My friends and I are getting tattoos. We are getting each others first initial in Chinese. After reading some of the horror stories on your web site I want to make sure I get the correct letters:
Again we just want the letters. I am also interested in a phrase like friendship or something to that effect. I appreciate you taking time to read this and please respond, I don't want "crazy diarrhea" on me for life.
It may be a common misnomer that Chinese is like any other Romantic language that follows an alphabetical system.
Actually it is not so.
(example: tattoo's owner claim the characters are her son's initials)
My good friend Dr. Rick Harbaugh of Zhongwen.com has a Frequently Asked Questions section where this question has been answered in detail.
Mark Swofford of Pinyin Info is also planning to launch a new Frequently Asked Question to help out with some of these questions. The following is one of the example questions/answers, I think it is very useful for future tattoo seekers:
I want to get a tattoo with kanji / Chinese characters. What do you recommend?
This is probably not what you want to hear: Don’t get the tattoo. Most tattoos with Chinese characters are seriously flawed.
The chances of you getting something that looks good – and not just to you but also to others, including the hundreds of millions of people who can actually read Chinese characters and know how they’re supposed to look – are quite low.
Moreover, tattoos of Chinese characters are seldom written properly or represent a correct, idiomatic translation of the wearer’s desired meaning. On the other hand, the chances of you ending up looking more or less like a fool – at least to those who know Chinese characters – are uncomfortably high.
These are important considerations, given that you would need to go through pain and expense to have someone permanently stain your skin with an image that very likely will be done wrong in some important way.