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Adventures in Asian Art



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Popular Single-Character Japanese Kanji & Chinese Symbol Wall Scrolls

Below, you will find the single-character words that customers have requested time and again over the last ten years.

Didn't find what you want? Use the calligraphy search box above, or Request via the Asian Art Forum - we'll add almost any word to the database.

Quick links to words on this page...

  1. Love
  2. Power / Strength
  3. Peace / Harmony
  4. Happiness / Joyful / Joy
  5. Double Happiness
  6. Wisdom
  7. Believe / Faith / Trust
  8. Good Luck / Good Fortune
  9. Buddhism / Buddha
10. Zen / Chan / Meditation
11. Balance / Peace
12. Calm / Tranquility
13. Eternity / Forever
14. Inner Peace / Silence / Serenity
15. Life Energy / Spiritual Energy
16. Longevity / Long Life


Love

China ài
Japan ai
knob
ribbon top
knob

This is a very universal character. It means love in Chinese, Japanese Kanji, old Korean Hanja, and old Vietnamese.

This is one of the most recognized Asian symbols in the west, and is often seen on tee-shirts, coffee mugs, tattoos, and more.

This character can also be defined as affection, to be fond of, to like, or to be keen on. It often refers to romantic love, and is found in phrases like, "I love you". But in Chinese, one can say, "I love that movie" using this character as well.

This can also be a pet-name or part of a pet-name in the way we say "dear" or "honey" in English.


It's very common for couples to say "I love you" in Chinese. However, in Japanese, "love" is not a term used very often. In fact, a person is more likely to say "I like you" rather than "I love you" in Japanese. So this word is well-known, but seldom spoken.


More about this character:

This may be hard to imagine as a westerner, but the strokes at the top of this love character symbolize family & marriage.

心The symbol in the middle is a little easier to identify. It is the character for "heart" (it can also mean "mind" or "soul"). I guess you can say that no matter if you are from the East or the West, you must put your heart into your love.

友The strokes at the bottom create a modified character that means "friend" or "friendship".

I suppose you could say that the full meaning of this love character is to love your family, spouse, and friends with all of your heart, since all three elements exist in this character.


See Also...  I Love You | Caring | Benevolence | Friendliness | Double Happiness Happy Marriage Wall Scroll

Power / Strength

China
Japan chikara / ryoku
knob
ribbon top
knob

The simplest form of "power" or "strength".

In Japanese it is pronounced "chikara" when used alone, and "ryoku" when used in a sentence (there are also a few other possible pronunciations of this Kanji in Japanese).

In some context, this can mean ability, force, physical strength, capability, and influence.


See Also...  Strength | Vitality | Health

Peace / Harmony

(single character)
China
Japan wa
knob
ribbon top
knob

The simplest form of peace and harmony.

This can also be translated as the peaceful ideas of gentle, mild, kind, and calm. With the more harmonious context, it can be translated as union, together with, on good terms with, or on friendly terms.

Most people would just translate this character as peace and/or harmony. This is a very popular character in Asian cultures - you can even call it the "peace symbol" of Asia. In fact, this peace and harmony character was seen repeatedly during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (a major theme of the games).


In old Chinese poems and literature, you might see this used as a kind of "and". As in two things summed together. As much as you could say, "the sun and moon", you could say "the sun in harmony with the moon".


See Also...  Inner Peace | Patience | Simplicity

Happiness / Joyful / Joy

China
Japan ki / yorokobi
knob
ribbon top
knob

This is the Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and Korean Hanja for the kind of happiness known in the west as "joy".

This character can also be translated as rejoice, enjoyment, delighted, pleased, or "take pleasure in". Sometimes it can mean, "to be fond of" (in certain context).

If you write two of these happiness/joy characters side by side, you create another character known in English as "double happiness", which is a symbol associated with weddings and a happy marriage.


There is another version of this character that you will find on our website with an additional radical on the left side (exactly same meaning, just an alternate form). The version of happiness shown here is the commonly written form in China, Japan and South Korea (banned in North Korea).


See Also...  Contentment | Happiness | Joy

Double Happiness

(Happy wedding and marriage)
China
knob
ribbon top
knob

This is a common gift for Chinese couples getting married or newly married couples.

