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