Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Resolution

For those who are seeking suggestions on new year's resolution, may I suggest stop getting tattoos from these templates?

Especially the infamous "Asian Font" seen here, aka. English alphabet in gibberish Chinese.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Joanne Raine's "Supermarket" Tattoo

Apparently the big story across the pond in UK is a girl's tattoo. A young girl named Joanne Raine got her boyfriend's nickname tattooed on her with Chinese characters at a dodgy tattoo shop. Of course, they have since then broke up & the tattoo is not exactly the boy's name.

News links via BBC, The Northern Echo, & video via LiveLeak

The phrase "supermarket" is 超級市場 or abbreviated to 超市 in Chinese. I have no idea how and why was interpreted as "supermarket" in the news clips.

Update: Dec. 13, 2007 - I have emailed BBC regarding the error of interpreting as "supermarket" .

Friday, December 7, 2007


Johan and I had a good laugh at this website called Kanjix, where its motto is "A good KANJI name for you."

Besides the Engrish plastered all over the site, their kanji examples are not what I would call professional quality.

We are both curious who would pay $19 for 800 pixel size jpeg & additional $9.50 for PDF (Why not just use PDFCreator, it is FREE!).

I suggest their slogan should be changed to:

(Engrish + Eihongo) * $ = Kanjix!

Update: I find it to be very ironic that Google Adsense is posting an ad about Kanjix.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sasha from New York in Miami Ink

An anonymous reader emailed me this screen capture from episode 12 in season 4 of Miami Ink.

It starts at 38:30, some person telling her story:

"Hello. I'm Sasha from New York and I've got this really cool tattoo on my back of a crescent moon surrounded a kanji, which is Japanese symbol and it's all me, it's my initial. And crescent moon is there basically to protect me, to make..."

Another sucker of the "Asian font".


My friend Jon Rahoi (who runs a fantastic site about mangled English spotted in Hong Kong and various locations in China) has recently sent me a photo of his personal trainer's tattoo.

Jon says:

Hi Tian - my personal trainer showed me his tat today. He thinks it says "Kyan" which is his son's name. He said his Taiwanese-Okinawan friend wrote it for him. In Cantonese I think it says, "hei nguk mo" (happy house fight or brawl or something) and I'm guessing it would also be at least three syllables in Japanese, too. So I thought he was on crack. BUT when I put them into Google

I get 76,000 pages - mostly of a girl named Chiaki Kyan, who is a cosplay idol. I'm stumped as to where they're getting "Kyan," though. It's a mystery to this poor gwailo...

anyway, thought I'd share.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sacha G. has emailed me about a website called I tried to understand what the site is about by reading its About US section, then quickly got bored by all the vague catchy phrases.

However, both Sacha and I were curious about the significance of all the characters plastered on the site. For example, 加西生學由天誼 does not even form a sentence, but random characters placed together.

Luckily, after I emailed them, Bryce Green replied and confirming that "the characters are just random. They were selected by our designer because they looked compositionally cool."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tatt's ink-redibly unfunny

The Sun recently printed an article about a man named Vince Mattingley and his tattoo. Since The Sun is a tabloid newspaper, I don't really believe the story. Then again, look at all the people I have documented here in my own site.

According to the article, means "Coca-Cola".

That is absolutely nonsense.

The two-character phrase actually mean "crooked official".

Plus, Coca-Cola is 可口可樂 in Chinese & コカ・コーラ in Japanese.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Kanye West Sucks Stronger & Harder

Kanye "George Bush Does Not Care About Black People" West has just released a new album called Graduation.


Alan and I both have watched the video, and he has documented the following errors:


That's pretty funny. Some of it seems to make sense, but it is all written in katakana, which is rather hard to read, especially as it flashes by so quickly. It is also sort of like reading a children's story written for preschoolers, who would not be assumed to be able to read kanji. Somehow the "baby talk" style of writing clashes with the "tough guy" image of the video.

