Sunday, January 30, 2005

Encounter with an Unknown "Dragon" Character

While browsing through for textbooks, I saw this Chinese dragon T-shirt for sale by ChoiceShirts. The odd thing is that the character on the shirt does not mean "dragon" (), matter of fact, I have never seen it before in my life.

The closest two characters I can find are these, which there is no connection with dragon:

= come across, meet with, encounter

= enlighten, advance; progress

Friday, January 28, 2005

Pointless Gibberish

From BMEzine's gallery, this is a prime example of someone who obviously did not do enough research or none at all. Not only the entire string of characters are gibberish, several characters are missing important dots,

= expensive, costly, valuable

= endure, bear, suffer; forbear

But they are mixture of Japanese Kanji, Traditional and Simplified versions of Hanzi.

(Traditional Chinese ; Simplified Chinese ) = glory, honor; flourish, prosper

(Traditional Chinese ) = favor, benefit, confer kindness

(Traditional Chinese ) = love, be fond of, like

(Traditiona Chinese ; Simplified Chinese ) = labor, toil, do manual work

Granted, many Kanji and Hanzi are the same characters, but at least try to keep them in a consistant form.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sacrificial Grasshopper Worshipping

(Thanks to Shannon Larrett's

I don't know if the person got this tattoo after watched Kung Fu too many times, where Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine) was called "Young Grasshopper", or he has some kind of deep connection with katydids (grasshoppers). Regardless, his tattoo says he worships grasshoppers.

Here are what some of my colleagues have commented:

Brendan: "Perhaps 'hold a sacrifice to katydids?' It doesn't even sound like a plausible transliteration of anything, except maybe a really halfassed way of writing 'Jason'. (In Cantonese it's 'jai jung,' or something like that, according to Wenlin.) I dunno - maybe it sounds like something with a Japanese reading of the characters?"

Jeremy: "Sacrificial grasshopper? 'Cultists sacrificed a grasshopper on my underwear, dying it red with blood'?"

: "I simply don't have a clue. Unless I'm too ignorant of the Chinese language, I believe the bottom character doesn't even exist! If I have to guess, this tattoo means 'worship a scarified/dead grasshopper'."

= sacrifice to, worship

= katydid, grasshopper

Monday, January 17, 2005


tattoo_huan4guan1 (eunuch)

This tattoo was spotted at This person probably would never guessed his macho tattoo said "eunuch". For those who are not familiar with the concept or the term of "eunuch":

A eunuch is a castrated human male. The castration can be only of the testes, or also include the penis, known as a penectomy (often with a tube inserted to keep the urethra open, called a urethral rerouting). The practice was established before 700 BC and accounts of eunuchs are known throughout history.

In ancient China castration was both a traditional punishment (until the Sui Dynasty) and a means of gaining employment in the Imperial service. At the end of the Ming Dynasty there were 70,000 eunuchs ( huàn'guān, or tàijiān) in the Imperial palace. The value of such employment—certain eunuchs gained immense power that may supersede that of the prime ministers—was such that self-castration had to be made illegal. The number of eunuchs in Imperial employ had fallen to 470 in 1912, when the employment ceased. The justification of the employment of eunuchs as high-ranking civil servants was that, since they were incapable of having children, they would not be tempted to seize power and start a dynasty.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

You Must Really Love Lemon Chicken


In the Jan. 11, 2005 episode of NBC's new sitcom "Committed", there is a story about Bowie's (Darius McCrary) Chinese character tattoo.

= lemon

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Unknown Holy Strength

From reader "Crane":

"Here's a tattoo that a co-worker of mine got a few days ago. She claims it means 'holy strength', but she has no clue how to read or write any language other than English. Of course, it would break her little heart if I were to come back and tell her it meant 'extra butter' or something like that, since it's just two characters from the Kanji flashsheet at the tattoo/piercing studio. The tattoo artist also has no clue what they say other than the word printed below the character on each sheet. Enlighten me."

Personally, I have never seen the character in either Chinese or Japanese vocabulary. The closest candidates I can think of are the following two:

= divine

= beginning, initial, primary

To make sure I did not overlook anything, I have also emailed my colleagues to consult this matter with them:

Eden: "Hmm that really doesn't look like any of the characters you mentioned. I've never seen it, and it doesn't come up when you do handwriting recognition for it. The left side is the another form of 示 right? Even if you try this form + 力, nothing comes up. It's either archaic Chinese, or it's just wrong ;)"

Jeremy: "Tian, I think that character means: 'I am a very stupid foreigner'. It is pronounced "alla si ge siseidi"

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


From reader "Jeremy J.":

"I ran across a couple of tattoos that I didn't recognize, can you tell me what they mean (if anything). Either way, keep of the good work, your site is great. The people on this site have been paid to tattoo advertisements on their bodies!"

I seriously hope the image above was mirrored by the photographer rather than the tattoo artist.

= longevity

The girl in this photograph is "Sprinkles". She is featured on as a poster child after receiving $1,000 for the fresh ink job.

Her existing tattoos in the middle of her back are:

= forever

= dream

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Old Navy's Kung Fu Knock-Off

I saw this t-shirt at a local Old Navy store. It is a knock-off of the Bruce Lee/Kung Fu type of t-shirt. The top two character says "Kung Fu (or Gong Fu)", but I don't know what the bottom two meant.

The phrase means "power; (ability to) influence", but what is ?

Especially when is written in Simplified version of . Any Bruce Lee's fan would know that he was from Hong Kong, which used the Traditional version of Chinese.

= skill; art; kung fu; labor; effort

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Justin Timberlake's New Fake Tattoos

Reader "Nick E." has emailed me a photo scan of November 15, 2004 issue of US magazine, which featured Justin Timberlake posing on the movie set of "Top Dog". (click on the photo for larger view)

In the movie, Timberlake plays a drug-gang member named "Frankie Ballenbacher". Even though the tattoos are fake, but why would a tough gang member get "ice-skating" on him is still puzzling.

= slide, glide, slip; slippery
= ice; ice-cold
= luck(ily), favor, fortunately
= injure, harm; destroy, kill
= power, capability, influence
= wealth, valuables, riches
= real, actual, true, genuine
= love, be fond of, like