Asian Art Gallery

Adventures in Asian Art



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Death Symbol in Chinese / Japanese...

Buy a Death Symbol calligraphy wall scroll here!

Start your custom "Death Symbol" project by clicking the button next to your favorite "Death Symbol" title below...

Quick links to words on this page...

  1. Honorable Death - No Surrender
  2. Grim Reaper / God of Death
  3. Death Before Dishonor
  4. Death with Dignity
  5. Death Before Dishonor
  6. Death Before Surrender
  7. Death Before Dishonor
  8. Sword of Death
  9. Death Before Surrender
10. Return From Death’s Door
11. Impermanence
12. Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher
13. Assassin
14. Die Without Regret
15. Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing
16. Not Long for this World


Honorable Death - No Surrender

Japan gyokusai shugi
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This ancient Japanese proverb can be translated as "The principle of honorable death and no surrender", or simply "No surrender". If you directly translate this, you get something that means "Doctrine of suicide", or "Ideology of honorable death".

This is a specifically-Japanese proverb that embraces the long history of honorable suicide or self-sacrifice for honor in Japanese culture.

Grim Reaper / God of Death

China sǐ shén
Japan shinigami
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This is the title of the mythological figure (often called the Grim Reaper in western culture) in charge of taking the souls of those who die.

This title can be translated directly as "god of death" or "spirit of death". The first character literally means "death" and the second means "spirit" or "god".

This is a very strange title for a calligraphy wall scroll. I'm not even sure if my calligraphers will write it, as it has some bad superstitious feelings attached to it.

Death Before Dishonor

Japanese
Japan fu mei yo yo ri shi
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This is the Japanese version of "Death Before Dishonor". Japanese grammar is a bit different than English, so this really means something like "Rather die than to be dishonored". However, the "dishonor" is the first three Kanji, and death is the last Kanji. There are two Hiragana (より) which indicate the preference is death when comparing dishonor to death.

Death with Dignity

Japanese
Japan son gen shi
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This was added at the request of a customer. This is not a good choice for a wall scroll unless you have a very specific and personal reason.

This means "death with dignity" or "natural death" (as opposed to extending one's life unnaturally with life support).

Death Before Dishonor

A soldier can die or kill, but never dishonor or disgrace himself
China shì kě shā bù kě rǔ
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This almost directly matches the military idea of "Death Before Dishonor", while also being an ancient Chinese proverb.

The direct meaning is, "[A] soldier/warrior can die/kill [but he/she] cannot [allow] dishonor/disgrace [upon himself/herself]". Chinese grammar, and especially ancient grammar is a little different than English. Not nearly as many articles are needed, and a lot is implied.

There are a lot of ways to express ideas similar to "Death Before Dishonor" in Chinese, and I would rate this one in the top two.

This is the original form of this proverb with the character for "soldier/warrior" at the beginning. Most of the time, this character is dropped, and this becomes a five-character proverb (the soldier/warrior part is implied, even without the character being present in the proverb). We also offer the shorter version.

Death Before Surrender

Rather die than compromise
China níng sǐ bù qū
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This is often translated as "Death Before Dishonor". The more literal translation is more like, "Better to die than compromise". The last two characters mean "not to bend" or "not to bow down". Some might even say that it means "not to surrender". Thus, you could say this proverb means, "Better to die than live on my knees" or simply "no surrender" (with the real idea being that you would rather die than surrender).

Death Before Dishonor

Better to be broken jade than unbroken pottery
China níng wéi yù suì
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This is the short version of a longer Chinese proverb which means, "rather be shattered piece of jade than an unbroken piece of pottery". The characters shown above just say the "rather be a broken piece of jade" part (the second half is implied - everyone in China knows this idiom).

A little more explanation:
Death is implied with the "broken" meaning. Jade is one of the most precious materials in Chinese history, and in this case is compared with one's honor and self-worth. Pottery is just something you eat off of, it has no deep value, just as a person who has lost their honor, or had none to begin with.
Thus, this means, "better to die with honor than to live in shame" or words to that effect.

This is often translated in English as "Death Before Dishonor", the famous military slogan.

I would also compare this to the English proverb, "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees".

Death Before Dishonor

Better to be broken jade than unbroken pottery
China níng wéi yù suì bú wéi wǎ quán
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ribbon top
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This is the long version of a Chinese proverb which means, "rather be shattered piece of jade than an unbroken piece of pottery".

A little more explanation:
Death is implied with the "broken" meaning. Jade is one of the most precious materials in Chinese history, and in this case is compared with one's honor and self-worth. Pottery is just something you eat off of, it has no deep value, just as a person who has lost their honor, or had none to begin with.
Thus, this means, "better to die with honor than to live in shame" or words to that effect.

This is often translated in English as "Death Before Dishonor", the famous military slogan.

I would also compare this to the English proverb, "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees".