Sometimes katakana is used to convey a robotic style of speaking, though.

I was initially optimistic that the katakana flashing on the screen might make some sense, since one of the first ones appeared to be ストロンガ which is in fact the transliteration of "Stronger," the name of the tune and this is flashed on the screen when Kanye sings the word. But my optimism did not hold out long.

This was followed by ヨリナガク which is the katakana version of より長く or the translation of "longer." This is not quite right because "I can't wait much longer" is sung, and the grammar doesn't match in context. And it seems odd that one of the words "stronger" would be transliterated as if it were a name, and the other word "longer" would be translated.

The first katakana bit in the video コセロ [kosero] at first didn't make any sense. It is flashed when the lyrics "that which don't kill me" are sung, so I can only assume it is supposed to mean "kill" but this would be 殺せ [korose] and would be written コロセ [korose] instead of コセロ [kosero] in katakana. So evidently they had some editing problems or a dyslexic typist. Anyway, the katakana doesn't match the lyrics because 殺せ is the imperative form, as in the order "Kill!"

The next one isn't too bad. He sings "right now" and イマスグ appears. This is the katakana version of 今直ぐ, which is in fact a good translation of "right now."

Then we see イマオマエガヒツヨウダ (ima omae ga hitsuyou da = 今おまえが必要だ) which is a good translation of "I need you right now."

But things went downhill from there. Some bits like ガンバレ (ganbare) are presumably supposed to be real words in Japanese, but this is misspelled so that it actually reads ガソバレ (gasobare), which makes no sense. I also can't see why it appears there.

Other katakana looks just like gibberish, but it flashes by so quickly I can't read it properly. The single characters (ne), (gi), (te), (za) and (yo) appear for seemingly no reason.

At one point I saw キガクルウ (ki ga kuruu = 気が狂う) or "to go crazy" which seems to match the lyric "go ape."

I am mystified by some bits like タツセイシロ (tatsuseishiro). What is this supposed to mean? Is this an error for タッセイシロ (note the small )? If so, it would be 達成しろ or "achieve it!" (But achieve what?) This mistake of using instead of ッ appears to be typical of typing by a non-Japanese typist that cannot tell the difference.

Another bit オレハコロサレナイ (ore ha korosarenai = 俺は殺されない) appears when the lyric "don't kill me" is sung, but the Japanese literally means "I cannot be killed." It is followed by …ハオレヲツヨクスルダケダ… (...ha ore wo tsuyoku suru dake da... = は俺を強くするだけだ) which does mean "... will only make me stronger..."

The lyric "I need you to hurry up" is appropriately accompanied by イマスグイソグンダ (ima sugu isogunda = 今直ぐ急ぐんだ).

In one scene, the nurse looks into a room and screams and "タスケテ!"appears as a sort of subtitle. This is a literal translation of "Help!" the phrase usually used where someone is captured and needs to be rescued -- the damsel in distress's classic cry. But it seems a bit incongruous for a professional nurse to call for security this way.

One bit レダケオマエヲ (re dake omae wo) seems to have been part of a longer phrase with both ends cut off for some reason.

The subtitles for the security guards' lines -- ウゴクナ! (ugoku na! = 動くな!) (Don't move!), トマレ! (tomare! = 止まれ!) (Stop!) and ナンダコレハ…? (nanda kore ha...?) (What the...?) -- appear to be fine, except that the typist continues to confuse with . So ナンダ [nanda] actually is the nonsensical ナソダ [nasoda].

Anyway, overall it seems like they did actually have a real translator translate some bits, but probably they gave the translator only extremely short bits of text to translate, which were translated out of context. And then they had a non-Japanese typist create the titles, so additional errors were introduced at that stage.

By the way, I like Daft Punk's version of this song much better than Kanye West's.


And I like this version as well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

ESPN & Matt Roth of Miami Dolphins

Dustin Chinn of Comedy Central (All Hail to Jon Stewart) spotted this giant (spring) on ESPN's website.