As we say in the west, "Two heads are better than one" Well, in the east, two "happinesses" are certainly better than one.

Some will suggest this is a symbol of two happinesses coming together. Others see it as a multiplication of happiness because of the union or marriage.

This is not really a character that is pronounced very often - it's almost exclusively used in written form. However, if pressed, most Chinese people will pronounce this "shuang xi" (double happy) although literally there are two "xi" characters combined in this calligraphy (but nobody will say "xi xi").

Double Happiness Portrait Red If you select this character, I strongly suggest the festive bright red paper for your calligraphy. Part of my suggestion comes from the fact that red is a good luck color in China, and this will add to the sentiment that you wish to convey with this scroll to the happy couple.


See Also...  Happiness

Wisdom

(single character)
China zhì
Japan chi / tomo
knob
ribbon top
knob

This is the simplest way to write wisdom in Chinese, Korean Hanja and Japanese Kanji.
Being a single character, the wisdom meaning is open to interpretation, and can also mean intellect, knowledge or reason.

This character is also one of the five tenets of Confucius.

Beyond the title definitions, this also can mean, resourcefulness, or wit.

This character is sometimes included in the Bushido code, but usually not considered part of the seven key concepts of the code.


See our Wisdom in Chinese, Japanese and Korean page for more wisdom-related calligraphy.


See Also...  Learn From Wisdom | Confucius

Believe / Faith / Trust

(single character)
China xìn
Japan shin
knob
ribbon top
knob

This single character is often part of other words with similar meanings. Alone, this character can mean to believe, truth, faith, fidelity, sincerity, trust and confidence in Chinese, old Korean Hanja and Japanese Kanji.

It is one of the five basic tenets of Confucius.

In Chinese, it sometimes has the secondary meaning of a letter (as in the mail) depending on context, but it will not be read that way when seen on a wall scroll.


See Also...  Faith | Trust | Confucius

Good Luck / Good Fortune

China
Japan fuku
knob
ribbon top
knob

This Character is pronounced "fu" in Chinese.

The character "fu" is posted by virtually all Chinese people on the doors of their homes during the Spring Festival (closely associated with the Chinese New Years).

One tradition from the Zhou Dynasty (beginning in 256 B.C.) holds that putting a fu symbol on your front door will keep the goddess of poverty away.

This character literally means good fortune, prosperity, blessed, happiness, and fulfillment.


See Also...  Lucky

Buddhism / Buddha

(single character)
China
Japan hotoke
knob
ribbon top
knob

This is the essence of the Buddha or Buddhism. Depending on context, this word and character can be used to refer to the religion and lifestyle of Buddhism, or in some cases, the Buddha himself.

It is interesting to note that this word is separate from all others in the Chinese language. The sound of "fo" has only this meaning. This is in contrast to many sounds in the Chinese language which can have one of four tones, and more than 20 possible characters and meanings. This language anomaly shows just how significant Buddhism has affected China since the ancient times.

More about Buddhism

This character is also used with the same meaning in Korean Hanja.

It's used in the very religious context of Buddhism in Japan. It should be noted that there are two forms of this Kanji in use in Japan - this is the more formal/ancient version, but it's rarely seen outside of religious artwork, and may not be recognized by all Japanese people.

It also acts as a suffix or first syllable for many Buddhist-related words in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.


See our Buddhism & Zen page


See Also...  Bodhisattva | Enlightenment

Zen / Chan / Meditation

...as in Zen Buddhism
China chán
Japan zen
knob
ribbon top
knob

First let's correct something: The Japanese romanization for this character, "zen" has penetrated the English language. In English, it's almost always incorrectly used for phrases like "That's so zen". Nobody says "That's so meditation" - right? As the title of a sect, this would be like saying, "That's soooo Baptist!"

This character by itself just means "meditation". In that context, it should not be confined to use by any one religion or sect.

