Chinese calligraphy styles for tattoos

Chinese calligraphy is the art of writing Chinese characters, mainly using a brush pen with ink. The different styles of Chinese calligraphy depend on how the brush pen is held, how it is moved, the structure and the composition of the character and the type of ink used.

Due to its appealing aesthetics, Chinese calligraphy naturally lends itself to use in tattoo art works.

Please note that in modern day China people do not write in this fashion , i.e. with a brush pen, when doing everyday writing, or rather, typing. Chinese calligraphy is more commonly associated with Chinese painting and carving art.

Each style of writing is in itself a form of art, commonly used in art work, advertisement and tattoos for different types of impact.

Following are four commonly used Chinese writing styles:

Lishu, or the Clerical Script (隶书)



Clerical Script

As seen from the example above, each character is written in a clear, regular style, i.e. the horizontal and vertical strokes tend to be relatively flat. The shape of the character tends to be squared or wide. This calligraphic style is nowadays widely used for headlines. Because of its regular and simple style, the invention of Lishu greatly improved the efficiency of written communication in the old days.

Kaishu, or the Regular Script (楷书)



Regular Script

Kaishu was used as the official calligraphic style in the Sui and Tang dynasties. Kaishu, as its English name suggested, has very regular strokes. Each character written in this style can fit into a box of the same size. It is commonly used in modern writings and publications. Famous Kaishu calligraphers are Yan Zhenqing and Liu Gongquan from the Tang Dynasty and Zhao Mengfu from the Yuan Dynasty.

 Caoshu or the Cursive Script (草书)


Cursive Script

Caoshu is the most artistic calligraphic style and it is faster to write than the other styles. The strokes are usually connected and it is therefore difficult to read. Famous Caoshu calligraphers are: Zhang Xu and Huai Su from Tang Dynasty, Huang Tingjian from Song Dynasty, Zhu Yunming from Ming Dynasty and Mao Zedong in Modern China.

Xingshu or the Semi-Cursive Script (行书)


Semi Cursive Script

Xingshu is a style between Kaishu and Caoshu, i.e. the regular and the cursive script. The work of Wang Xizhi from the Eastern Jin Dynasty provide the best examples of Xingshu.

My Chinese tattoos book includes designs from six calligraphic styles. Please check it out.

Happy New Year in Chinese

2012 will soon be over for some countries and some countries have now entered 2013. Can I just say  Happy New Year to every one!

Good News!

To give you a great start in 2013, I have decided to reduce the price of my ebook Hot Chinese Tattoo Designs from the original price of $29.95 to only $19.95 for a limited period only.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2013

Happy New Year 2013


Merry Christmas in Chinese

Merry Christmas Chinese tattoo lovers!

Even though Christmas is not such an officially important festival in China, it has become increasingly popular to celebrate Christmas with friends and family members. People go out to eat, attend Christmas parties and exchange gifts. It is a great commercial opportunity for restaurants in China on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day whereas people tend to eat at home in the West. Moreover, Christmas is deemed to be romantic among young people and therefore they like to spend this day with their love ones and give each other presents.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree


Best Chinese tattoos around the web

Good Chinese tattoos have to at least contain the correct translations with meaningful characters in Chinese. Moreover, the writing styles have to be aesthetically pleasing so that the tattoos do not appear to be some baby’s scribbles. It would be a great plus if the hanzi is decorated by pictures (e.g. flowers).

I have come across some very nice Chinese hanzi tattoos on the internet (especially on Tumblr and Flickr) and lots of them have the ‘wow’ factor. While some of these tattoos are personal, some of them contain very common words, expressions and sentences which are also included in my Chinese tattoo books.

Wise words with flowers

Best Chinese Tattoos 01

Beautiful Chinese Flower Tattoo

This is the most beautiful Chinese tattoos I have ever seen. The five Chinese characters on the lady’s back mean that cherry blossoms in cold weathers do not exhibit their fragrances in the winter. (more…)

History of Chinese Tattoos

Long history of Chinese Tattoos

tattoo art

tattoo art

Tattoos have been present in China for thousands of years. Chinese tattoos go back so many years that many reference texts provide an estimate that tattooing in China has been practiced since the Zhou and Qing dynasties. Tattoos made in China have similar functions to most other tattoos around the world. Their main purpose is to represent a particular type of significance, message or form of communication that has a meaning in someone’s life, relates to his origin, culture or religion. Even though the history of tattoos in China incorporates this same cultural underpinning and purpose commonly established with tattoos, the historic genesis of this practice differentiates itself when compared to the history of tattoos from other nations around the world in terms of significance, meaning and modern perspective. (more…)

Embarrassing Celebrity Chinese Tattoos

Chinese hanzi tattoos when translated corrected and designed properly, can make an already attractive person more attractive. My previous article on celebrity tattoos gives a few good examples.

