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This Chinese proverb means "Be undaunted in the face of repeated setbacks." More directly-translated, it reads, "[Overcome] a hundred setbacks, without flinching." 百折不撓 is of Chinese origin but is commonly used in Japanese, and somewhat in Korean (same characters, different pronunciation).
This proverb comes from a long, and occasionally tragic story of a man that lived sometime around 25-220 AD. His name was Qiao Xuan and he never stooped to flattery but remained an upright person at all times. He fought to expose corruption of higher-level government officials at great risk to himself.
Then when he was at a higher level in the Imperial Court, bandits were regularly capturing hostages and demanding ransoms. But when his own son was captured, he was so focused on his duty to the Emperor and common good that he sent a platoon of soldiers to raid the bandits' hideout, and stop them once and for all even at the risk of his own son's life. While all of the bandits were arrested in the raid, they killed Qiao Xuan's son at first sight of the raiding soldiers.
Near the end of his career a new Emperor came to power, and Qiao Xuan reported to him that one of his ministers was bullying the people and extorting money from them. The new Emperor refused to listen to Qiao Xuan and even promoted the corrupt Minister. Qiao Xuan was so disgusted that in protest he resigned his post as minister (something almost never done) and left for his home village.
His tombstone reads "Bai Zhe Bu Nao" which is now a proverb used in Chinese culture to describe a person of strength will who puts up stubborn resistance against great odds.
My Chinese-English dictionary defines these 4 characters as, "keep on fighting in spite of all setbacks," "be undaunted by repeated setbacks" and "be indomitable."
Our translator says it can mean, "never give up" in modern Chinese.
Although the first two characters are translated correctly as "repeated setbacks," the literal meaning is "100 setbacks" or "a rope that breaks 100 times." The last two characters can mean "do not yield" or "do not give up."
Most Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people will not take this absolutely literal meaning but will instead understand it as the title suggests above. If you want a single big word definition, it would be indefatigability, indomitableness, persistence, or unyielding.
This literally means "No Fear." But perhaps not the most natural Chinese phrase (see our other "No Fear" phrase for a more complete thought). However, this two-character version of "No Fear" seems to be a very popular way to translate this into Chinese, when we checked Chinese Google.
Note: This also means "No Fear" in Japanese and Korean but this character pair is not often used in Japan or Korea.
This term appears in various Chinese dictionaries with definitions like "without fear," intrepidity, fearless, dauntless, and bold.
In Buddhist context, this is a word derived from abhaya meaning: Fearless, dauntless, secure, nothing and nobody to fear. Also from vīra meaning: courageous, bold.
This single-character means diligence or "sense of duty" in Chinese and Korean (also understood in Japanese but not commonly-seen as a stand-alone Kanji).
As a single character on a wall scroll, this will only be seen with this meaning. However, it can also mean industrious, hardworking, frequent, regular, constant, energy, zeal, fortitude, or virility.
In Buddhism this can represent vīrya (viriya), the idea of energy, diligence, enthusiasm, or effort. It can be defined as an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities, and it functions to cause one to accomplish wholesome or virtuous actions. Some Buddhists may even define this as "manliness" (a definition from a hundred years ago, before equality).
If you, or someone you know is a hard-worker (or needs a reminder to be diligent), then this is the wall scroll to have in your/their office.
毅 is the simplest way to express perseverance in Chinese and Korean Hanja.
This single-character version leaves a bit of mystery about what kind of perseverance you might want to convey.
In Korean, this is usually associated with "strength of character."
In Japanese, this character can be pronounced about a dozen different ways (so we have left out the Japanese pronunciation guide that normally appears above). In Japanese this Kanji would usually be translated "strong" (perhaps strong-willed).
The first character means "strong," "solid," "firm," "unyielding" or "resolute."
The second character means "to beat," "to endure," or "to tolerate."
Together they speak of the strength from within yourself. Some may also translate this as "long-suffering" in a more Biblical sense.