Neither of us understood what ESPN's intention of plastering this particular character on their site, especially when Spring is NFL's offseason.

After reading the site, the only I can think of is the "haiku" theme. Even with that, why didn't ESPN just use ?

Later Stacy emailed me this photo of Miami Dolphins' Matt Roth.

larger view

According to a 2005 interview with Pro Football Weekly, Roth claimed "I got some Chinese writing — my last name."

Roth is correct about they are simplified Chinese characters, however I really doubt his last name is .

Monday, August 20, 2007

Joyful Life

Jason V. from Brazil has sent me two photos of work done by Stanley of STATTOO in Minas Gerais.

The first one was just three characters thrown together, but the second one was terrible:

Not only these five characters are randomly thrown together, the second one does not even exist, and fourth one is upside down!

Amber's Tattoo from Big Brother 8

I don't watch reality television shows, therefore I have no idea who Amber is. Apparently she is one of the house guests in Big Brother 8.

HS reader & Big Brother 8 watcher Jenn G. emailed me this screen shot of Amber's tattoo,

According to Jenn G., in one of the previous episodes, Amber claimed her tattoos are:


If anyone has seen the particular episode, please confirm if Amber has made such claim.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Banta Family

This person went to Charlie at Asylum Tattoo of Covington, Kentucky and got some names tattooed, assuming they are family members names. The end result is posted in BMEzine's gallery dated Aug. 4, 2007.

My fellow katakana tattoo connoisseur Alan has this to say:

As these things go, I guess this one is not so bad. It appears to be the names of people in a family, with the family name バンタ [Banta] written horizontally and the given names ジム [Jim], アネット [Annette] and タナー [Tanner] written vertically under it.

The tattoo artist did make a mistake in that the final stroke in the name Tanner should be vertical instead of horizontal. This appears to be a common mistake that we also saw on Kimberley's tattoo.

Pocket-Sized Book

Reader Lynn sent me this photo of a pair men's swimming shorts from Wal-Mart. Since she is a Japanese major, it was odd to her to see hiragana characters meaning "pocket-sized book" printed on the shorts.

I confirmed this with Alan, and he says:

The hiragana is clearly しゅうちんぼん [shuuchinbon], which is the Japanese reading of , meaning a "pocket-sized book" which was perhaps the size of today's paperback books, a handy size for carrying in the sleeves of kimono.

But as to why someone would want to have this written on their swimming trunks, I have no idea. Bizarre!

Of course, we both think it was meant to be a jab at the wearer's testicle size or the popular sport of pocket pool.

P.s. why do people still shop at Wal-Mart?!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

One in Ten Thousand

Both Alan and I have spotted this tattoo submitted in BMEzine's gallery on July 23 by "CW351".

Its caption read:

Rest In Peace Bro!
Kanji reads "One In A Million", I hope.
(by Brooke, Eye Of The Beholder, Vernon, BC)

Alan writes:

Unfortunately, 万が in Japanese does not mean “One In A Million.” It really means “in the worst case” or “in case of emergency.” The saying is used in the sense of out of 10,000 () times something might happen, a really bad thing will happen in only one () instance. Chinese dictionaries suggest that 万一 (or 萬一) in Chinese means roughly the same as 万が一 or 万一 in Japanese.

It does not have any positive connotations at all. This is hardly the sort of sentiment that someone would want to express to remember a dear friend after their passing, but the poor schmuck has gotten this tattooed on his shoulder.

Anyhow, I still think it is very much a mistranslation and nothing even close to the intended meaning of "one in a million." And it is pretty sad that this is how the guy is trying to honor the memory of his friend.

Perhaps he has “push the emergency stop button” tattooed on the other shoulder.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"The Name is KiKi"

Fresh from BMEzine's gallery is this piece:

The owner claims this is name for "KiKi" and it is done by Flecha (Arrow in Spanish) in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Sure, if the tattoo is based on the gibberish font downloaded from the internet. However, the "i" are not even correct.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Stupid Shorts

Hanzi Smatter reader and frequent commenter Ulas has snapped a photo of this pair of boxer shorts.