However, what some celebrities have inked on their skin does suggest that not all of them did they homework before getting an exotic Chinese character tattoo design.

Oliver Queen’s Chinese tattoo in CW’s TV show “Arrow”

Oliver Queen's Chinese tattoo

Oliver Queen’s Chinese tattoo

CW’s TV show “Arrow”, based on a superhero that appears in comic books, is the latest TV hit, not only in the US but also globally, especially in China at the moment. The main character Oliver Queen, a billionaire playboy who moonlights as a crime-fighting vigilante looking to clean up the streets of Starling City, is played by Stephen Amell.

While the audience is enthralled by Stephen Amell’s sexy look and hot muscular body for the role as the super hero, the Chinese audience is very much puzzled by the four Chinese characters on the right side of his torso. The makeup artist for the show definitely thought a Chinese tattoo can increased the masculinity of the main character. Unfortunately, this Chinese tattoo seems to consist of a bunch of random characters “鼠姜姚猪” which do not make sense when put together. Individually, the characters mean “mouse”, “ginger”, “Yao” (normally used as a surname), and “pig”.  (more…)

Why you shouldn’t get a Chinese tattoo

…or at least not before having read this article

So it seems like everyone and their mum have a Chinese tattoo now. What’s up with that? Has everyone suddenly started learning Chinese or discovered that their ancestors came from China? The answer is much more straightforward – the simple fact is that Chinese characters have an inherent elegance, because they convey a lot of meaning in just one symbol. They also look like miniature paintings, with intricate details.

Yes, I’ll admit it, Chinese tattoos can look stunning. The crucial fact, though, is that most hanzi tattoos just look plain awful.

Whether it’s the fact that the designs are in the Chinese equivalent of Times New Roman (boring!) or worse the fact that the designs are mostly always wrong, there are plenty of reasons why you should avoid getting a Chinese tattoo inked on your body. The two main categories into which bad designs fall are:

1. The plain wrong

Wrong Hanzi translation-Goddess

Wrong Hanzi translation for the word Goddess

I’m a native speaker of Chinese. Point out a random tattoo using Chinese characters to me from among a crowd of people and – more often than not – I won’t be able to tell you what the tattoo is supposed to mean. Not because I’m stupid, but simply, because the actual writing used in the tattoo doesn’t make any sense, is using the wrong strokes or means something like “angry bear nurse hello”, which is nonsensical in any language. Do people choose to get an incorrect design? I almost want to say yes, because to me it seems grossly negligent to use Google translate or other automatic translation tools to get a tattoo design. Copying a random design you found on some random website is just as bad and might simply perpetuate the mistakes other people made before you. Ah yes, of course there are the infamous Chinese tattoo catalogues at your favourite tatttoo artist. The trouble is, though, there is no way of telling whether their contents are in fact accurate or have been chosen by a native speaker. (more…)

Love – Chinese tattoo design

Love is an important word in all languages and all cultures. We express our love towards our loved ones – family members, friends, lovers etc. – in different ways. One way of expressing it is to get a hanzi tattoo for love to remind ourselves of the meaning of love and the special bond we have to that person.

Love in Chinese: Various choices

Love in general

There are different ways of expressing love in Chinese. The single character 爱 (pronounced: ài ) gives a broad meaning of love, i.e. it means love in general. It is a very popular tattoo choice as the Chinese character itself is very elegant and it sends out a very strong message. Having it inked on you can express your understanding of the idea of love – to love the others and to be loved.

Please see below for three different designs for the single character 爱.

Chinese tattoo love

Chinese tattoo love

The first and third designs are for the character in simplified Chinese whereas the second design above is in traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese is commonly used in mainland China whereas traditional Chinese is widely used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. However, it is also very common to use traditional Chinese characters in mainland China, especially for artistic reasons. In the design using traditional Chinese character, the middle part of the character is a small character for 心 which means “heart”. Isn’t it beautiful? The character for love 爱 in Chinese actually tells us that we love with our hearts!

Specific types of love

There are other words in Chinese which can also mean love. However, they might refer to slightly different meanings of the word. For example:

爱情(pronounced: ài qíng) means romantic love. This tattoo would be best for someone who wants to capture that special feeling for your partner.

恋爱(pronounced: liàn  ài) means romantic love, amativeness.

我爱你(pronounced: wǒ ài nǐ) means I love you.

友情(pronounced: yǒu  qíng) means friendly love, in the sense that love can be experienced between friends.

母爱(pronounced: mǔ ài ) means motherly love.

父爱(pronounced: fù ài ) means fatherly love.