Regardless of the dictionary definition, more often than not, this character is associated with Buddhism. And here is one of the main reasons:
Zen is used as the title of a branch of Mahayana Buddhism which strongly emphasizes the practice of meditation.
However, it should be noted that Buddhism came from India, and "Chan Buddhism" evolved and developed in medieval China. The Chinese character "Chan" was eventually pronounced as "Zen" in Japanese. Chan Buddhists in China have a lot in common with Zen Buddhists in Japan.

More about the history of Zen Buddhism here.

Please also note that the Japanese Kanji character for zen has evolved a little in Japan, and the two boxes (kou) that you see at the top of the right side of the character have been replaced by three dots with tails.Japanese Zen Kanji The original character would still be generally understood and recognized in Japanese (it's considered an ancient version in Japan), but if you want the specifically modern Japanese version, please click on the zen Kanji to the right. Technically, there is no difference in Tensho and Reisho versions of zen since they are ancient character styles that existed long before Japan had a written language.

Chinese Zen/Chan CharacterThere is also an alternate/shorthand/simplified Chinese version which has two dots or tails above the right-side radical. This version is also popular for calligraphy in China. If you want this version, just click the character to the right.


Further notes: Zen is just one of seven sects of Buddhism practiced in Japan. The others are 律 Ritsu (or Risshū), 法相 Hossō, 論 Sanron 華嚴 Kegon, 天台 Tendai, and 眞言 Shingon.

Balance / Peace

China píng
Japan hira
knob
ribbon top
knob

This is a single-character that means balance in Chinese, but it's not too direct or too specific about what kind of balance. Chinese people often like calligraphy art that is a little vague or mysterious. In this way, you can decide what it means to you, and you'll be right.

This character is also part of a word that means peace in Chinese, Japanese and old Korean.

Some alternate translations of this single character include: balanced, peaceful, calm, equal, even, level, smooth or flat.

Note that in Japanese, this just means "level" or "flat" by itself (not the best choice for balance if your audience is Japanese).

Calm / Tranquility

China ān
Japan an
knob
ribbon top
knob

This character is used in a lot of compound words in the CJK world. Alone, this character has a broad span of possible meanings. These meanings include relaxed, quiet, rested, contented, calm, still, to pacify, peaceful, at peace, soothing or soothed.

This character and even the pronunciation was borrowed from Chinese and absorbed into both Japanese Kanji and Korean Hanja. In all these languages, this character is pronounced like "an".

Eternity / Forever

China yǒng
Japan ei
knob
ribbon top
knob

This is the simplest form of eternity or "always and forever". This character can sometimes mean forever, always, perpetual, infinite, or "without end", depending on context.

Note: Not often seen as a single Kanji in Japanese. Best if your audience is Chinese.


See Also...  Forever | Ever Lasting

Inner Peace / Silence / Serenity

China jìng
Japan shizu
knob
ribbon top
knob

This is the simplest way to convey the meaning of inner peace.

Looking for Inner Peace? Who isn't?

Literally this word means still, calm, serene, quietm silent, or stillness.

In the old days, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean people might hang a wall scroll with this character in their reading room to bring about a sense of peace in the room.


静While they once used the same character form in Japan, they now use a slightly-simplified version in modern Japan (after WWII). This version is shown to the right, and can be selected for your wall scroll by clicking on that Kanji instead of the button above.


See Also...  Peace

Life Energy / Spiritual Energy

Chi Energy: Essence of Life / Energy Flow
China
Japan ki
knob
ribbon top
knob

This energy flow is a fundamental concept of traditional Asian culture.

This character is romanized as "Qi" or "Chi" in Chinese, "Gi" in Korean, and "Ki" in Japanese.
Chi is believed to be part of everything that exists, as in “life force” or “spiritual energy”. It is most often translated as “energy flow,” or literally as “air” or “breath”. Some people will simply translate this as “spirit”, but you have to take into consideration the kind of spirit we're talking about. I think this is weighted more toward energy than spirit.

米The character itself is a representation of steam (or breath) rising from rice. To clarify, the character for rice is shown to the right.

Steam was apparently seen as visual evidence of the release of "life energy" when this concept was first developed. The Qi / Chi / Ki character is still used in compound words to mean steam or vapor.