There are two characters, 鹿, clearly printed above the English word "Dragon".

鹿 literally means "horse & deer", however in Japanese, they mean "stupid" or "idiot/fool".

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dragon Bender

This June 4th tattoo was posted in BMEzine's gallery with caption of:
"Dragon" by Stephanie Campbell, Dragon FX, Kingsway, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Don't forget to check out Dragon FX's introduction movie, where it says:
"Whether you are getting a tattoo or piercing, you can be confident that our staff would go out of their way to serve your needs. After all, you are going to be wearing our work and we want you to be proud of it."

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Oliver's Chinese Arm Tattoo

My friend Alan writes:

Hi Tian,

I think is a gold mine of silly Chinese and Japanese tattoos. Check out this one:

You will notice that it says (from top to bottom):



At first, it looks like just random gibberish, until you realize that it was actually all tattooed in inverted order, bottom to top rather than top to bottom!

I think it was supposed to mean “Love Hurts” followed by “Easy Money."

The silly client or tattooist must have just looked in a Japanese dictionary and found the words “love” (), “hurt” (痛い) and “easy money” (あぶく銭, also written 泡銭) and then strung them all together, grammar be damned, breaking the text in strange places and, to top it all off, tattooed the characters in the wrong order.

All in all, it is a piece de resistance of ludicrous, terrible Japanese tattoo work, although the characters themselves are correct and written well.

Thanks for all the hard work as usual.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

hack0si's Tattoo

An anonymous tip has led me to hack0si's tattoo in

Photo has been removed on behalf of owner's request, original is located here:

Under tattoo design details, it says:
100% freehand work done by Adam Lunt of Eugene Oregon. About 3 hours, one smoke break, and a few days of the lovely stinging sensation that reminds me my newest piece of art is healing. I would like the Kanji rated, and how the color contrasts the black, since my skin is pale and a perfect palette. PEACE
However, one commenter named "Bob" has summed up the whole thing in the following:
Well... This is supposed to read , "zen'aku," or "good and evil." There are mistakes in the way both of them are written, but the big problem with this tattoo is that the first character is upside-down. Sorry. And there's really no way to fix that. And the sadder thing is, you probably can't even sue. A skilled artist might be able to do a cover up....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Beware of the Bull Rat"

Two of BMEzine's May 21st entries were from "Lil Miss Strange" with the caption of

"First Tattoo I Did On Someone Wo Is Neither Me Or Family And Doesnt Do It As A Joke
Good I Was Scared But The Guy Is Happy With It!
(Turnhout, Belgium)"

By a strange coincidence, the tattooed phrase means "beware of the bull rat".

We should all thank this young man for doing a public service announcement with his flesh.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dice-K Dictionary

My friend Mark of sent me an article titled "Dice-K Dictionary" in recent issue of The Phoenix, an alternative newspaper in Boston area.

The article pointed out due to the popularity of Japanese baseball player Daisuke Matsuzaka (松坂 大輔) joining Boston Red Sox, many signs with Japanese have been spawning up around Boston area.

The article's author, Mike Miliard, contacted Momo Shinzawa, a fine-art photographer from Tokyo to help translate some of these signs.

In one of their examples, (114KB pdf)

Shinzawa said:
“Oh, this is really good one! The first three letters says ‘Red Sox’ (literately means ‘Red color sox’) which is kind of okay, but everybody knows Red Sox as Red Sox. You know what I mean? We pronounce and used the name of the team just like Bostonian, so this is kind of funny. On top of it, I think they try to say “Red Sox Fans” but, the last two letters literately means ‘an army corps,’ not ‘fan.’ I can see this sign was made by someone who speak Chinese, maybe? Who can not write [Japanese characters] Hiragana and katakana. When we use foreign words, we use Katakana. So the word ‘Red Sox’ or ‘fan’ should be all Katakana, not in Chinese letters. So this is my suspicious. Yeah, it is kind of No, No to call Japanese ‘An Army corps of red color sox?!’ Since [the Japanese were] Americans enemies long time ago!? I found this sign kind of funny! If Japanese see it, they can understand what they are trying to say. It is almost there, but not right Japanese.”

