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”.

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Comments: 9

  1. Meg October 30, 2012 at 12:10 am Reply

    I think getting a Chinese tattoo representing love is an awesome thing but it is important to know what kind of “love” you want to wear. Thanks for specifying the differences because not everyone is going to know and their decision to get a tattoo representing love could be the wrong type and that would be embarrassing.

    • Jenny ( October 30, 2012 at 8:55 am Reply

      Glad the article is of use to you Meg. The same is true for many other words in Chinese that can have nuanced meanings, so it’s always better to double check that the tattoo design you found actually expresses the meaning you want.

  2. Tim October 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm Reply

    Yep could you imagine a guy getting a Chinese tattoo that represented “motherly love”?

  3. Jim November 15, 2012 at 12:35 am Reply

    Funny how one wrong design can change the entire meaning of love.

  4. Mark Alen December 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm Reply

    amazing facts about Chinese Love Tattoos……..

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