堅忍 is a common term in Chinese and Korean Hanja but a little less commonly used in modern Japanese Kanji. For that reason, this selection is best if your audience is Chinese or Korean.
Note that when writing this as Kanji, Japanese will tend to write the second Kanji a little differently. If you select our Japanese master calligrapher, please expect the form where the little horizontal stroke crosses the vertical stroke. See differences in the images to the right. Technically, they are both the same character, and will be read the same in either language.
不屈 is the short form of a longer Chinese word, and also a word used in Korean and Japanese to express the idea of being indomitable. It literally means, "will not bend," "will not crouch," "will not yield," "will not flinch," or "will not submit."
Note: Some will translate this as "indomitable spirit"; however, technically, there is no character to suggest the idea of "spirit" in this word.
不屈不撓 means "Indomitable" or "Unyielding."
不屈不撓 is a long word by Chinese standards. At least, it is often translated as a single word into English. It's actually a proverb in Chinese.
If you want to break it down, you can see that the first and third characters are the same. Both meaning "not" (they work as a suffix to make a negative or opposite meaning to whatever character follows).
The second character means "bendable."
The last means "scratched" or "bothered."
So this really means "Won't be bent, can't be bothered." I have also seen it written as "Will not crouch, will not submit." This comes from the fact that the second character can mean, "to crouch" and the last can mean "to submit" (as in "to give in" such as "submitting to the rule of someone else"). This may explain better why these four characters mean "indomitable."
Some will translate this as "indomitable spirit"; however, technically, there is no character to suggest the idea of "spirit" in this word.
The first two characters can be a stand-alone word in Chinese.
In Japanese, this is considered to be two words (with very similar meanings).
The same characters are used in Korean, but the 2nd and 4th characters are swapped to create a word pronounced "불요불굴" in Korean.
Just let me know if you want the Korean version, which will also make sense in Japanese, and though not as natural, will also make sense in Chinese as well.
The first character means "eternal" or "forever," the second means "not" (together they mean "never"). The last two characters mean "give up" or "abandon." Altogether, you can translate this proverb as "never give up" or "never abandon."
Depending on how you want to read this, it is also a statement that you will never abandon your hopes, dreams, family or friends.
This Chinese proverb figuratively means, "to advance dauntlessly in wave upon wave."
It suggests that you should or can carry on, and have the strength to keep going.
While this proverb is a little bit militaristic, it suggests that in spite of a fallen comrade (or perhaps a loved one), you should keep going and work towards the goal they intended.
The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji(Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|Undaunted After Repeated Setbacks||百折不撓|
|hyaku setsu su tou|
hyaku setsu su to
|bǎi zhé bù náo|
bai3 zhe2 bu4 nao2
bai zhe bu nao
|pai che pu nao
|mui||wú wèi / wu2 wei4 / wu wei / wuwei|
|Diligence||勤||kin||qín / qin2 / qin||ch`in / chin|
|Perseverance||毅||see note / seenote / se note / senote||yì / yi4 / yi||i|
|ken nin / kennin||jiǎn rěn / jian3 ren3 / jian ren / jianren||chien jen / chienjen|
|不屈||fukutsu||bù qū / bu4 qu1 / bu qu / buqu||pu ch`ü / puchü / pu chü|
|bù qū bù náo|
bu4 qu1 bu4 nao2
bu qu bu nao
|pu ch`ü pu nao
pu chü pu nao
|Never Give Up||永不放棄|
|yǒng bù fàng qì|
yong3 bu4 fang4 qi4
yong bu fang qi
|yung pu fang ch`i
yung pu fang chi
|Carry On, Undaunted||前赴後繼|
|qián fù hòu jì|
qian2 fu4 hou4 ji4
qian fu hou ji
|ch`ien fu hou chi
chien fu hou chi
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
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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.
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.
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.
Check out my lists of Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls and Old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.
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