Actually if the characters shown above are be read as Chinese, it would translate as "Army group under red/bare boots". could be translated as either "red" or "bare" depending on the context.

The correct Chinese translation for Boston Red Sox is 波士頓紅襪(隊).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Tattoo Removal with Handheld Sander

tattooremovalwithhandheldsander.wmv (2.43 MB)

My friend Gordon just emailed me this video clip of someone getting a tattoo removed.

Instead of using a scalpel or laser gun, the person administering the procedure is actually using a Black&Decker handheld sander. It is unclear if the patient was given any anesthesia prior to the operation, but at least the "doctor" was wearing gloves.

The one minute video is not for the weak-stomached, especially the buzzing sound of sander grinding into human flesh.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"Che ne sarà di noi?"

Today I received an email from Professor Gorni of University of Udine, Italy, about tattoo in the 2004 movie "Che ne sarà di noi?" (in English, "What Will Happen to Us?").

Since I personally have yet seen the film, Prof. Gorni described the scene to me as the following:
The main character gets the tattoo after his high school final exam. His buddies ask him what the chacaters mean. His answers "peace, love, bread" (yes, in this order!). When asked "why bread?", he explains that the tattooist had proposed "peace, love, freedom", but he just didn't like the shape of "freedom", and settled for "bread" instead, because it looked better.

Later in the movie, some girls ask him about the tattoo, and he gives the meaning as "peace, love, angel of death" (yes, in this order; no reference to bread).

Nowhere in the movie there is a clear indication that anybody was aware that anything specific was wrong with the tattoo. They only say, "luckily enough, nobody knows Japanese around here".
The correct translation for is "love and dream" if they are read as one complete phrase.

A Serbian's Chinese Tattoo

Freshly uploaded in BMEzine's gallery, this one did not offer any translation with only caption of " Tattoos by Shone Liman, Serbia."

I am too lazy to get into the details. The only thing I can think of is:

Dear Mr. Serb,

If you admire Chinese culture so much, why not just build a Bruce Lee statue like what Bosnia did, perhaps bigger and made out of precious metal?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"Panda Process"

This photo was posted in BMEzine's tattoo gallery with the title of "Panda Process".

The top "character" does not look like anything I have seen before. The lower character has been blurred and distorted (probably from repeatedly copy one set of template many times) that I am not sure if it is or .

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Beware of Bulls Eye Tattoos

My good friend Alan writes:

Hi Tian,

I thought we had pretty much covered all of the really silly tattoos out there so far, but evidently not. We have seen a lot of them already on their unknowing victims, but I just happened upon some of the tattoo “flash” with bogus Hanzi actually being sold on the Internet.

Here is one site:

The scary thing is that they are advertising that they have “thousands of professional tattoo designs.” I guess the hapless tattoo consumer is supposed to “download full size tattoos with the line art stencil a tattooist will need to transfer & ink the perfect tattoo.”

The tattoos in the “Kanji” section are hardly perfect.

Not only are there many kanji with poor brushwork, lots of them have completely wrong English translations like:

“Wild” – really means “color”

“spirit” – really means “child” but with an extra unnecessary stroke at the top

“child” – really means “evening”

“To Die Young” – really means “sky, heaven”

“Passion” – really means “rough, violent, coarse”

But the one that really cracked me up was this one:

生現 “Live For Today”

As is, this gibberish means nothing in Japanese or at least nothing like “live for today” and I don’t think it means anything in Chinese either. The only meaning I can guess is that if it were written 生きて現れる, this would mean “to show up alive” or “turn up alive” as if someone thought dead had appeared alive. Anyway, it sounds pretty spooky, like seeing a zombie!

