-mail or call us directly.

    Thank you for your time.

  16. Mr. Tattoo Temple,

    That is terrific that you have a large collection of huge Chinese dictionaries! They are just what we need to determine if 武士道 is correctly spelled. Now, if you have the time, please go over to the dictionaries and look up 武士道 and 武侍道, and report back to us which dictionary contains which spelling.

    Thank you!


  17. Alan,

    We have already agreed with you many times about these three characters.

    武士道 is correct in Japanese and Chinese

    AND 武侍道 is also correct in Chinese calligraphy : )

    A point of reference - there is no spelling in Chinese. It's a character based language which allows for substitution depending on usage.

    Both ourselves and the person who wears this tattoo have been so entertained with your writing we'd like to offer you a free tattoo of '武士道'. As these seem so important to you and they appear to be the only characters you know - we think it's fitting you should wear them.

    While you're here in Hong Kong we can introduce you to the person who wears this tattoo - perhaps you can convince him why his Chinese and choice of characters is wrong. He only speaks Chinese but we're happy to translate.

    We do hope you take us up on this offer and look forward to seeing you in Hong Kong! And our dictionaries are available for all our clients - including yourself!

    All the very best,

    Tattoo Temple

  18. Just someone walking around in Hong Kong with giant 錯別字 of 武侍道 tattooed on him, that does not mean it is correct.

    Alan did also have a great point of 21000+ results of "武士道" versus 117 of "武侍道" in Google.

    From the last comment Tattoo Temple made, it sounds like a nice way for them to 下臺.

  19. To Tattoo Temple:

    All eloquence of discourse aside, your patronizing ad hominem attacks are truly appalling, sir. I understand that you feel smarted at your apparently spotless reputation being sullied on a relatively high-profile site like Hanzi Smatter. If you wished to correct the issue, all you needed to do from the beginning was explain, as you eventually and with much unnecessary abuse, did, that picking 侍 over 士 was an esoteric artistic choice of a kind that is permissible in Chinese calligraphy. You have provided only anecdotal evidence to support this claim, so we do not know if it is accurate, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt given you and your client's obvious credentials.

    However, the point Alan was making was that in a standardized denotative sense, the combination 武侍道 is not strictly correct, and is exceedingly rare in print, without regard to calligraphic or literary usage. It is regrettable that he misunderstood the situation, but given the technicality and rarity of the character combination at hand and his position on the site, he can hardly be blamed for his misapprehension.

    I for one am indeed happy to see an example on this site of a tattoo studio that knows what it is doing, as it were. However, through your rude and sophomoric (albeit well-worded) straw-men and personally-directed miscellany, you have ironically embarrassed yourself even further.

    A little less condescension is all we're asking for! :)
    Thanks for being so passionate about the art of tattoo and Chinese culture! That's what this site is all about, after all.

    All the best,


    As a site note, I also wonder what Tian has to say about this one, since he has not yet made any contribution to the discussion...

  20. Come to think of it, there is something I should qualify further. Being a professional Japanese translator, Alan initially saw the tattoo as a nonsensical malapropism for the very, very Japanese concept of 武士道, and so naturally assumed that A. Japanese was the intended language of output and B. that there had been a mistake on the part of the calligrapher or the person who selected the characters based on those people's ignorance of the proper orthography in Japanese. This is the mistake that is regrettable, yet entirely understandable in context. It was Alan's first position, before he realized that Chinese was the intended output and proffered the position noted in the second paragraph above.

  21. @BN,

    I personally think the correct way of writing Bushido is 武士道.

    What is been displayed here is called 錯別字 in Chinese. In English, it is equivalent to divergent spelling.

    A good example would be usage of letter K in "Krispy Kreme" donuts. Phonetically, K and C are very similar in English, however there is a significant difference when it is used in "clan" versus "klan".

    Same applies with 侍 versus 士.

  22. Having lived in Hong Kong for several of years, I noticed it is actually not uncommon for people to use 錯別字s here, especially in non-official prints. Like in restaurants, 炒麵(stir-fried noodles) is sometimes written as 炒面(stir-fried face lol)However, this is mostly done for convenience's sake.
    Even though I don't see the reason of doing that for a tattoo, I actually find this tattoo to be acceptable. Especially since the tattoo is intended to be in Chinese and not Japanese, and that the owner is also Chinese, I don't think this tattoo belongs on this site with the other submissions (considering the fact that the owners of most other tattoos here don't really know what their tattoos meant).

    Just my two cents.

    PS Knowing both Chinese and Japanese myself, it is interesting how some people consider Japanese and Chinese to be the same language.Despite having some kanji being similar to Chinese characters, I honestly find the two languages to be nothing alike at all =|.

  23. Anon @12:41 AM - You are quite right in that 炒面 is used instead of 炒麵. The latter is the traditional form still used in Taiwan (and formerly in Hong Kong), and the former are the simplified characters now used in the PRC. I am not surprised that the simplified characters are becoming common in Hong Kong, especially after reunification. Many of the simplified forms were common shorthand ways of writing characters, but now they are standardized, appear in dictionaries and are taught in Chinese schools.

    This is why I kept asking Mr. Tattoo Temple if he can cite some dictionary entry.

  24. Tattoo Temple says it's artistic discretion.
    Alan Siegrist says it's not in the dictionary.

    Amazingly enough, the two positions are not mutually exclusive.

  25. I recently read a japanese book titled "獄楽記". The character "獄" (short for "prison") here substitutes the initial character of "極楽", "paradise". Both read "goku"
    "獄楽" cannot be found in any dictionary. Still nobody would go complaining that it's incorrect, because it is obvious that a double meaning was intended, since the book describes one yakuza-member's time in prison, and how he managed to get a lot of fun out of it, after all.

    There are coutless such examples in japanese culture, but also, I am sure, in chinese culture. It's a common practice, especially where art is concerned.

    Now we should ask ourselves: why would this young man want 侍 instead of 士?
    There are two very good reasons:

    1. 士 is pretty bland. Jammed between two rather complicated and well-balanced characters, it just looks off. If *I* were to get a tattoo, that would be exactly why I wouldn't want a tattoo of "武士道".

    2. He wants to stress the "Samurai". Since he's already getting a "japanese" Tattoo, why shouldn't we assume that he is a fan of the romantic idea of the noble samurai. And this is exactly what substituation does in calligraphy. It's actually one of its constituting features.

    Yes, it's not lexically correct, but it's far from bullshit.