This is an idiom. It therefore doesn't directly say exactly what it means. If you think about the English idiom, "The grass is always greener", it does not directly say "jealousy" or "envy" but everyone knows that it is implied.

Death Before Dishonor

You can die or kill, but never dishonor or disgrace yourself
China kě shā bù kě rǔ
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This almost directly matches the idea of "Death Before Dishonor", while also being an ancient Chinese proverb.

The direct meaning is, "[you] can die/kill [but you] cannot [allow] dishonor/disgrace [upon yourself]". Chinese grammar, and especially ancient grammar is a little different than English. Not nearly as many articles are needed, and a lot is implied.

There are a lot of ways to express ideas similar to "Death Before Dishonor" in Chinese, and I would rate this one in the top two.

Sword of Death

Japan satsu jin ken
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This is a Japanese title for "Death Sword", "Life Taking Sword" or "satsujinken". This is the opposite of katsujinken, or the "life saving sword". This title is not as commonly-used in Japanese, but pairs well when hung with katsujinken.

The first two Kanji are a word that translates as homicide; to murder; to kill (a person). This is specifically to kill a person (as the second character means person or human) as opposed to an animal, etc.

The last Kanji is the Japanese variant of the originally-Chinese character for sword.


See Also...  Katsujinken

Death Before Surrender

China nìng sǐ bù xiáng
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This ancient Chinese proverb can be translated as "Rather to die than surrender", "Prefer death over surrender", "To prefer death to surrender", or simply "No surrender".

This is probably the closest proverb to the English proverb "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees".

Return From Death’s Door

China jué chǔ féng shēng
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This is a Chinese proverb/idiom that talks of coming back from death's door, or an unexpected rescue from danger.

Figuratively, this can be to recover from a seemingly impossible situation, or to find a way out of a predicament.

If you have survived from a near-death experience, or serious illness, this might be an appropriate wall scroll for you.

Impermanence

China wú cháng
Japan mujou
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This is the state of being "not permanent", "not enduring", transitory, or evolving. It can also mean variable or changeable. In some context, it can refer to a ghost that is supposed to take a soul upon death. Following that, this term can also mean to pass away or die.

In Buddhist context, this is a reminder that everything in this world is ever-changing and all circumstances of your life are temporary. If you take the Buddhist philosophy further, none of your circumstances are real, and your existence is an illusion anyway.

Language notes:
In Korean Hanja, this means uncertainty, transiency, mutability, or evanescent.
In Japanese, the definition orbits closer to the state of being uncertain.

Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher

China shā
Japan satsu
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This is how to write "to kill" or "killing".

This is an absolutely shocking word to have on a wall scroll. It will bewilder, scare, and perhaps offend any Chinese, Korean, or Japanese person who sees it. I do not in any way recommend this for a piece of calligraphy artwork. This entry is only here because our calligraphy search engine received so many requests for "kill".

Note: In Korean Hanja, this character is not often used alone - see the other two-character entry for "kill".

Assassin

China cì kè
Japan shikaku / shikyaku
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This is the most sophisticated way to write "assassin" in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. The unsophisticated way just means murderer.

Die Without Regret

China sǐ ér wú huǐ
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This is how to say "die with no regrets" in Mandarin Chinese.

This proverb comes from the Analects of Confucius.


See Also...  No Regrets

Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing

China shā lù
Japan satsuriku
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This is how to write "kill" or "massacre".

This is an absolutely shocking word to have on a wall scroll. It will bewilder, scare, and perhaps offend any Chinese, Korean or Japanese person who sees it. I do not in any way recommend this for a piece of calligraphy artwork. This entry is only here because our calligraphy search engine received so many requests for "kill" and "massacre".

You are all a bunch of sick puppies!

Not Long for this World

China fēng zhú cán nián
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This phrase means "Old and ailing with little time left" or "Not long for this world".
There is a real suggestion here that someone will die soon.

This was added by special request of a customer, and is perhaps, not the most positive phrase that you could put on a wall scroll.

This would be the most offensive possible gift to give to an older person - please do not do that!


Check dictionary for death symbol


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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.




If your search is not successful, just post your request on our forum, and we'll be happy to do research or translation for any reasonable request.

Successful Chinese Character and Japanese Kanji calligraphy searches within the last few hours...