I think the person who made this up just looked in a dictionary for the word for “to live” and a word that means something like “now” and thought you could stick them together to make “live for today.”

It doesn’t work like that.

The worst thing is that this tattoo appears on their “best sellers” page.

Expect to see these tattoos on gullible people near you soon!

I can’t believe they are actually charging money for this stuff.

Thanks for everything as usual.



Dodgy tattoo supply dealers are everywhere, buyers please be aware of that. After all, it is your skin these designs would end up on, these dealers could care less if you have made fools of yourselves.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wrong Chapter from Tao Te Ching

道德經, or Tao Te Ching, is one of the oldest exemplars of classic Chinese literature. Millions, perhaps billions, of people have read it since it was first written by Lao Tzu (or Lao Zi) around 600 BC.

For some, it is considered to be the Chinese equivalent of the Holy Bible. It has formed the foundation for Chinese philosophies such as Legalism, Neo-Confucianism, and Taoism. Thus, if someone decides to get sections of Tao Te Ching tattooed, he better do some serious research.

However, this person and/or his tattooist did not:

Three photos titled with “This is one of the TAO proverbs. So far I have 88 charaters. (by Jeniffer, Liberty Tattoo's, Sacramento Calif.)” were posted in BMEzine’s gallery on March 13, 2007.

Most of the text was from Chapter 64 of Tao Te Ching, which should read:

其 安 易 持 , 其 未 兆 易 謀 。
其 脆 易 泮 , 其 微 易 散 。
為 之 於 未 有 , 治 之 於 未 亂 。
合 抱 之 木 , 生 於 毫 末 ;
九 層 之 台 ,起 於 累 土 ;
千 里 之 行 , 始 於 足 下。
民 之 從 事 , 常 於 幾 成 而 敗 之 。
慎 終 如 始 , 則 無 敗 事 。

However in the photo shown above, the section circled in red is actually from a completely different chapter.

Chapter 29 reads:

將 欲 取 天 下 而 為 之 , 吾 見 其 不 得 已 。
天 下 神 器 , 不 可 為 也 , 不 可 執 也 。
為 者 敗 之 , 執 者 失 之 。
是 以 聖 人 無 為 , 故 無 敗 ﹔
無 執 , 故 無 失。
夫 物 或 行 或 隨 ﹔ 或 噓 或 吹 ﹔
或 強 或 羸 ﹔ 或 載 或 隳 。
是 以 聖 人 去 甚 , 去 奢 , 去 泰 。

The mistake would be less noticeable if he did not have the chapter title tattooed near his butt cheek.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chicago Tattoo Typo Lawsuit

A few days ago I got a tip from Marisa of about a man in Chicago suing his tattooist for misspelling his tattoo.

The client, Michael Duplessis, wanted "CHI-TOWN" to be tattooed in capital letters as a tribute to the city of Chicago. However, the tattooist Sam Hacker of Jade Dragon Tattoo & Body Piercing gave him "CHI-TONW".

In a bizarre twist, even when Sam Hacker admitted his mistake and offer to repair the tattoo, a group of his friends are supporting him by getting "CHI-TONW" tattoos.

When I took a quick peek at Jade Dragon Tattoo's gallery, I saw this:

I am curious if Mr. Duplessis did win the lawsuit, will I be called as an expert witness to testify at series of lawsuits about botched Chinese character tattoos?

Related:, Chicago Tribune, Google News, Yahoo News

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"I love sucking ass"

"Dave" sent me a photo of his friend's tattoo about two weeks ago with:

A couple of days ago a friend of mine got a tattoo, and upon asking him what it meant, he told me it was a "secret". I know my friend isn't the brightest of stars and I suspect that he had help translating it after he got tattooed and found out it meant "I love sucking ass" or something similar, so I would REALLY love to know what it really means, and since he can barely speak English, let alone Japanese.


