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Death Symbol in Chinese / Japanese...

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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 Surrender
  6. Sword of Death
  7. Return From Death’s Door
  8. Impermanence
  9. Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher
10. Assassin
11. Die Without Regret
12. Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing
13. Live Free or Die
14. Not Long for this World


Honorable Death - No Surrender

Japan gyokusai shugi
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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

Better to be broken jade than unbroken pottery
China níng wéi yù suì
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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.

Death Before Dishonor

A soldier can die or kill, but never dishonor or disgrace himself
China shì kě shā bù kě rǔ
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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 Dishonor

Japan fu mei yo yo ri shi
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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.


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Death with Dignity

Japan son gen shi
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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).


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Death Before Surrender

Rather die than compromise
China níng sǐ bù qū
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

This is often translated as "Death Before Dishonor."

The literal translation is more like, "Better 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).


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Death Before Surrender

China nìng sǐ bù xiáng
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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."


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Sword of Death

Japan satsu jin ken
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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.


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

See Also:  Katsujinken

Return From Death’s Door

China jué chǔ féng shēng
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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.


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Impermanence

China wú cháng
Japan mujou
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

無常 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 the 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 these circumstances are real, and your existence is an illusion anyway. Thus, the idea of the eternal soul is perhaps just the attachment you have to your ego. Once you release your attachment to all impermanent things, you will be on your way to enlightenment and Buddhahood.

Language notes for this word when used outside the context of Buddhism:
In Korean Hanja, this means uncertainty, transiency, mutability, or evanescent.
In Japanese, the definition orbits closer to the state of being uncertain.


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher

China shā
Japan satsu
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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."


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Assassin

China cì kè
Japan shikaku / shikyaku
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

This is the most sophisticated way to write "assassin" in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. The unsophisticated way just means murderer.


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Die Without Regret

China sǐ ér wú huǐ
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

This is how to say "die with no regrets" in Mandarin Chinese.

This proverb comes from the Analects of Confucius.


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

See Also:  No Regrets

Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing

China shā lù
Japan satsuriku
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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!


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Live Free or Die

Give me liberty or give me death
China bú zì yóu wú nìng sǐ
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

不自由毋寧死 means, "Give me liberty or give me death," in Chinese.

This is also the best way to say, "Live free or die."

The characters break down this way:
不 = Not; none; without.
自由 = Freedom; liberty; freewill; self-determination.
毋寧 = Rather; would rather; rather be.
死 = Dead; death.

This will go nicely next to your, "Don't tread on me," flag. This phrase is known well enough in China that it's listed in a few dictionaries. Though I doubt you will find too many Chinese citizens willing to yell this on the steps of the capital in Beijing.


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Not Long for this World

China fēng zhú cán nián
Mockup of Calligraphy Artwork

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!


Note: Because this selection contains some special Japanese Hiragana characters, it should be written by a Japanese calligrapher.

Check dictionary for death


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A nice Chinese calligraphy wall scroll

The wall scroll that Sandy is holding in this picture is a "large size"
single-character wall scroll.
We also offer custom wall scrolls in small, medium, and an even-larger jumbo size.

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...

Aikido
Always
Amaterasu
Aquarius
Balance
Bamboo
Believe
Black Belt
Compassion
Dawn
Divine
Earth
Endurance
Enlightenment
Faith
Faithful
Family
Fight
Fire
Friend
Friendship
God is Love
Happiness
Honor
Honor and Respect
Honorable
Inner Peace
Jesus
Jesus Christ
Katana
Live the Moment
Lone Wolf
Love
Love and Respect
Love Faith Strength
Loyalty
Miracle
Ninja
Noble
Nothing
Nurse
One Heart
Pure
Respect
Rooster
Solar
Strength
Teacher
The Moment
The Way of the Warrior
Tiger
Tranquil
Tree
Trust
Truth
Wealth
Wind
Year of the Pig
Year of the Tiger
Zion

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 CharactersRomaji(Romanized Japanese)Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Honorable Death - No Surrender 玉砕主義gyokusai shugi
gyokusaishugi
Grim Reaper / God of Death 死神shinigamisǐ shén / si3 shen2 / si shen / sishen ssu shen / ssushen
Death Before Dishonor 寧為玉碎
宁为玉碎
níng wéi yù suì
ning2 wei2 yu4 sui4
ning wei yu sui
ningweiyusui
ning wei yü sui
ningweiyüsui
Death Before Dishonor 寧為玉碎不為瓦全
宁为玉碎不为瓦全
níng wéi yù suì bú wéi wǎ quán
ning2 wei2 yu4 sui4 bu2 wei2 wa3 quan2
ning wei yu sui bu wei wa quan
ningweiyusuibuweiwaquan
ning wei yü sui pu wei wa ch`üan
ning wei yü sui pu wei wa chüan
Death Before Dishonor 可殺不可辱
可杀不可辱
kě shā bù kě rǔ
ke3 sha1 bu4 ke3 ru3
ke sha bu ke ru
keshabukeru
k`o sha pu k`o ju
koshapukoju
ko sha pu ko ju
Death Before Dishonor 士可殺不可辱
士可杀不可辱
shì kě shā bù kě rǔ
shi4 ke3 sha1 bu4 ke3 ru3
shi ke sha bu ke ru
shikeshabukeru
shih k`o sha pu k`o ju
shihkoshapukoju
shih ko sha pu ko ju
Death Before Dishonor 不名譽より死
不名誉より死
fu mei yo yo ri shi
fumeiyoyorishi
Death with Dignity 尊厳死son gen shi
songenshi
Death Before Surrender 寧死不屈
宁死不屈
níng sǐ bù qū
ning2 si3 bu4 qu1
ning si bu qu
ningsibuqu
ning ssu pu ch`ü
ningssupuchü
ning ssu pu chü
Death Before Surrender 寧死不降
宁死不降
nìng sǐ bù xiáng
ning4 si3 bu4 xiang2
ning si bu xiang
ningsibuxiang
ning ssu pu hsiang
ningssupuhsiang
Sword of Death 殺人剣
杀人剣
satsu jin ken
satsujinken
Return From Death’s Door 絕處逢生
绝处逢生
jué chǔ féng shēng
jue2 chu3 feng2 sheng1
jue chu feng sheng
juechufengsheng
chüeh ch`u feng sheng
chüehchufengsheng
chüeh chu feng sheng
Impermanence 無常
无常
mujou / mujowú cháng / wu2 chang2 / wu chang / wuchang wu ch`ang / wuchang / wu chang
Kill / Slaughter / Murder / Butcher
satsushā / sha1 / sha
Assassin 刺客shikaku / shikyakucì kè / ci4 ke4 / ci ke / cike tz`u k`o / tzuko / tzu ko
Die Without Regret 死而無悔
死而无悔
sǐ ér wú huǐ
si3 er2 wu2 hui3
si er wu hui
sierwuhui
ssu erh wu hui
ssuerhwuhui
Kill / Massacre / Mass Killing 殺戮
杀戮
satsurikushā lù / sha1 lu4 / sha lu / shalu
Live Free or Die 不自由毋寧死
不自由毋宁死
bú zì yóu wú nìng sǐ
bu2 zi4 you2 wu2 ning4 si3
bu zi you wu ning si
buziyouwuningsi
pu tzu yu wu ning ssu
putzuyuwuningssu
Not Long for this World 風燭殘年
风烛残年
fēng zhú cán nián
feng1 zhu2 can2 nian2
feng zhu can nian
fengzhucannian
feng chu ts`an nien
fengchutsannien
feng chu tsan nien

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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