Thursday, April 28, 2005


Reader "ZZ" emails:

"Hi Tian! That it's my first tattoo and it is supposse to mean 'destiny' is it correct? Thanks"

The translation for the tattoo is correct, but the second character is missing a horizontal stroke.

Typically in Chinese, "fate" or "destiny" is translated as 命運; and in Japanese, both 命運 and 運命 are accepted.

= luck, fortune; ship, transport
= life; destiny, fate, luck; an order, instruction


  1. 命運 may be accepted in Japanese, but 運命 is much more common. In fact in my dictionary the entry for 命運 just says "運命."

  2. Thanks for verifing that.

    Oh, did you see in the original entry, the part about:

    "Typically in Chinese, 'fate' or 'destiny' is translated as 命運; and in Japanese, both 命運 and 運命 are accepted."

    馬后炮, now go look that up in your dictionary.

  3. Quick question: when people send you this type of question, and you reply to them that a character is missing a horizontal stroke, do you send them an image of the correct character? I really doubt their computers are set up to display chinese characters so they can't actually read your reply on this site. (well, i assume so since most people who set up their computers to read hanzi/kanji aren't the type to get tattoos first and then question if they are correct!).

    just wondering...

  4. I usually provide them reference links to WWWJDIC,, and Unihan.

    Sometimes I send them characters as jpg or gif files directly if they can't view the characters featured in the reference websites on their computers, ie. did not install Asian language pack on their computers.

  5. is all image based, so they shouldn't have a problem there.

  6. Lao Tian, is the second part yun4 absolutely necessary in order to convey that meaning? I checked and it listed both.

  7. Xiaowei: In general use, you would use both hanzi in Chinese if you want to make absolutely certain that what you wish to convey is "destiny."

    By itself, 命 would be most directly interpreted by most native Chinese speakers as "life."

    I hear 運命 (unmei) a lot in Japanese, and almost never hear 命運. It probably would've served 'ZZ' much better to have gotten it written across horizontally, since hanzi can be read from either direction; whereas it would have to be an extremely peculiar circumstance to make someone read from bottom up.

  8. Tian,

    Great site/comments... I honestly wish that I found this years ago before I decided to start my tatoo.

    At the time I could not find the symbol for "Fate", so I simply started my tatoo and intended on finishing it later. Days/Years passed with no completion and I finally started looking again, and found this site.

    The phrase that I wanted to express was "Mysterious Fate", I currently have 奇 on one leg and was going to place (now that I found it) 命 on the other. So I guess what I am wondering is this the correct association of symbols to convey what I want or am I another unfortunate soul who got the wrong tat?

    Here is a picture of what I currently have

    Be Kind... ;-)

  9. Chris: I think 奇運 would work much better than 奇命, although neither would be immediately translated as "mysterious fate."

    I would translate 奇命 as "strange life," and 奇運 as "strange luck."

  10. Only missing a stroke in 命 is a lot better than many people we've seen on this site. At least she can get it filled in pretty easily.

  11. Glenn... thanks for your help.

    奇運 is probably the path I am going to go down. If asked I could always say it's loosely translated to "Mysterious Fate". But again, thanks for the help. I'm still open to other comments...


  12. Slim: installing language support for unicode (*I guess?) is so easy that I don't even remember how I did it. (I did it on a whim after going through ) Most people can figure it out after seeing a bunch of "boxes"

    I'm glad that the submitter is only missing a stroke; horrible crisis averted!

  13. it is not JUST missing a stroke. "yun" looks like it was written by a retarded first grader.

    Why even ask AFTER you got the tat? What if the reply came back, "sorry, that means 'goat cheeser,' enjoy wearing that around."

    I cannot speak Russian, so I would neva eva get a tat in russian. Idiots rule!

  14. hey any chance you could send me an email when you have a spare moment of an image of 'fate'. Be greatly appreciated :
    cheers :)