氣氣The etymology of this character is a bit complicated. It's suggested that the first form of this character from bronze script (about 2500 years ago) looked like one the symbols shown to the right.

氣However, it was easy to confuse this with the character for the number three. So the rice radical was added by 221 B.C. (the exact time of this change is debated). This first version with the rice radical is shown to the right.

The idea of Qi / Chi / Ki is really a philosophical concept. It's often used to refer to the “flow” of metaphysical energy that sustains living beings. Yet there is much debate that has continued for thousands of years as to whether Qi / Chi / Ki is pure energy, or consists partially, or fully of matter.

You can also see the character for Qi / Chi / Ki in common compound words such as Tai Chi / Tai Qi, Aikido, Reiki and Qi Gong / Chi Kung.

In the modern Japanese Kanji, the rice radical has been changed into two strokes that form an X.


気The original and traditional Chinese form is still understood in Japanese, but we can also offer that modern Kanji form in our custom calligraphy. If you want this Japanese Kanji, please click on the character to the right, instead of the “Select and Customize” button above.

More language notes: This is pronounced like “chee” in Mandarin Chinese, and like “key” in Japanese.
This is also the same way to write this in Korean Hanja where it is Romanized as “gi” and pronounced like “gee”, but with a real G-sound, not a J-sound.
Though Vietnamese no longer use Chinese characters in their daily language, this character is still widely known in Vietnam.


See Also...  Energy | Life Force | Vitality | Life | Birth | Soul

Longevity / Long Life

China shòu
Japan ju / kotobuki
knob
ribbon top
knob

Can be defined as "long life" or "longevity" in the simplest form.


Japanese LongevityPlease note that Japanese use a simplified version of this character - it also happens to be the same simplification used in mainland China. Click on the character to the right if you want the Japanese/Simplified version.


A nice Chinese calligraphy wall scroll

The scroll that I am holding in this picture is a "medium size"
4-character wall scroll.
As you can see, it is a great size to hang on your wall.
(We also offer custom wall scrolls in larger sizes)

A professional Chinese Calligrapher

Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.

There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.

Trying to learn Chinese calligrapher - a futile effort

Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.


A high-ranked Chinese master calligrapher that I met in Zhongwei

The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.



The following table is only helpful for those studying Chinese (or Japanese), and perhaps helps search engines to find this page when someone enters Romanized Chinese or Japanese

Title
Characters 
Simplified
Traditional
Japanese Romaji
(Romanized Japanese)
Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Love
aiài
ai
ai4
Power / Strength
chikara / ryoku
li
li4
Peace / Harmony
wa
he
ho
he2
Happiness / Joyful / Joy
ki / yorokobi
xi
hsi
xi3
Double Happiness喜喜
n/a
xi
hsi
xi3
Wisdom
chi / tomozhì
zhi
chih
zhi4
Believe / Faith / Trust
shinxìn
xin
hsin
xin4
Good Luck / Good Fortune
fuku
fu
fu2
Buddhism / Buddha
hotoke
fo
fo2
Zen / Chan / Meditation
zenchán
chan
ch`an
chan2
chan
chan
Balance / Peace
hirapíng
ping
p`ing
ping2
ping
ping
Calm / Tranquility
anān
an
an1
Eternity / Forever
eiyǒng
yong
yung
yong3
Inner Peace / Silence / Serenity
shizujìng
jing
ching
jing4
Life Energy / Spiritual Energy气 / 気
ki
qi
ch`i
qi4
chi
chi
Longevity / Long Life寿
ju / kotobukishòu
shou
shou4

If you have not set up your computer to display Chinese, the characters in this table probably look like empty boxes or random text garbage.
This is why I spent hundreds of hours making images so that you could view the characters in the listings above.
If you want your Windows computer to be able to display Chinese characters you can either head to your Regional and Language options in your Win XP control panel, select the [Languages] tab and click on [Install files for East Asian Languages]. This task will ask for your Win XP CD to complete in most cases. If you don't have your Windows XP CD, or are running Windows 98, you can also download/run the simplified Chinese font package installer from Microsoft which works independently with Win 98, ME, 2000, and XP. It's a 2.5MB download, so if you are on dial up, start the download and go make a sandwich.

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