A Vast Sky Full of Stars
Aikido
Alina
Autumn
Ba Gua Zhang
Balanced Life
Bamboo
Beautiful
Beautiful Princess
Beautiful Virtue
Beautiful Woman
Beauty
Best Love
Bird
Black
Black Belt
Black Eagle
Bless and Protect
Blossom
Bodhi
Bonsai
Brotherly Love
Buddhism
Bushido
Cause and Effect
Cecilia
Cherry Blossom
Children
Divine Protection
Double Happiness
Dragon
Dragon Tiger
Enso
Erin
Fate
Felix
Fish
Flowers
Flying
Forever
Fortitude
Fortune
Friendship
God Child
God is Always With You
God is Love
God of Abraham
Gold
Gold Fish
Good Health
Good Luck
Grace from Heaven
Great
Great Ambitions
Hannah
Happy
Harmony
Heart of A Lion
Hope
I Need You
Infinity
Integrity
Iris Flower
Jasmine Flower
Jordan
Kitten
Life Goes On
Like
Live for Today
Live Love Die
Long Life
Longevity
Lotus
Lotus Flower
Love
Love and Devotion
Love You Forever
Luck
Moon
Mountain
Mugen
Namo Amitabha Buddha
One True Love
Pearl
People
Plum
Power of the Dragon
Prosperity
Pure
Riley
Rose
Sandra
Serenity
Sexy
Spirit of the Tiger
Strength
Strong
Taekwondo
The Ease of the Scholar
Three
Tigers
United
Warrior
White
Wisdom
Year of the Dragon

With so many searches, we had to upgrade to our own Linux server.
Of course, only one in 500 searches results in a purchase - Hey buy a wall scroll!!!



See: Our list of specifically Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls. And, check out Our list of specifically old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.

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
Honorable Death - No Surrender玉砕主義
玉砕主義
gyokusai shugi
gyokusaishugi
Grim Reaper / God of Death死神
死神
shinigamisǐ shén
si shen
ssu shen
si3 shen2
sishen
Death Before Dishonor不名誉より死
不名譽より死
fu mei yo yo ri shi
fumeiyoyorishi
n/a
Death with Dignity尊厳死
尊厳死
son gen shi
songenshi
n/a
Death Before Dishonor士可杀不可辱
士可殺不可辱
n/ashì kě shā bù kě rǔ
shi ke sha bu ke ru
shih k`o sha pu k`o ju
shi4 ke3 sha1 bu4 ke3 ru3
shikeshabukeru
shihkoshapukoju
shih ko sha pu ko ju
Death Before Surrender宁死不屈
寧死不屈
n/aníng sǐ bù qū
ning si bu qu
ning ssu pu ch`ü
ning2 si3 bu4 qu1
ningsibuqu
ningssupuchü
ning ssu pu chü
Death Before Dishonor宁为玉碎
寧為玉碎
n/aníng wéi yù suì
ning wei yu sui
ning wei yü sui
ning2 wei2 yu4 sui4
ningweiyusui
Death Before Dishonor宁为玉碎不为瓦全
寧為玉碎不為瓦全
n/aníng wéi yù suì bú wéi wǎ quán
ning wei yu sui bu wei wa quan
ning wei yü sui pu wei wa ch`üan
ning2 wei2 yu4 sui4 bu2 wei2 wa3 quan2
ningweiyusuibuweiwaquan
ning wei yü sui pu wei wa chüan
Death Before Dishonor可杀不可辱
可殺不可辱
n/akě shā bù kě rǔ
ke sha bu ke ru
k`o sha pu k`o ju
ke3 sha1 bu4 ke3 ru3
keshabukeru
koshapukoju
ko sha pu ko ju
Sword of Death杀人剣
殺人剣
satsu jin ken
satsujinken
n/a
Death Before Surrender宁死不降
寧死不降
n/anìng sǐ bù xiáng
ning si bu xiang
ning ssu pu hsiang
ning4 si3 bu4 xiang2
ningsibuxiang
Return From Death’s Door绝处逢生
絕處逢生
n/ajué chǔ féng shēng
jue chu feng sheng
chüeh ch`u feng sheng
jue2 chu3 feng2 sheng1
juechufengsheng
chüehchufengsheng
chüeh chu feng sheng
Impermanence无常
無常
mujou
mujo
wú cháng
wu chang
wu ch`ang
wu2 chang2
wuchang
wuchang
wu chang
Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher
satsushā
sha
sha1
Assassin刺客
刺客
shikaku / shikyakucì kè
ci ke
tz`u k`o
ci4 ke4
cike
tzuko
tzu ko
Die Without Regret死而无悔
死而無悔
n/asǐ ér wú huǐ
si er wu hui
ssu erh wu hui
si3 er2 wu2 hui3
sierwuhui
Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing杀戮
殺戮
satsurikushā lù
sha lu
sha1 lu4
shalu
Not Long for this World风烛残年
風燭殘年
n/afēng zhú cán nián
feng zhu can nian
feng chu ts`an nien
feng1 zhu2 can2 nian2
fengzhucannian
fengchutsannien
feng chu tsan nien

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 "death symbol" 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.

Some people may refer to this entry as Death Kanji, Death Characters, Death in Mandarin Chinese, Death Characters, Death in Chinese Writing, Death in Japanese Writing, Death in Asian Writing, Death Ideograms, Chinese Death symbols, Death Hieroglyphics, Death Glyphs, Death in Chinese Letters, Death Hanzi, Death in Japanese Kanji, Death Pictograms, Death in the Chinese Written-Language, or Death in the Japanese Written-Language.

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