At first I thought (traditional format: ) was some kind of idiom. When my own research turned up fruitless, I then forward it to Alan and he replied with:

What does this jumble supposedly mean? I have no idea. This means nothing in Japanese. Except for perhaps would be recognizable as a variant of .

Even looking at the traditional forms, the characters would be recognized but I don't think that any Japanese person would discern any meaning other than the meanings of the individual characters.

What is this supposed to be? I wonder if the owner of the tattoo simply picked the characters at random.

The whole thing could be backwards (or actually inverted bottom to
top), so it should really be read 乐际节举.

This is all I can guess now, but it is really strange that the tattoo would be written inverted even though the characters themselves appear to be fine. Maybe the tattooist was working from a computer-generated font that was cut apart and re-stacked incorrectly like the case of Kimberly.

I tend to agree with Alan and this could be just another case of gibberish been tattooed on one's body. It has even happened to CIA's "Kryptos".

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Help Wanted: Master's Thesis on Chinese Character Tattoos

Several days ago, Mariah Miller contacted me seeking help for her Master's thesis.

I am looking for individuals with Chinese character tattoos to fill out a short questionnaire for my master's thesis.

I am a student in the
Global Studies Programme run jointly by the German University of Freiburg, the South African University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Indian Jawaharlal Nehru University. This is an interdisciplinary program focused on the study of globalization in either the political, governmental or cultural aspects.

I am writing my MA thesis on Chinese character tattoos. For my study, I need as many respondents from as many locations across the world as possible. I would be very grateful to anyone willing to fill out the questionnaire and/or pass the word about my study on to their friends.


If you are willing to participate, please complete Ms. Miller's questionnaire posted above and email it to her at the following address:

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Professional English-Japanese translator Alan Siegrist writes:
Hi Tian,

OK, so I was looking over the kanji tattoos at again (yes, it is getting addictive), and I found this picture:

The first thing I thought of when I saw all of these guys with the character on their shoulders was the combination , but I couldn’t for the life of me think of why they would want to tattoo themselves with the word for bug or insect.

Then I thought it might be a Chinese thing, so I looked it up in a Chinese dictionary. I think that or can mean “brothers.” Is that the first association a Chinese person would make upon seeing the character ? Or would you think of also? Even if the meaning of “brother” is right, why would they use only which means only “elder brother”?

If they really wanted to do a guy thing and tattoo themselves with the Chinese or Japanese for “brothers” wouldn’t be a better choice?

Anyway, I know you must be busy, but I still appreciate the work you put into



may have once meant 'brother.' However, just like any other language, its meaning has changed with time. Similar to the word 'gay' no longer exclusively meaning 'happy' in modern day English.

La Presse

link & pdf

In Jan. 31 issue of La Presse, there was an article briefly mentioned Hanzi Smatter:
"Et il y a bien pire. Tian, jeune blogueur chinois aujourd’hui installé en Arizona, s’amuse justement à répertorier les tatouages les plus ridicules. Et il n’en manque pas. Sur son site (, qu’il alimente depuis deux ans, il a collectionné 400 perles. Parmi elles, mentionnons le tatouage d’une Américaine : « folle diarrhée ». Aïe !"

Since I do not understand French, reader Dimitri translated the paragraph for me:
"There is worst. Tian, a young Chinese blogger, now living in Arizona is having fun documenting the most ridiculous tattoos. And there is no lack of it. On his site, on which he has been working for two years, he collected 400 gems. Amongst them, the tattoo of a young female American: "Crazy diarrhea". Ouch !"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sad & Happy

The character has multiple meanings depending on the context. Commonly it means "happy/joy". When combined with other characters, it would then mean "music".

I don't know this young man's original intention when he picked what appears to be (sad/mourning) and .

I could only assume he wanted "sad & happy", however this appears to be "dirge", or "funeral music".