Two and one character versions of love

Very frequently in Chinese, two characters which mean the same thing are combined to form a word which also means the same thing. The two character word 恋爱 above is a good example. Both characters mean love on their own. However, you can only use 爱 on its own to mean love in general and the combined word 恋爱 to mean romantic love. It is not common to use 恋 on its own to express love. I have included an example below of someone wrongly selecting  恋 to be a tattoo for “love” in Chinese.


Only using one character is not recommended in this case.

My ebook contains many tattoo designs for “love”, as well as for related phrases such as “true love” and “true love is unbreakable”.

Meanings of Celebrity Chinese tattoos

Chinese hanzi tattoos are becoming more and more popular with western celebrities, from movie to sport stars.

Footballer David Beckham’s Chinese tattoo

David Beckham Chinese TattooThe famous English soccer player David Beckham has more than 10 different tattoos on his body. Most of the tattoos express his devotion to his wife Victoria Beckham and their children.

The Daily Mail published an article at the beginning of 2012 about how David’s obsession has grown over the years.

He revealed his latest Chinese tattoo in March 2008 at a charity march. It is a tattoo of a Chinese proverb which means “Death and life have determined appointments. Riches and honor depend upon heaven.” It runs down his left side torso.

In other words, it means life, death, riches and honor have all been determined by something else. There are however different interpretation of this proverb. For pessimistic people, the proverb implies that there is no need to work hard or change our circumstances given that life is pre-determined. In contrast, for optimistic people the proverb implies that we often cannot change our circumstances and the environment that we live in, we can however still live a meaningful life and appreciate what we have got.

There are five different designs for this proverb available in my latest “Hot Chinese Tattoo Designs” ebook.

Singer Cher’s Chinese tattoo

cher chinese tattoo

Cher is one of the first western celebrities to have hanzi as a tattoo. She had a Chinese tattoo inked on her right upper arm in 1983. It is a one character word which means power or force. It is normally combined with one other character in Chinese to mean strength. While the one word character might appear neat and nice, it is preferable to use the two-character words to express strength.





Actress Megan Fox’s Chinese tattoo

One of the hottest Hollywood actresses Megan Fox has around 8 tattoos on her body. The Chinese character which is inked on her neck is one of the first ones she got. It is the same character as the one Cher got (see above) and it means power or force. According to the media, Megan wanted to express strength. Again, a two character word would have been a better option.

Click here to get the designs for this one word character as well as the right expressions for strength.

Singer Nicki Minaj’s Chinese tattoo

Nicki Minaj chinese tattooOne of the most successful American rappers, singers and songwriters Nicki Minaj has a Chinese hanzi tattoo on her left arm. It is a six-character phrase which means “God is always with you”. She seems to be quite religious then?

Download my book for the four different designs of this phrase.





NBA basketball players Larry Hughes and Allen Iverson’s Chinese tattoo

Two of the most famous NBA basketball players Larry Hughes and Allen Iverson have the same Chinese character inked on them. The character means loyalty, faithfulness. However, it is normally combined with one or more other characters which also mean loyalty, faithfulness.

Our latest ebook includes various designs on these Chinese characters.

Larry Hughes chinese tattooAllen Inverson chinese tattoo

Whether or not you are a fan of these celebrities, wouldn’t you agree that their Chinese tattoos look great? To find out more about Chinese character designs, read our other articles or take a look at our book.


Why Are Chinese Tattoos So Sexy?

The only limitation an individual has when it comes to the tattoo art they have inked on their body is their own imagination, the ability of the tattoo artist they hire and their access to images of possible tattoos. One type of tattoo that has become pretty popular, having graced the bodies of both celebrities and laymen alike, are Chinese tattoos. Below, we will take a closer look at Chinese tattoos, namely what they are, why and how to choose one.

At one time, tattoos were worn by few people. Today, they are all the rage. There is no longer one type of person that is more likely than another to get tattoos. A corporate president is just as likely to have one as a Harley rider. The old stereotypes about who has tattoos and for what reason(s) have disappeared. There are many different types of tattoos. A person can create their own or go with pre-made designs. The latter can be found in books, online for in their tattoo artist’s personal portfolio.

What Are Chinese Tattoos?

Chinese Tattoos are generally available in two types, picture and script (Chinese characters or symbols). The former might include Chinese inspired images or those that are considered to be uniquely Chinese. The latter (script or character images) are words made up of Chinese script (also known as hanzi or kanji).
Chinese Tattoo Example 1
It is very important that individuals perform their own due diligence after deciding to get a script tattoo to ensure that it actually says what they intend it to. There have been cases where a tattoo artist has inked a client in Chinese script, something other than what the customer wanted, unbeknownst to them at that time. It goes without saying that this can be incredibly embarrassing. This is especially true if the actual word is a nonsensical or profane one (if the person did not intend it to be). (more…)